OpenPOWER Microwatt To See Chip Fabrication Thanks To Google + Skywater

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 22 March 2021 at 11:22 AM EDT. 8 Comments
Announced back in 2019 was the OpenPOWER Microwatt FPGA Soft CPU Core. OpenPOWER's Microwatt is a VHDL-based design for an open-source POWER ISA processor. core. The Microwatt is a basic 64-bit POWER core that can be run for software simulations or on FPGA hardware. But now Microwatt will actually see chip fabrication thanks to a program sponsored by Google.

The VHDL 2008 soft core of Microwatt remains available via GitHub while now it will actually be fabbed thanks to the Efabless Open MPW Shuttle Program. This Open MPW Shuttle Program sponsored by Google provides for fabrication of fully open-source projects using the SkyWater Open-Source PDK (Process Design Kit). This program is to provide those with fully open-source designs the ability to see fabrication without bearing the costs. The costs of fabrication, packaging, and evaluation boards are covered by Google.

The SkyWater Open PDK allows for an open-source design kit to create manufacturable designs at SkyWater's facilities. Currently this is focused on the SKY130 (130nm) process node while the hope is to advance it for more advanced nodes when available. Yes, a 130nm process node is comparable to that of the old Intel Pentium 4 "Northwood" and AMD Athlon 64 "Clawhammer" processors but for an open-source project is good for starters especially with Google shouldering the costs for these open-source projects that would otherwise have a hard time getting to manufacturing. SkyWater is a US-based foundry that was spun off from Cypress Semiconductor several years back.

The OpenPOWER Foundation announced today that the OpenPOWER Microwatt will be part of this open-source shuttle program. More details on that program itself can be found via Efabless.
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