FPGA programmable hardware

The volume of data transferred over today’s high-speed networks is growing rapidly. The speed of growth has outpaced Moore’s law and new technologies and approaches are necessary to keep pace with this growth, while also adding new services to the network. In order to meet the performance requirements of data plane processing, many vendors select FPGA technology as an acceleration engine.


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FPGAs bring many advantages including a high degree of parallelism, efficiency with high performance per watt and field programmability, unlike ASICs. The configurability of an FPGA chip allows use of all of its elements simultaneously. Therefore, an FPGA is able to implement and run highly parallel algorithms. An FPGA component implementing an algorithm can be instantiated multiple times to run truly in parallel, which multiplies overall performance. In addition, each component can be fine-tuned to achieve maximum performance. FPGAs are also very power efficient. The overall system power budget (in Watts per Gbps) can be decreased significantly when the application is split appropriately between FPGA and CPU. By accelerating applications with FPGAs, it is possible to reduce a datacenter footprint and build smaller appliances with lower power consumption.

The in-field programmability of FPGAs allows reprogramming the chip without having physical access. This significantly eases the upgrading and troubleshooting of an FPGA-based appliance, as those operations can be done remotely. As for network traffic applications, using FPGA technology brings several interesting advantages. A single FPGA-based card can support multiple network standards. Therefore, it is possible to use one hardware platform for two or more generations of network technologies, thus protecting hardware investments.

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