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How Intel is simplifying FPGA development

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 10/18/2022
Blog Category: cloud-and-data-centers

Field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology is cool: semiconductors you can program with product features you want, then reprogram if needed in the field.

But, actually doing that programming? Too challenging, right?

Not anymore. Intel recognizes that the perceived difficulty of FPGA development may hurt the technology’s adoption.

That’s why the company has developed hardware and software infrastructure to make FPGA platform development programming doable, even for people without specialized expertise. That includes you.

It’s a big deal. If you miss out on FPGA, you’ll also miss out on the technology’s impressive benefits, including:

> Flexibility: The functionality of an FPGA can change every time the device is powered up. To try out a change, just download a new configuration file.

> Speed: If you’re a system builder, FPGAs can help you get products to market faster. Right off the shelf, they’re ready to roll.

> Integration: More functions on an FPGA translates into fewer devices on the board. That increases overall reliability.

> Total cost of ownership (TCO): FPGAs may cost a bit more than ASICs, but FPGAs lower the total or lifetime cost for many systems. They also support life cycles of up to 15 years or more.

> Wide range of applications: FPGAs are used in many types of electronic systems, adding important value in many networking, data center, enterprise, cloud, and industrial use cases.

What’s Intel doing to help you enjoy these benefits? Two big moves: an open FPGA infrastructure and FPGA-based acceleration development platforms. Let’s check the details on both.

Intel Open FPGA Stack (Intel OFS)

Intel OFS is a software and hardware infrastructure providing an efficient path to develop a custom FPGA-based platform or workload using an Intel, third-party board, or your own custom board.

You can think of Intel OFS as a source-accessible hardware and software framework delivered through Git repositories. (Git is a free, open-source, and distributed version-control system).

Intel OFS comprises synthesizable code, a simulation environment, and modifiable scripts. It’s designed to work across multiple Linux kernels and operating system distributions, including Red Hat.

Use Intel OFS, and your benefits can include:

> Reduced development time for hardware developers with modular and composable source code used as-is or easily customized

> Access to upstream Linux kernel drivers, which are being adopted by leading OS and orchestration vendors

> Maximum ROI for workload developers with standard hardware and software interfaces and by deploying across multiple Intel OFS-based platforms

> Access to a fast-growing ecosystem of Intel OFS-enabled boards, workloads, and OS distributions.

Intel OFS is available two main ways: on a board from an Intel-licensed ODM or custom-off-the-shelf (COTS) provider or from a board you develop yourself using the reference code provided. ODM card providers include Inventec, Silicom and WNC.

Intel-based Acceleration Development Platforms

The Acceleration Development Platform (ADP) is a PCIe card that plugs into a server, freeing you from the burden of having to build your own FPGA board. It’s what Intel calls an FPGA SmartNIC. Another ADP board is an infrastructure processing unit (IPU) that combines an Intel Xeon processor and high-performance FPGA on a single card.

This platform is used for networking smart devices, wireless tech, access and edge networks, core networks and cloud systems. Depending on the series, typical use cases include high-performance processing, bandwidth-intensive applications, networking infrastructure, storage offload, and other compute-intensive workloads.

There are 2 main ways to use the Intel-based ADP. You can buy a commercial, off-the-shelf card from a licensed ODM. Or you can use the reference platform to build your own custom solution.

You can find the complete list of boards from Intel partners on Intel’s IPU and SmartNICs portal. In addition, some ODM partners provide infrastructure, storage and security workloads to accompany the hardware. 

To help you learn even more and quickly skill up to take advantage of FPGA, Intel offers the FPGA Fundamentals Competency training to Intel Partner Alliance members.

Not yet a member of Intel Partner Alliance? You can easily join.

Find more FPGA Resources:

> Visit the Intel FPGA Acceleration Card and Open FPGA Stack resource center

> Browse Intel FPGAs and programmable devices

> Find Intel Solution Marketplace partners or offerings for FPGA

 

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