Intel Accelerates FPGAs into Server Mainstream with Dell EMC, Fujitsu

By Doug Black

April 11, 2018

This morning, Intel announced adoption of its Programmable Acceleration Card (PAC), with Arria 10 GX FPGA and the Intel Acceleration Stack for Intel Xeon CPU, within the server lineups of Dell-EMC and Fujitsu. The “deployment ready” Acceleration Stack includes APIs and software that abstract away the need for complex (and often unfamiliar) FPGA programming, enabling FPGAs to accelerate workloads within widely used Intel Xeon computing environments. According to Intel, compute-heavy portions of financial analytics and database applications have been offloaded to Arria FPGAs for performance improvements of 8x and 20x, respectively.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R640, R740 and R740XD servers incorporating Intel FPGA are on the market now; Fujitsu Primergy RX2540 M4 servers with Intel FPGAs are available to priority customers now and the general market in the second half of this year.

Intel’s acquisition of Altera in 2015 for $16.7 billion declared to the world Intel’s strategic commitment to FPGA technology. CEO Brian Krzanich and other senior Intel managers have predicted that a third of servers used by the major cloud computing hyperscalers could have hybrid CPU/FPGA nodes by 2020.

“We look at this as a pivotal moment where we have adoption by the top-tier OEMs enabling broader move into the enterprise market,” said Sabrina Gomez, director, Intel Programmable Solutions Group, ahead of today’s announcement.

“We have a solution where we have the FPGA coupled with the Xeon CPUs and all of the required layers that help provide a platform for acceleration,” Gomez said. “One of the key pieces: software. That’s where the stack plays a really important role in being the API driver layer, to enable software developers to leverage the power of the FPGA in offloading and accelerating high compute-intensive, repetitive functions.”

Industry watcher Patrick Moorhead, said he views today’s announcement “as the beginning of the popularization of FPGAs. Dell EMC wouldn’t productize unless they had customers who want to buy them.”

“One big benefit that FPGAs have is that they can be hardware programmable,” Moorhead said. “One day they can be doing deep packet network inspection and the next hour they can be doing machine learning for inferencing. Not every datacenter needs morphing like that, but some will. I also like that FPGAs only consume power based on the gates used.”

Read the full story at our sister website EnterpriseTech.

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