December 3, 2008 -- With all the recent hoopla about GPU-accelerated HPC, reconfigurable computing with Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) has been getting proportionally less attention. While NVIDIA has led the GPU push in HPC, there is no single vendor in the reconfigurable computing space that has jumped into the driver's seat. That hasn't kept a variety of smaller players from trying.
Unlike GPUs -- or CPUs for that matter -- FPGAs require an unconventional programming model. This stems from the fact that the chip's logic elements must be custom-configured before applications can run on them. This process is accomplished via software, which in this case is used to implement the best-fit hardware design for the application code. This is not something the average programmer is trained to do. Some have likened it to writing assembly code, but it is actually worse that. It's more like designing the assembly language itself.
The attractiveness of FPGAs is that they can be custom configured to run specific application workloads efficiently. If a different workload needs to be run, the FPGA can be reconfigured accordingly. Switching configurations takes just milliseconds.
By Michael Feldman, HPCwire Editor
This brief introduction has been excerpted from the original copyrighted article.