SUNNYVALE, Calif. The first two companies to offer socket-compatible coprocessors for AMD64 Opteron processor sockets, DRC Computer Corp. and XtremeData Inc., are delivering programmable solutions that can accelerate time-critical algorithms.
These coprocessors leverage the flexibility of Xilinx and Altera FPGAs, respectively, so that they can be configured to accelerate graphics, XML, floating point, video transcoding and other applications.
Although the latest bevy of AMD64 processors offer topnotch performance, when it comes to specialized operations such as graphics, XML operations and video transcoding, they deliver good, but less than stellar performance.
To achieve stellar system performance, Advanced Micro Devices has opened its processor socket interface as part of the just released Torrenza platform to allow companies like DRC (Santa Clara, Calif.), Chicago-based XtremeData and others to develop and deploy application-specific coprocessors to work alongside AMD64 processors in multisocket processor systems. The coprocessors plug directly into an empty CPU socket and can be dynamically reconfigured, thus permitting users to change logic configurations to better match the algorithms that need acceleration.
Both the DRC and XtremeData solutions are modules that combine an FPGA with static RAM, flash memory (XtremeData only), and interface logic to support 8- or 16-bit HyperTransport interfaces. DRC offers three versions of its module: the DRC100-L60ES and L60, which are based on the 60k logic cell LX60 Virtex 4 FPGA, and the DRC110-L160, which is based on the 152k logic cell LX160 FPGA.
To support implementation of algorithms in the FPGA logic fabric, DRC offers a Linux-based development system that contains a two-socket motherboard, DDR memory, disk drives, a graphics controller and software development tools.
The XD1000 from XtremeData employs Altera's largest Stratix II FPGA, the EP2S180, on a credit card-sized board that fits into the secondary CPU sockets of any 2P or 4P AMD Opteron processor-based motherboard. The module also includes a JTAG port that allows a download cable connection that can be used to configure the FPGA and probe internal FPGA signals using Altera’s SignalTap II embedded logic analyzer. Additionally, the company has several enhanced versions of XD1000 planned for future release.
To develop the hardware-based algorithms XtremeData leverages Altera's SOPC Builder and C2H (C-language to hardware) tools as well as Altera's soft intellectual property blocks such as the NIOS processor core. A full development system with a dual-socket motherboard and one XD1000 module sells for about $15,000 in small quantities; the XD1000 module sells for $6,500 a piece.