Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist at Amazon Web Services, just unveiled the accelerated F1 instance of its AWS (Amazon Web Services) in developer preview form. The rollout came in the form of a blog titled “Developer Preview – EC2 Instances (F1) with Programmable Hardware.”
“One of the more interesting routes to a custom, hardware-based solution is known as a Field Programmable Gate Array, or FPGA. In contrast to a purpose-built chip which is designed with a single function in mind and then hard-wired to implement it, an FPGA is more flexible. It can be programmed in the field, after it has been plugged in to a socket on a PC board. Each FPGA includes a fixed, finite number of simple logic gates. Programming an FPGA is “simply” a matter of connecting them up to create the desired logical functions (AND, OR, XOR, and so forth) or storage elements (flip-flops and shift registers). Unlike a CPU which is essentially serial (with a few parallel elements) and has fixed-size instructions and data paths (typically 32 or 64 bit), the FPGA can be programmed to perform many operations in parallel, and the operations themselves can be of almost any width, large or small.
“This highly parallelized model is ideal for building custom accelerators to process compute-intensive problems. Properly programmed, an FPGA has the potential to provide a 30x speedup to many types of genomics, seismic analysis, financial risk analysis, big data search, and encryption algorithms and applications.
“I hope that this sounds awesome and that you are chomping at the bit to use FPGAs to speed up your own applications!
“Today we are launching a developer preview of the new F1 instance. In addition to building applications and services for your own use, you will be able to package them up for sale and reuse in AWS Marketplace. Putting it all together, you will be able to avoid all of the capital-intensive and time-consuming steps that were once a prerequisite to the use of FPGA-powered applications, using a business model that is more akin to that used for every other type of software. We are giving you the ability to design your own logic, simulate and verify it using cloud-based tools, and then get it to market in a matter of days.
“Equipped with Intel Broadwell E5 2686 v4 processors (2.3 GHz base speed, 2.7 GHz Turbo mode on all cores, and 3.0 GHz Turbo mode on one core), up to 976 GiB of memory, up to 4 TB of NVMe SSD storage, and one to eight FPGAs, the F1 instances provide you with plenty of resources to complement your core, FPGA-based logic. The FPGAs are dedicated to the instance and are isolated for use in multi-tenant environments.
“Here are the specs on the FPGA (remember that there are up to eight of these in a single F1 instance):
- Xilinx UltraScale+ VU9P fabricated using a 16 nm process.
- 64 GiB of ECC-protected memory on a 288-bit wide bus (four DDR4 channels).
- Dedicated PCIe x16 interface to the CPU.
- Approximately 2.5 million logic elements.
- Approximately 6,800 Digital Signal Processing (DSP) engines.
- Virtual JTAG interface for debugging.
“In instances with more than one FPGA, dedicated PCIe fabric allows the FPGAs to share the same memory address space and to communicate with each other across a PCIe Fabric at up to 12 Gbps in each direction. The FPGAs within an instance share access to a 400 Gbps bidirectional ring for low-latency, high bandwidth communication (you’ll need to define your own protocol in order to make use of this advanced feature).”
Amazon is also releasing a developer tool called AMI, “a set of developer tools that you can use in the AWS Cloud at no charge,” for AWS F1 application development.
Note: For additional information on the extensive support Xilinx provides for hardware acceleration in cloud environments, click over to the Xilinx Acceleration Zone, where you’ll find helpful information about the newly announced Reconfigurable Acceleration Stack. (Also, see “Xilinx Reconfigurable Acceleration Stack speeds programming of machine learning, data analytics, video-streaming apps.”)
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November 30, 2016 at 08:49PM