November 12, 2008 -- FPGA companies have made a multi-billion dollar business by solving some of the toughest digital design problems in the industry. Radar, cryptography, WiMax/LTE, and software defined radio (SDR) are some of the markets where very large field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) have found homes in the past decade.
For many reasons, including cost pressure or stringent size, weight, and power (SWaP) requirements, these "constrained environments" have required extremely high-performance and high-efficiency architectures demanding the performance-per-watt advantages that FPGAs offer.
A key difference in electronic design between the last decade and the next will be the definition of "constrained environments." The applications I've mentioned so far have system and market demands that remove every last milliwatt of power, ounce of weight, or pennies of cost to deliver the optimal solution for that target market. Looking at the next ten years, let's explore if acceleration technology will help efficiently solve similar problems in other markets.
The world has already heard perhaps too much about "Green Computing," including low power and terms like "eco-friendly." This is only the beginning of a wave of requirements that will change server design for years to come. Linux clusters are great for scaling challenges and leveraging commodity components to solve large computer problems.
However, how "green" are they really? First, Linux clusters are built from x86 CPUs that typically only use some of their transistors for computation. The rest of those transistors are burning power and are not generating a solution. Clusters use tons of memory and mechanical storage that wastefully burns more power. Finally, the software running on these platforms typically can't take full advantage of multi-core CPUs, let alone tomorrow's "many-core" versions. The result is compounded inefficiency running on inefficiency.
It hit me recently in a conversation that there are more than a few markets left where efficiency hasn't been implemented and that are increasingly becoming "constrained environments." This intersection is where the next wave of application accelerators, such as FGPAs, will come into play.
By Geno Valente. (Valente is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for XtremeData, Inc.)
This brief introduction has been excerpted from the original copyrighted article.
View the entire article on the EE Times Programmable Logic Designline website.
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