SANTA CLARA, Calif.—FPGA vendors and users will meet next month in an effort to define a standard software interface for accelerators. The meeting is being convened by Red Hat’s chief ARM architect, who gave an update (Wednesday) on efforts to establish ARM servers.
“There’s a trend towards high-level synthesis so an FPGA programmer can write in OpenCL up front but the little piece that’s been ignored is how OpenCL talks to Linux,” said Jon Masters, speaking at the Linley Data Center event here.
OS companies don’t ship drivers for OpenCL, so software developers need to understand the intimate details of the FPGA as well as the Linux kernel to make the link. Often it also involves developing a custom direct-memory access engine and fine tuning Java libraries.
Masters did just that as part of a test board called Trilby that ran a simple search algorithm on an FPGA mounted on a PCI Express card. “Ninety percent of the effort is interface to the FPGA,” he said.
To fix the problem, Masters has called a meeting of interested parties in March. It will be hosted by a neutral organization. He hopes to have “all the right players” involved, including major FPGA vendors.
If the meeting is successful, the group will hammer out “in the open” one or more interfaces for standard OS drivers so users can load and configure an FPGA bit stream. It’s a significant hole, and not the only one on the road to taking FPGA accelerators into mainstream markets, according to Masters.
FPGAs also need to become full citizens in the software world of virtualized functions where telecos in particular are rallying around new standards for network functions virtualization. Separately, programmers are using high-level synthesis especially with OpenCL to write code for FPGAs, however, experts are still needed to map and optimize the results of synthesis to the underlying hardware, he said.
Graphics processors present their own challenges. “GPU [vendors] are not open to having an open interface so you can write a patent-free OS driver, so people have to develop their own interfaces,” he said.
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