Microchip Opens Orders for Its Linux-Capable PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit RISC-V FPGA Dev Board at $499

Now out of early access status, the PolarFire SoC is available in a dev board dubbed the Icicle — and shipment is scheduled for September.

Gareth Halfacree
3 months agoFPGAs

Microchip has opened orders for its PolarFire SoC Icicle, a development board built around the company's first Linux-capable RISC-V and field-programmable gate array (FPGA) system-on-chip (SoC).

Microchip launched an early-access program for its PolarFire SoC around seven months ago, promising a system-on-chip targeting FPGA developers and bundling two Linux-capable 64-bit RISC-V core implementations — one RV64IMAC monitor core plus four RV64GC general-purpose cores, both linked together in what the company describes as a "deterministic, coherent CPU cluster."

These cores are then linked through a coherent switch fabric to a deterministic L2 memory subsystem and a DDR4/LPDDR4 controller, and through an AMBA switch — which introduces memory production and quality-of-service functionality — to a low-power PolarFire FPGA.

"Delivering the industry’s first RISC-V based SoC FPGA along with our Mi-V ecosystem, Microchip and its Mi-V partners are driving innovation in the embedded space, giving designers the ability to develop a whole new class of power-efficient applications," said Bruce Weyer, vice president of the Field Programmable Gate Array business unit at Microchip, at the time. "This in turn will allow our clients to add unprecedented capabilities at the edge of the network for communications, defence, medical, and industrial automation."

Now, the company is ready for general availability — and has launched the Icicle Kit on Crowd Supply with shipping beginning in mid-September. Built around the PolarFire SoC, the Icicle includes the 64-bit Linux-capable RISC-V CPU cluster along with FPGA resources including a non-volatile fabric with 254l logic elements, 784-unit math block, and four 12.7Gb/s serialiser/deserialiser (SERDES) ports. There's 2GB of LPDDR4 on-board, 1Gb of SPI flash storage, and an 8GB eMMC which can be overridden by an SD Card slot.

For expansion, the board includes two gigabit Ethernet ports, a 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header compatible with the Raspberry Pi pinout, a mikroBUS socket, a mechanically-16-lane PCI Express Gen. 2 port, micro-USB 2.0 On The Go (OTG), four UARTs on a single micro-USB port, two CAN, one SPI, and one I2C buses.

"Whether you are developing cutting-edge applications in embedded machine learning, wired networking, or industrial automation, or simply exploring RISC-V and FPGAs," the company claims of the design, "the Icicle Kit and its robust Mi-V ecosystem of tools are the perfect way way to get started."

The board is fully supported in Microchip's Mi-V ecosystem, which offers an official toolchain made up of various projects including Yocto Linux, BuildRoot, and FreeBSD on the operating system side, FreeRTOS and Zephyr for real-time operating system (RTOS) users, GCC and IAR compilers, and development tools including Renode and Libero. The toolchain isn't, however, fully open: Microchip warns that developing for the PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit requires a Libero Silver license, though currently makes this available free of charge on an annual renewal basis.

Microchip has confirmed that mass production of the boards has already begun, with a view to ship the first boards to customers in mid-September 2020. Each board is priced at $489, though end users purchasing through the Crowd Supply are charged $499 to include $10 for US domestic shipping costs.

The company has released a range of information about the board, including an overview, user guide, schematics, and a board layout file, along with the launch of a dedicated technical support portal. Yet more information can be found on the Crowd Supply campaign page.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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