Altera, IBM develop FPGA-accelerated POWER Systems with Coherent Shared Memory

November 18, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
POWER8 systems that exploit reprogrammable FPGA accelerators gain significant improvements in system performance, efficiency and flexibility, the two companies say.

The configuration is described as the first FPGA-based acceleration platform that coherently connects an FPGA to a POWER8 CPU using IBM's Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI). The reconfigurable hardware accelerator features shared virtual memory between the FPGA and processor which significantly improves system performance, efficiency and flexibility in high-performance computing (HPC) and data centre applications. Altera and IBM are presenting several POWER8 systems that are coherently accelerated using FPGAs at SuperComputing 2014 (New Orleans, USA).

Working together through the OpenPOWER Foundation, Altera and IBM are developing highly flexible heterogeneous compute solutions to bring higher levels of performance and efficiency to POWER8 systems. FPGA-accelerated POWER8 systems are optimised to enable compute- and processing-intensive tasks required in next-generation HPC and data centre applications, including data compression, encryption, image processing and search. Using CAPI to coherently attach FPGA accelerators to the fabric of a POWER8 processor and main system memory make the FPGA appear as simply another core on the POWER8 processor. This results in shortened development time by greatly reducing lines of software code and reduced processor cycles versus conventional IO-attached accelerators. A single FPGA-accelerated POWER8 server is able to operate at industry-leading levels of efficiency, allowing system architects to cut their data centre footprint in half.

“As today’s high performance computing applications evolve with rapidly changing workloads, it is imperative we build in flexible accelerators to make IBM POWER processors more efficient in IBM Power Systems and all OpenPOWER compatible systems,” said Brad McCredie, vice president of IBM Power development and OpenPOWER president. “The work Altera has done to provide FPGA-based reconfigurable hardware acceleration to our POWER processors enabled through CAPI allows software developers to build highly efficient, highly flexible, performance optimised systems.”

Altera and IBM have worked with board partner Nallatech to develop an OpenPOWER CAPI Development Kit for POWER8 that features Nallatech’s FPGA-based 385 card (pictured, above), the first CAPI FPGA accelerator card. This off-the-shelf development platform allows designers