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Open-standard, open-source tech body defies US sanctions



The launch of a new RISC-V software association makes open-standard integrated circuit design and open-source software even more of a challenge for the US government’s efforts to stop the development of Chinese high-tech and bend Europe to its geopolitical will.

On May 31, Linux Foundation Europe announced the RISC-V Software Ecosystem (RISE), which it described as,

a new collaborative effort that brings together global industry leaders committed to accelerating the availability of software for high-performance and power-efficient RISC-V cores [processing units] running high-level operating systems for a variety of market segments.

Those market segments include cloud computing, data centers, automobiles, mobile phones and other consumer electronics. Hosted by Linux Foundation Europe, RISE supports the global open standard activities of RISC-V International.

Gabriele Columbro, General Manager of Linux Foundation Europe, notes that,

The RISE Project is dedicated to enabling RISC-V in open-source tools and libraries (LLVM and GCC, etc) to speed implementation and time to market. RISC-V is a cornerstone of the European technology and industrial landscape so we’re honored to provide a neutral, trusted home for the RISE Project under Linux Foundation Europe.

Gabriele Columbro, Gabriele Columbro, general manager of Linux Foundation Europe. Photo: Twittter

Thirteen companies from the US, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China form the RISE Governing Board: NVIDIA, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Intel, Samsung, Google, Andes, Red Hat, Imagination Technologies, Rivos, SiFive, Ventana and T-Head.

It’s significant that T-Head is included. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alibaba, a fabless semiconductor design company that develops application-specific ICs for artificial intelligence, cloud computing, industrial, financial, consumer electronics and other applications. In effect, it is the Alibaba group’s semiconductor division.


According to T-Head Vice President Jianyi Meng,

T-Head has been contributing to the software ecosystem through initiatives such as putting various operating systems onto RISC-V and contributing an integrated development environment to the RISC-V community. Together with other global business leaders for the RISE Project and our partners across sectors, we can further drive the growth of the open-source software ecosystem.

Speaking at a conference in Shanghai at the beginning of March, Meng said,

The development of RISC-V requires global innovation collaboration, from chips to software, applications and terminals. T-Head is pulling together the major ecosystems so that global developers and partners can better use and develop RISC-V technologies.

At that time, T-Head and Alipay also announced plans to enable secure payments on wearable devices using embedded RISC-V processors.

The rise of RISC-V, particularly in China, is likely to be negative for Arm and its Japanese owner Softbank, which plans to take Arm public later this year. Proprietary instruction-set architectures from Arm are seen as high-risk by the Chinese due to potential US influence on their owner.

RISC-V is an open standard instruction set architecture based on reduced instruction set computer design principles. It was conceived at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010.

The RISC-V Foundation was established in Delaware in 2015 to support and manage open-source technology, with the Institute of Computing Technologies of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as one of the founders.

Other founding members include Google, Qualcomm, Western Digital, Hitachi and Samsung. Other Chinese members include Huawei, ZTE, Tencent and Alibaba Cloud. Altogether, the association has more than 300 corporate, academic and other institutional members around the world

Foundation fled the US

In 2020, the Foundation was incorporated in Switzerland as the RISC-V International Association, moving out of the United States to avoid potential disruption caused by then-president Donald Trump’s anti-China trade policy. For more information about this, see Open-source IC architecture taking off in China.


The GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) mentioned by Gabriele Columbro is part of the GNU Project, a collaborative effort for the development of free software founded in 1978 by Richard Stallman at MIT.

Linux, the open software kernel created by the Swedish-Finnish software engineer Linus Torvalds in the early 1990s, is normally used with the GNU operating system.

GCC consists of free software programs from the GNU Project and other parties, created in an open environment in order to “attract a larger team of developers, to ensure that GCC and the GNU system work on multiple architectures and diverse environments.” GCC is one of the world’s largest free software programs.

GNU defines itself as “an operating system that is free software – that is, it respects users’ freedom.” Its “four essential freedoms” are,

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others, By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Freedom to distribute “means you are free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere.”  

The explanation goes on to note that:

Sometimes government export control regulations and trade sanctions can constrain your freedom to distribute copies of programs internationally. Software developers do not have the power to eliminate or override these restrictions, but what they can and must do is refuse to impose them as conditions of use of the program. In this way, the restrictions will not affect activities and people outside the jurisdictions of these governments. Thus, free software licenses must not require obedience to any nontrivial export regulations as a condition of exercising any of the essential freedoms.

According to the Linux Foundation, open-source technologies that are published and made publicly available are not subject to the Export Administration Regulations of the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce.

China has involved itself in RISC-V from the beginning and that – particularly in view of the Biden administration’s liberal and expanding use of sanctions – has turned out to be a very good idea.


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Source: Asia Times