06 December 2021

Imagination launches RISC-V CPU family

Catapult CPUs are based on RISC-V ISA and designed for heterogeneous solutions

London, England –6th December 2021Imagination Technologies announces Catapult, a RISC-V CPU product line designed from the ground-up for next-generation heterogeneous compute needs.

Based on RISC-V, the open-source CPU architecture, which is transforming processor design, Imagination’s Catapult CPUs can be configured for performance, efficiency, or balanced profiles, making them suitable for a wide range of markets.

Leveraging Imagination’s 20 years of experience in delivering complex IP solutions, the new CPUs are supported by the rapidly expanding open-standard RISC-V ecosystem, which continues to shake up the embedded CPU industry by offering greater choice. Imagination’s entry will enable the rapidly expanding RISC-V ecosystem to add a greater range of product offerings, especially for heterogeneous systems. Now customers have an even wider choice of solutions built on the open RISC-V ISA, avoiding lock-in with proprietary architectures.

Catapult CPUs are available in four distinct families: dynamic microcontrollers; real-time embedded CPUs; high-performance application CPUs; and functionally safe automotive CPUs.

The first family, microcontrollers, are already shipping in high-performance automotive GPUs in SoCs from Imagination customers. Real-time embedded CPUs are available now. High-performance application CPUs and Automotive CPUs will follow from 2022.

Highly configurable design

Catapult CPUs are engineered for markets ranging across 5G modems, storage, ADAS / autonomous vehicles, data centre, and high-performance computing. They are multi-threaded and come in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants and have a plethora of customer configurable options, as per application need. They can be scaled up to eight asymmetric coherent cores-per cluster for enhanced SoC versatility, with an option to add custom accelerators.

Tim Mamtora, Chief of Innovation, Imagination, says: “As the demand for compute grows in the cloud, at the edge and in devices, there is an ever-greater challenge to process immense amounts of data in tightly constrained area and power budgets. Heterogeneous architectures are key to providing performance, flexibility and resilience when accelerating an increasingly diverse set of workloads. Our new CPU cores allow us to better meet these needs by bringing to market a comprehensive range of outstanding RISC-V solutions that complement our world-class GPU, neural network and Ethernet products.”

Supported, trusted and safe

As Catapult CPUs are compliant with the RISC-V ISA they are fully supported by the broad and increasing RISC-V ecosystem of software and tools.

Part of Imagination’s heterogeneous compute solution, Catapult CPUs offer full hardware, software and debug support for SoCs using Imagination IP – complementing its market-leading GPU, AI and Ethernet Packet Processor (EPP) cores. With the early availability of performance models, SoC manufacturers can model their application needs and choose the right compute elements. This support allows producers to free up system resources and increase the performance and energy efficiency of their designs.

Catapult automotive CPUs are developed to ISO 26262 automotive standards and provide a range of CPU solutions for each Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL). In addition to being available in functionally safe and secure variants, the new CPUs are based on industry-proven security concepts. This design enables SoC manufacturers to attain the highest level of security and certification required by their target market.

Shreyas Derashri, Vice President, Compute, Imagination, says: “Imagination Catapult CPUs are an exciting new alternative for the RISC-V market. They contain all our experience and knowledge in creating innovative silicon IP and consolidate our position as the trusted heterogeneous IP solutions provider. Catapult offers comprehensive IP protection, thanks to a rich portfolio of CPU patents. The cores are scalable across markets, from embedded to high-end applications and are designed for robust performance while providing the same quality, reliability, and efficiency for which our products are renowned.”

Calista Redmond, Chief Executive Officer, RISC-V International, says: “RISC-V welcomes Imagination’s introduction of a line of RISC-V CPUs. These products by Imagination underline the growth of the RISC-V marketplace and its ecosystem of suppliers and their industry partners. Imagination demonstrates the rich and diversified opportunities that exist in RISC-V solutions targeting heterogeneous computing.”

Tatsuya Kamei, Vice President, Automotive SoC Development Division, Renesas, says, “Renesas has a long history of working with Imagination, and its proven track record of delivering reliability, trust and innovation has enabled us to deliver market-leading automotive SoCs. The growing RISC-V market requires a wide range of products and trusted delivery partners, as well as an increased focus on safety and security. We welcome Imagination’s new Catapult RISC-V CPU IP, which is sure to meet those criteria.”

Mike Demler, Senior Analyst, The Linley Group, says: “As the RISC-V market continues to mature, we anticipated Imagination adopting the popular ISA for its renewed focus on CPUs. By applying its extensive experience with other CPU architectures, the new Catapult cores combined with the company’s GPUs and AI accelerators differentiate its offering from other RISC-V IP vendors. With a CPU line-up spanning microcontroller cores to apps processors, Imagination is the new contender to watch.”

Catapult SDK and Catapult Studio

Catapult CPUs are delivered with a fully-featured SDK, which includes enhanced versions of industry-standard build and debug tools such as GCC, LLVM and GDB, optimised C libraries, and Imagination’s IDE: Catapult Studio. Catapult Studio is based on Visual Studio Code, with extra features focusing on embedded, RISC-V development and close integration to the wider SDK, empowering developers to take full advantage of Catapult CPUs.

Catapult SDK is available for Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS and MacOS and includes both FreeRTOS and full support for Linux including reference bootloaders, kernels and Yocto-based filesystems.

Catapult CPUs are delivered with both fast and performance models, which offer interactive debug and are compatible with the gem5 simulator, unlocking simulation environments for enhanced power and energy-efficiency testing.

Catapult highlights

  • Designed from the ground up, backed by the rapidly expanding RISC-V ecosystem
  • Part of Imagination’s complete heterogeneous solution, alongside market-leading GPU, AI neural network accelerator (NNA) and EPP cores
  • Full hardware, software, and debug support for heterogeneous SoCs using Imagination IP cores
  • Offers functionally safe solutions for automotive and industrial markets
  • Based on industry-proven security concepts, meeting safety and certification requirements for target markets
  • Provided by an established company with 20 years of proven expertise in delivering complex IP, backed by a strong support function
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