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Applications for Intel's Newest Product: the Xeon + FPGA chip

Posted by Nadeesha Thewarapperuma

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Nov 24, 2015 11:07:30 AM


     Intel will ship its first Xeon + Altera FPGA server chip in the first quarter of 2016. Once it is combined with Altera FPGA, Intel's Xeon CPU will offer a 20 time performance boost. 

     Intel has already delivered custom products for some of their biggest customers, including Ebay, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. This step takes it further by offering a custom-based solution to all customers who may have an interest in using the versatile chip on their boards.

     FPGA solutions are ideal for data-intensive projects since they don't consume as much energy and are less costly. Plus FPGA can be repeatedly reprogrammed after manufacture, making them more versatile compared to ASICs. 

The advantage of a Xeon + FPGA chip product is that:

1)   It can offer a huge performance boost. Intel estimates a performance boost of at least 20x for any code run on the FPGA and not on the conventional x86 CPU.

2)   The Xeon + FPGA chip can be reprogrammed to accommodate any changes in the written code.

3)   By integrating FPGA with the Xeon chip, there is drect access to the Xeon's on-chip cache and main memory, reducing latency.

4)   FPGA can free up processing load from CPUs, providing power efficiency to computers and servers.


     The chip will be suitable for applications that rely on data-intensive applications, and solutions that rely on quick processing. Suitable applications for a Xeon + Altera FPGA chip include:

1)   The chip can be used to help identify objects and people in crowds. With the use of RealSense, a 3D camera, Intel hopes the technology can be used in image recognition software. The technology was used after the Boston Marathon bombings to identify the two suspects. Facial recognition software is also used in Facebook to automatically tag uploaded photos.

2)   Intel's CEO Brian Krzanich believes the chips can be used in autonomous cars. Most vehicles are already equipped with advanced sensory and warning systems. FPGA are used to provide the quick processing power needed for split-second decisions and avoid any collisions. 

3)   Microsoft Bing uses FPGA to deliver search results.

4)   Intel is also providing the necessary processing power to analyze data for a study on cardiovascular health. Data from fitness bands and smart watches are collected and processed by FPGA. Intel believes there are over 300 million data points being collected for this project.

     Intels Xeon + Altera chip has been in the making for a long time, but Intel's decision to purchase Altera FPGA for $16.7 billion probably sped up the process. The acquisition is expected to be completed in another six to nine months. Intel may already have competitors. Both Qualcomm and IBM have partnered with Xilinx FPGA to design a chip to rival the Intel Xeon + Altera chip.


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Topics: FPGA, Altera, xilinx

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