Intel’s new new Stratix 10 MX FPGA has hit the market with a pocketful of high-bandwidth memory. This device should change forever the way your customers think about memory allocation. Make no mistake, it’s the beginning of the end for DDR4 memory.
FPGAs, short for Field Programmable Gate Arrays, have long been a valuable solution for OEMs whose products need equal measures of both power and flexibility. But like all silicon-based solutions, FPGA memory capacity is limited to what engineers can fit on the die. With the Stratix 10 MX, that capacity is now 10 times bigger.
Not your grandpappy’s FPGA
The computer biz, by and large, is about decreasing physical size while increasing performance. Intel’s FPGA strategy is no different.
By dramatically increasing the performance of its diminutive Stratix FPGA, Intel is empowering a whole new generation of industrial design. The result could revolutionize myriad market segments, including virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and biomedical engineering.
The key is HBM2, short for High Bandwidth Memory DRAM. It’s the second generation of high-bandwidth memory design. With HBM2, Intel engineers can now offer up to 16GB of memory on a single Stratix 10 chip.
The Intel Stratix 10 MX FPGA: first with integrated High Bandwidth Memory DRAM.
Not only that, the memory itself is capable of far more bandwidth than the pedestrian DDR4 RAM inside your customers’ laptops. That’s because HBM2 has more logic elements, more I/O pins and more PCIe 3.0 x16 IP blocks. For a chip small enough to fit inside a pair of VR goggles, the result is truly striking performance.
Useful & expensive — or just expensive?
Should your customers be interested in the Stratix 10 MX? That depends on their primary market focus. The high price of cutting-edge technology such as this — previous FPGA chips have cost as much as $8,500 each — must be balanced against its value proposition. Namely, more power and a smaller footprint.
Bear in mind, FPGA chips like the Stratix are not meant for consumer devices. Not yet, anyway. Intel’s focus is on high-performance computing, data center architecture, virtual networking and broadcast. When implemented as intended, enterprise users could see big long-term benefits.
For instance, if your customers are looking for a competitive edge in data analysis, Stratix could be their ace in the hole. Refitting a server array with FPGA chips could provide an enormous performance boost, while also decreasing utility bills and maintenance costs. This, in turn, could enable the customer to process far more data, turn it into more useful information, and bring it to market better and faster than the other guy.
Even if Stratix is not the right fit for your customers, the reality of HBM2-equipped chips will have a knock-on effect throughout the world of technology. Intel’s new FPGA lineup is proof of a paradigm shift for onboard memory.
Its effects will eventually impact every mobile device, smart object and computer available. When that happens, today’s silicon chips will be a distant memory.