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Altera's FPGAs optimise wireless standards, search engines

17 Jun 2014  | Nick Flaherty

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Bushehri would not comment on whether the investment prevents Lime from working directly with Alteras competitors such as Xilinx and Microsemi, but neither have the same emphasis on OpenCL. "We are putting the technology out there for everyone," he said. "For example, we supply our devices through [distributors] Digi-key and Arrow so anyone can use it alongside an FPGA as well as an ASIC or a general purpose processor. The bottleneck is always at the RF and that's what Lime is solving."

With the investment from Altera, the companies also will work closely in marketing, sales, and technical support activities worldwide and produce reference designs that can be further customised for specific applications and features. This will expand Altera's FPGA customer base to include wireless applications beyond carrier grade base stations and remote radio units. These applications include enterprise wireless networks, small cell carrier grade infrastructure, military communication systems, software defined radio, and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications in the industrial, test, and high-end consumer space.

Big data challenges

In addition, Altera is also working with Microsoft Research and Bing to accelerate portions of the web search engine. Altera's FPGAs accelerate the processing of large amounts of data on servers, which helps address big data challenges and massive distributed workloads.

"The performance requirements for today's large data centre workloads are outstripping what general-purpose servers can provide, so we ran a pilot using Altera technology to deliver more acceleration than software running on servers alone," said Doug Burger, director of Client and Cloud Applications in Microsoft Research's Technology division.

"We set a performance target that would be a significant throughput gain, while simultaneously permitting more advanced search ranking models to be run. Compared to a pure software implementation, our reconfigurable acceleration fabric permitted a 90 per cent improvement in throughput at each ranking server, with great system stability. A satisfying and positive result," he added.

Distributed reconfigurable fabrics have the potential to be a viable path forward as server performance increases continue to level off and will be crucial at the end of Moore's Law for continued cost and capability improvements.

Based on the results, Bing plans to roll out FPGA-accelerated servers to process customer searches in one of its data centres starting in early 2015.

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