Google fosters the open source hardware community

Open source silicon promises new challenges and opportunities for both industry and the open source community. To take full advantage of open silicon we will need new design methodologies, new governance models, and increased collaborations between industry, academia, and not for profits. A vibrant free and open source software community has been vital to both Google and our customer’s success. We look forward to supporting the new domain of open source silicon to similarly benefit all participants.

Working through its Open Source Programs Office (OSPO), Google is actively engaged in helping seed the open silicon space. Specifically by providing funding, strategic, and legal support to key open hardware efforts including lowRISC and CHIPS alliance.


lowRISC is a leader in open silicon community outreach, technical documentation, and advancing the goal of a truly open source system on a chip. We have long supported lowRISC’s mission of transparently implemented silicon and robust engagement of the open source silicon community, providing funding, advice, and recognizing their open source community leadership by selecting them as a Google Summer of Code mentoring organization.

Similar to the benefits of open source software, we believe our users will derive great outcomes from open source silicon. Besides enabling and encouraging innovation, chip designs derived from a common, open baseline will provide the benefit of implementation choice while still guaranteeing software compatibility and a set of common interfaces. With regards to security, the transparency of an open source approach is critical to both bugfinding and establishing implementation trustworthiness.

"Google has encouraged and supported lowRISC since the very start. They clearly share our optimism for what open source hardware can offer and our community-driven vision of the future. We are excited by the expanding open source RISC-V ecosystem and look forward to lowRISC community IP being deployed in the real world,” said Alex Bradbury, Co-founder and Director. “We believe lowRISC can act as an important catalyst for open source silicon, providing a shared engineering resource to ensure quality, provide support and help to maintain IP from a range of partners.”
lowRISC board members (L to R): Dominic Rizzo (Google), Alex Bradbury (lowRISC), Gavin Ferris (lowRISC), Dr Robert Mullins (University of Cambridge), Prof. Luca Benini (ETH Zürich), and Ron Minnich (Google, not pictured).
A first example of Google’s ongoing collaboration with ETH Zürich and lowRISC is the recently released “Ibex” RISC-V core. ETH Zürich donated their Zero-riscy core as a starting point and technical work to extend the core was done across all three organizations. You can learn more about Google’s collaboration with lowRISC on the RISC-V core here.

Furthermore, Google is excited to announce that it is joining the board of lowRISC, with the appointment of Dominic Rizzo and Ronald Minnich as corporate directors.

CHIPS Alliance 

Along with our increased funding, support and collaboration with lowRISC, we are also happy to announce our status as a founding member of the Linux Foundation’s CHIPS Alliance project. CHIPS Alliance features an industry-driven, collaborative model to release high-quality silicon IP and supporting technical collateral. Most recently, in collaboration with CHIPS Alliance, we released a Universal Verification Methodology (UVM) instruction stream generator to aid in the verification of RISC-V cores. We believe such open sourcing of verification tools will prove critical to the long-term success of the open source silicon community.

Google has been an early, strong supporter of the open silicon community. We believe deeply in a future where transparent, trustworthy open source chip designs are commonplace. To get there, we are committed to establishing a collaborative, community-focused, open source basis for free and open silicon design.

By Parthasarathy Ranganathan, Distinguished Engineer, Google and Dominic Rizzo, Open Silicon Tech Lead, Google