How do FPGAs Boost Supercomputers?

The evolving functionalities of FPGAs are proving to be valuable for powering the computing abilities of supercomputers.

FREMONT, CA: There is a lot of experimentation going on regarding the elements in a supercomputer. To support improved computing capabilities, FPGAs are finding their way into high-performance computing (HPC).  The use of FPGAs in HPC started about a decade ago and resulted in a lot of excitement. However, challenges in programming the FPGAs led to limitations. Now, the prospects of easier programming have brought FPGAs into the limelight again. For the supercomputers, these developments might be of special value. The flexibility that FPGAs bring about when it comes to interconnections is immensely valuable for processors in supercomputers.

The role of FPGAs as accelerators in supercomputers has gained momentum lately. Several labs and universities are trying to test the viability of FPGAs as accelerators. Although FPGAs will not replace GPUs completely, the scopes of applications in computing are increasing gradually. According to online reports, there have been investments to leverage improved programmable devices in high-performance computing applications.

The advantages of FPGAs as accelerators involve variable-precision DSP blocks that work well for heavy scientific computations. In addition, FPGAs are expected to be relatively energy-efficient. Thus, supercomputers with FPGA-aided processing abilities are valuable for academic research. Another major benefit of FPGA includes the customizability it brings to processing architecture. Customizations enable application-specific built that promotes efficiency and accelerated performance for supercomputers.

Supercomputers are the mainstay of computational research. FPGAs make it feasible to develop workflow-specific computing hardware, thereby optimizing purpose-built architecture. Even in the process of developing an application-specific integrated circuit, FPGAs are involved. Thus, there is a high probability that the supercomputers of the future will be powered by an appropriate combination of FPGA and CPU/GPU-based computing systems.

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