OpenTitan open-source silicon to hits market after 5 years

The OpenTitan coalition and the lowRISC silicon ecosystem announced OpenTitan has reached commercial availability for its open-source silicon project.

The groups said this historic milestone marks the culmination of five years of collaboration and substantial investment by the OpenTitan Coalition, comprising industry giants such as Google, Winbond, Nuvoton, zeroRISC, Rivos, Western Digital, Seagate, ETH Zurich, and G+D Mobile Security. It was hosted by non-profit lowRISC.

OpenTitan, a commercial-grade open-source silicon, is designed to provide a trustworthy, transparent, and secure silicon platform. The open part enables the industry to move forward on common ground, while proprietary elements allow each company to make money.

For instance, OpenTitan’s digital design, documentation, verification, and ROM code are all permissively licensed. ZeroRISC is a major contributor to OpenTitan, and a large part of the core OpenTitan team. Its software (OS & cloud services) and integration solutions are proprietary.

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“I am incredibly proud of the OpenTitan partnership for succeeding where every other project
has failed – producing the first commercial quality open-source chip in the world,” said Gavin
Ferris, CEO of lowRISC, in a statement. “This is the culmination of the monumentally hard work of a vibrant and engaged community of contributors focused on a singular goal to achieve what’s never been done before – make open-source silicon work in the same way as open-source software. I am grateful for this support and can’t wait for what’s to come.”

The OpenTitan project, initiated by Google in collaboration with lowRISC and partners in 2018, aimed to create a transparent and trustworthy secure silicon platform. This project sets a new standard by mixing commercial-grade design verification, top-level testing, and continuous integration into an open-source secure chip. OpenTitan serves as the hardware root of trust, ensuring that critical system components boot securely using authorized and verifiable code, maintaining a trustworthy state for both hardware and software.

“OpenTitan in silicon is the realization of many years of dedication and hard work from our team.
It is a significant moment for us and all contributors to the project,” said Miguel Osorio, OpenTitan lead at Google, in a statement.

The project, supported by Google, saw accelerated growth, making it the most active and successful open-source silicon project in history.

The project achieved notable milestones in 2023, including the first discrete silicon tapeout in June and the announcement of the first System-on-Chip (SoC) secure execution environment in November. The latter included Root of Trust (RoT) functionality, enabling partners to embed OpenTitan in their SoC and chiplet designs.

OpenTitan members underscored the collaborative spirit and the success of the initiative. Erez Naory, vice president of client and security products at Nuvoton, emphasized the pride in bringing the “EarlGrey” OpenTitan chip design to market, showcasing leadership in open, secure integrated circuits.

“Our mission is to advance the incredible work of the OpenTitan project by delivering an end-toend product security solution built on an open secure silicon foundation,” said Dom Rizzo, zeroRISC CEO, in a statement. “That we’re able to deliver commercial products so soon after tapeout clearly illustrates the coalition’s momentum. With this first, crucial step for open silicon implementations, we look forward to a world where a transparent and trustworthy supply chain is the default.”

Tung-Yi Chan, Vice Chairman at Winbond, highlighted the viability of securely integrating certified Intellectual Properties (IPs).

The OpenTitan coalition remains focused on accelerating momentum, with upcoming milestones including the full production release of the “Darleeling” integrated OpenTitan secure extension environment (SEE) and the production release of “Chai,” the integrated OpenTitan SEE with support for secure external flash. Additionally, an updated discrete “EarlGrey” chip design is set to be released.

OpenTitan’s success sets a precedent for open silicon implementations, promising a world where transparency and trustworthiness in the supply chain become the default. The achievement marks a significant step forward in the intersection of open-source principles and commercial-grade silicon platforms, the groups said.

In comparison to other chip ecosystems, rivals such as RISC-V have an open specification, whereas OpenTitan’s IP ecosystem consists of permissively-licensed open source implementations. The “Earl Grey” OpenTitan design has a small RISC-V core in it, the Ibex 32-bit microcontroller, but contains much more peripheral and top-level component IPs to make up an entire open-source chip solution.

And, by contrast, ARM is proprietary in both specification and implementation. Note that while the design is permissively licensed, particular OpenTitan configurations are protected by trademark to ensure that they meet the security and quality guarantees of the overall project.

One of the participants, lowRISC, has built up to 30 employees.

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