Randy Fish, Director of Sales
September 1, 2017
Achronix was delighted to attend the Hot Chips event in Cupertino once again this August. This year saw a bumper turnout, with some very fascinating speakers providing some great insights into the industry. The Achronix team had a chance to meet with many talented people in the industry, swap the usual industry gossip, and pick up several highly promising new business leads.
One very noticeable trend at this year’s conference was the emphasis placed on development of hybrid architectures incorporating FPGA fabrics in order to deliver ASIC-like data center acceleration.
Firstly, Microsoft announced Project Brainwave, an acceleration platform for deep learning and AI applications. This forms a critical part of Microsoft’s strategy to make cloud-based AI more accessible to enterprises. The core of this service is an architecture that pools accelerators across an extremely high-bandwidth fabric to deliver these services.
Secondly, both Baidu (the Chinese web services company) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) offered updates on their own data center acceleration platforms. Baidu announced its XPU, a platform combining elements of FPGA, GPU and CPU architectures. Similarly AWS gave an update on the progress of its F1 elastic cloud servers based entirely on Xilinx Ultrascale+ FPGAs.
Achronix has been championing the cause of FPGA fabrics in data center acceleration (especially versus the development of expensive custom ASICs) for quite some time. Its great to see our viewpoints and predictions are being vindicated by real-world events. Software-defined CPU architectures such as Intel’s Xeon have served the industry well up to now. However, in our view, only high-performance FPGAs can now deliver the combination of optimal performance, low cost and low power required to accelerate (and make best use of) today’s existing data center architectures.
As noted in Karl Freund’s excellent recent article on this topic for Forbes, ‘It is clear that momentum for FPGA acceleration in hyperscale data centers continues to be on the rise…’. Now that several of the industry’s biggest names are following the FPGA-acceleration line, and there appears to be real momentum behind it, the most critical element will be for vendors to develop toolsets that make this technology as accessible and easy-to-develop as possible.