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EU Cloud Provider Adds Bare-Metal Open-Source RISC-V CPU’s

France-based cloud provider Scaleway is now offering bare-metal access to its homegrown EM-RV1 servers running open-source RISC-V CPUs.

Source: Scaleway

Another cloud provider is jumping on the RISC-V bandwagon.

When I first started writing about RISC-V back in 2018, folks laughed (or at least chuckled) when I suggested that the open-source instruction set architecture would eventually be powering servers and desktops. At that time the ISA, which had just moved from UC Berkeley where it was created into the real world, was mainly being used as controllers and other stuff peripheral to the CPU. Being the main driver on servers and desktops were well out of its capabilities.

Those days are over.

On Thursday, the cloud provider Scaleway announced the launch of Elastic Metal RV1, a range of RISC-V servers ready to be fired-up and put to work for customers wanting bare-metal access to RISC-V processing. The price? 0.042 Euros per hour, or 15.99 Euros a month (which comes to $17.29 in greenbacks).

Why is this important? For one thing, being open-source means that RISC-V chips come without the patent tax that’s built into proprietary chips coming from the likes of Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Arm. For another, it means more control over where the chips are made, helping to reduce dependence on manufacturers located on foreign.

Or, as Scaleway succinctly put it in a statement:

“RISC-V, an open instruction set architecture for CPUs, will become the dominant architecture in a world where more and more countries seek to regain sovereignty over semiconductor production. A revolution in the microprocessor landscape is in the offing, based on the adoption of a universal language, free from commercial licenses and geopolitical constraints.”

Indeed, if you sign-up for Scaleway’s RISC-V servers, you be running on homegrown Elastic Metal RV1 hardware that was designed and built in-house.

“EM-RV1 servers are the fruit of months of research and development in Scaleway’s Paris laboratories,” the company said in its statement. “Every aspect of their design, from the first prototypes to their 3D-printed casing, bears witness to an iterative, artisanal approach to bringing you a range of robust RISC-V servers available in the cloud, within the shortest possible time frame.”

Scaleway’s servers employ Alibaba’s T-Head TH1520 quad-core RISC-V processor, a tried-and-true RISC-V design with a history of use in the cloud, with 16GB RAM and 128GB eMMC flash. Currently the servers can be provisioned with Debian, Ubuntu, or Alpine Linux, although the company said that user access to the server’s serial console is under development, and once that’s in-place the EM-RV1 will be “available for installing the most exotic operating systems,” which I’m taking to mean that users will be free to install pretty much whatever OS they want.

The folks at Scaleway envision a variety of immediate uses for these RISC-V servers, not the least of which is just preparing for the inevitable day when RISC-V CPUs and GPUs will be an everyday part of the data center. In addition, the company sees the service being used by developers to deploy, test, and debug their RISC-V applications in a cloud environment, and by CI/CD to adapt to demand and to benefit from native performance, boosting the speed and reliability of the development process on RISC-V architecture.

The EM-RV1 also features a neural network accelerator chip that optimizes specialized computing capabilities for AI/ML workloads such as image recognition, machine translation and others — which means those heavily investing in AI research will have the ability to see what RISC-V might bring to the AI table.

For more information visit Scaleway’s Elastic Metal RV1 webpage, or to go ahead and rent one by the hour to take it for a spin, you can create an account here.

One Comment

  1. Mike S. Mike S. March 1, 2024

    Damn, I wish I had an excuse to use these. I’m curious how long it will be before consumer laptops with Risc-V arrive. I know one was announced in 2022 but I can’t find any reviews.

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