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IBM, Altera reveal FPGA-based acceleration platform

19 Nov 2014

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Altera Corp. and IBM have uncovered what they claim as the industry's first FPGA-based acceleration platform that links an FPGA to a POWER8 CPU using IBM's Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI). According to the companies, the reconfigurable hardware accelerator offers shared virtual memory between the FPGA and processor that boosts system performance, efficiency and flexibility in high-performance computing (HPC) and data centre applications.

Working together through the OpenPOWER Foundation, Altera and IBM are developing highly flexible heterogeneous compute solutions that promise to bring new levels of performance and efficiency to POWER8 systems. FPGA-accelerated POWER8 systems are optimised to enable compute- and processing-intensive tasks required in next-generation HPC and data centre applications including data compression, encryption, image processing and search. Using CAPI to coherently attach FPGA accelerators to the fabric of a POWER8 processor and main system memory make the FPGA appear as simply another core on the POWER8 processor. This results in shortened development time by greatly reducing lines of software code and reduced processor cycles versus conventional IO attached accelerators. A single FPGA-accelerated POWER8 server is able to operate at industry-leading levels of efficiency, allowing system architects to cut their data centre footprint in half, the companies noted.

Altera and IBM have worked with board partner Nallatech to develop an OpenPOWER CAPI development kit for POWER8 that features Nallatech's FPGA-based 385 card. This off-the-shelf development platform allows designers to start using FPGA accelerators with POWER8 systems.

The Altera SDK for OpenCL provides developers the resources they need to develop their own custom FPGA-based accelerators and gain a time to market, power and performance advantage. The release of the OpenCL 2.0 specification supports shared virtual memory capabilities that enable programmers to address memory shared by the host and accelerator using CAPI.

The IBM Data Engine for NoSQL claims to enable a significantly lower cost basis for deploying NoSQL data stores. The solution features Altera's FPGAs and IBM's unique CAPI-enabled POWER System S822L with IBM's FlashSystem 840, demonstrating server consolidation by enabling one POWER8 server to be used instead of 24 X86 servers for a well-sized NoSQL store.

The IBM Data Engine for Analytics is a customisable infrastructure solution with integrated software optimised for big data and analytics workloads. The IBM Data Engine features POWER8 CPU and Altera FPGAs working together to manage efficient workloads and provide flexible and adjustable storage and compute resources.

The OpenPOWER CAPI Developer Kit for POWER8 uses a Nallatech OpenPOWER CAPI development kit to show how developers can get started using FPGA-accelerated POWER8 systems.

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