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Western Digital Moves to RISC-V Processors, Open and Scalable Compute Architecture

Company consumes over one billion processor cores on annual basis.
This is a Press Release edited by StorageNewsletter.com on 2017.12.04

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Western Digital Corp. announced at the 7th RISC-V Workshop that the company intends to lead the industry transition toward open, purpose-built compute architectures to meet the increasingly diverse application needs of a data-centric world.

In his keynote address, Western Digital's CTO Martin Fink expressed the company's commitment to help lead the advancement of data-centric compute environments through the work of the RISC-V Foundation. RISC-V is an open and scalable compute architecture that will enable the diversity of big data and fast data applications and workloads proliferating in core cloud data centers and in remote and mobile systems at the edge. Western Digital's role in the RISC-V initiative is significant in that it aims to accelerate the advancement of the technology and the surrounding ecosystem by transitioning its own consumption of processors - over one billion cores per year - to RISC-V.

As big data and fast data environments proliferate, they break the boundaries of traditional infrastructure and system architecture. The 'general-purpose' technologies and architectures that have been in place for decades are reaching their limits of scalability, performance and efficiency. General-purpose workloads that are supported by general-purpose architectures typically have a uniform ratio of processing resources, such as OS processing, specialty offload processing, memory, storage and interconnect. As big data gets bigger and faster, and fast data gets faster and bigger, the 'one size fits all' approach of general-purpose computing is failing to meet the increasingly diverse application workloads of our data-centric world.

Data-Centric Environments
As the diversity of big data and fast data workloads expand, data-centric compute architectures will need the ability to scale resources independent of one another. The architectures for tomorrow will need to go beyond the limited, standard resource ratios of general purpose compute architectures and enable purpose-built solutions with data-optimized levels of OS processing, specialty processing, memory, storage and interconnect. The extreme data and compute workloads for analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and smart systems demand purpose-built environments.

"Western Digital is a leader in storage products and technologies, and we are now expanding that leadership to open, data-centric compute architectures," said Mike Cordano, president and COO, Western Digital. "RISC-V will allow the entire industry to realize the benefits of next-generation architectures while also enabling us to create more purpose-built devices, platforms and storage systems for big data and fast data applications. We are moving beyond just storing data to now creating entire environments that will enable users to realize the value and possibilities of their data."

Moving Compute Closer to Data
Western Digital is a provider of solutions to capture, preserve, access and transform data. RISC-V will enable the company to participate in, and leverage a broad community of inventors focused on bringing increasing amounts of processing power closer to data. As it brings compute power closer to data, customers will be able to minimize data movement at the edge and within their data centers, optimizing processing that is based on location, workload or a time-value need.

Accelerating the RISC-V Ecosystem
To contribute toward the advancement of the RISC-V ecosystem, the storage company plans to transition future core, processor, and controller development to the RISC-V architecture. The company currently consumes over one billion processor cores on an annual basis across its product portfolio. The transition will occur gradually and once completely transitioned, it expects to be shipping two billion RISC-V cores annually. The company is committed to advancing RISC-V technology for use in mission-critical applications so that it can be deployed in its products.

Western Digital is engaged in partnerships and investments in RISC-V ecosystem partners. The company recently completed a strategic investment in Esperanto Technologies, a developer of high-performance, energy-efficient computing solutions based on the open RISC-V architecture. Esperanto, which is headquartered in Mountain View, CA, includes a seasoned team of experienced processor and software engineers with the goal of making RISC-V the architecture of choice for compute-intensive applications, such as machine learning.

"The open source movement has demonstrated to the world that innovation is maximized with a large community working toward a common goal," said Fink. "For that reason, we are providing all of our RISC-V logic work to the community. We also encourage open collaboration among all industry participants, including our customers and partners, to help amplify and accelerate our efforts. Together we can drive data-focused innovation and ensure that RISC-V becomes the next Linux success story."

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