The Growing Opportunity for Cloud Service Providers: Acceleration-as-a-Service with Intel FPGAs

The computing landscape continues to change and evolve, and new technology tools are being applied to challenges once thought insurmountable.  Some of these are business and commercial applications, others in research and scientific breakthroughs.  Ten years ago, who could have imagined what we can do with genomics sequencing and analysis today, where a complete DNA strand can be analyzed in a few hours?

For many of these compute challenges, general-purpose processors benefit from targeted acceleration to deliver the “step function” performance improvements needed to achieve a breakthrough.  Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are the accelerators of choice for a growing range of technical, business and research problems, from financial tech to machine learning to big data analytics.

Acceleration-as-a-Service with FPGAs is Growing Rapidly

In recent months, several leading cloud service providers, including Amazon and Baidu, announced FPGA Acceleration-as-a-Service offerings.  A public cloud environment can be a great place for developers to start the FPGA journey, with virtually no initial capital outlay and a low-risk environment for testing and experimentation.  As workloads and applications are adapted to FPGA acceleration, cloud deployments can readily scale to meet the growing capacity.

Intel joined Alibaba Cloud recently to announce their new FPGA acceleration offering, based on the Intel® Arria® 10.  “Intel® FPGAs offer us a more cost-effective way to accelerate cloud-based application performance for our customers running business applications and demanding data and scientific workloads,” said Jin Li, Vice President of Alibaba Cloud. “Another key value of FPGAs is they provide high performance at low power, and the flexibility for managing diverse computing workloads.”

Right now, Cloud Service Providers have a unique opportunity to get in on this growing trend and create differentiated FPGA services that build their portfolios and businesses.  Customer needs are diverse, and they will be looking for FPGA service choices that meet their requirements.

Intel FPGAs Lead the Industry in Performance and Ease of Use

Intel gives cloud service providers a range of form factor options so they can optimize for their infrastructure needs.  Our traditional FPGA components have been joined by easy-to-deploy, PCIe-based Intel Programmable Acceleration Cards that can be added to any Intel server, including our latest Intel® Xeon® Scalable platforms.

Intel’s Stratix® and Arria FPGA product families are ideal for cloud service providers looking to power their Acceleration-as-a-Service offering.  Intel is the silicon manufacturing leader, and Stratix is shipping on 14-nanometer today, with 10-nanometer on our short-term roadmap.  Silicon leadership translates to performance and power efficiency.  New security features have been added, such as Intel® Virtualization Technology SR-IOV, an important isolation feature in a multi-tenant Acceleration-as-a-Service environment.

Intel also created a software framework that vastly simplifies FPGA programming.  Historically, FPGA developers had to be fluent in hardware-descriptive languages, such as Verilog or VHDL, and have specific knowledge of FPGA hardware designs.  With the Acceleration Stack for Intel Xeon CPU with FPGAs, a robust collection of software, firmware, and tools, designed and distributed by Intel, coding for Intel FPGAs moves into like familiar environments like RTL or OpenCL, abstracting away the hardware-specific intricacies of the past, and opens up FPGAs to mainstream developers.  The Acceleration Stack provides optimized and simplified hardware interfaces and software APIs, saving the developer time so they can focus on the unique value-add of their solution.

At the heart of the Acceleration Stack is the Open Programmable Acceleration Engine (OPAE).  In a nutshell, the Open Programmable Acceleration Engine (OPAE) is software programming layer that provides a consistent API across FPGA product generations and platforms. To foster an open ecosystem and encourage the use of FPGA acceleration for data center workloads, Intel has open sourced the technology for the industry and developer community.

Equipped with the OPAE framework, a rich ecosystem of third-party companies are developing a wide range of workload accelerators that can be used by application developers or cloud service providers.  One example is Falcon Computing, a solution partner of Intel, who offers its FPGA-accelerated genome sequencing solution on Alibaba Cloud, an impressive 3X overall GATK pipeline speedup and 26X alignment algorithm speedup versus using the CPU alone.1

The Opportunity is Now

We are still in the initial ramp-up stage of Acceleration-as-a-Service with FPGAs, and cloud service providers have a clear window of opportunity to enhance their product portfolios in this area of rapidly growing demand.  We look forward to working with them as we grow the business and solve the problems that will change the world. Join us in accelerating compute for the data demands of today and beyond.


1Source - Falcon Computing


Published on Categories High Performance ComputingTags , , , , , , ,
John C. Sakamoto

About John C. Sakamoto

John C. Sakamoto is vice president and general manager for the Data Center and Communications businesses in the Programmable Solutions Group at Intel Corporation. He guides teams working with customers in leading areas for FPGA use---including data center acceleration, NFV, and wireline and wireless infrastructure. Sakamoto joined Intel in 2015 with the acquisition of Altera Corp., where he had served most recently as vice president for integration planning. Before being appointed to lead the integration team, Sakamoto had spent three years as vice president and general manager of sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Based in London, he was responsible for overseeing Altera’s sales, technical support, strategic accounts and channel strategy throughout the region. Earlier in his Altera career, Sakamoto managed the company’s operations organization, which included team members in Silicon Valley and Penang, Malaysia. His responsibilities in that role encompassed supplier management, planning, quality and reliability, worldwide customer service, and tester hardware development. Sakamoto spent his first years at Altera managing various business units dedicated to wireline, computer, storage, medical, test and military applications. He also managed international customer marketing and the European business operations groups, with teams in China, Japan, and Ireland. Before joining Altera, Sakamoto was an ASIC design engineer at Hitachi America Ltd. Sakamoto holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.