Samsung accidentally reveals plans to release a RISC-V CPU — this might be the mysterious MACH-1 AI accelerator that could rival Nvidia's H-series GPU

RISC-V CPU/AI accelerator from Samsung
(Image credit: ISC 2024)

Samsung may have accidentally revealed that it is developing a RISC-V CPU/accelerator. 

The slip happened during a session titled “Unlocking the Next 35 Years of Software for HPC and AI” at the recent ISC conference, where a slide talking about the UXL Foundation (Unified Acceleration Foundation), mentioned a "RISC-V CPU/AI accelerator from Samsung." 

This has sparked speculations about the South Korean tech giant’s plans to integrate RISC-V architecture in its upcoming technologies, specifically in its Mach-1 AI accelerator chip which is expected to arrive early in 2025.

Not actually the first mention

Samsung is a steering member of the UXL Foundation, as is Arm, Qualcomm, Intel and Google Cloud. UXL develops software aimed at enhancing AI accelerators that do not use Nvidia’s GPUs – an alternative to Nvidia's CUDA in other words.

The Mach-1 is reportedly a 'lightweight' AI chip, utilizing low-power (LP) memory instead of the costly HBM typically used in AI semiconductors. Naver, the South Korean equivalent of Google, has signed a 1 trillion won ($750 million) agreement with Samsung for Mach-1 chips.

RISC-V, an open-standard instruction set architecture, is rapidly gaining traction as it allows any developer to build their own processors without costly licensing fees. Details about Samsung’s RISC-V CPU's capabilities remain sparse, but HPCwire speculates that the CPU “could be a low-performance RISC-V processor in Samsung’s memory-based chip to run specific tasks defined by software kit functions.” That would fit with what we know about the Mach-1 and make sense as RISC-V doesn’t offer the same performance as Intel’s x86 chips.

A number of hardware manufacturers, including Apple and Nvidia, already use RISC-V microcontrollers in their products, and countries like Europe, China, and Russia are developing their own sovereign chips based on RISC-V CPUs as part of a broad industry trend towards diversification and independence from proprietary technologies.

A little digging reveals that Samsung has referenced the existence of a RISC-V CPU/accelerator before. In a Linux Foundation webinar a month ago, again about the UXL Foundation, it appeared in a slide there too.

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.