The Phoenix Mars lander is scheduled to be on the surface of Mars this weekend, on Sunday. At least one Actel FPGA is on board, handling pressure and temperature data processing.
Note that Actel and Xilinx FPGAs are already rolling around on Mars, in the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
Details of the Phoenix lander and its gadgets can be found on the JPL Mars Page.
Our pals at 3L put together a nice demonstration using a Sundance DSP/FPGA development board. Check it out:
DSP/FPGA Co-Processing Demonstrates 20X Acceleration using Software-to-Hardware Design Flow
Gee, it seems like just yesterday that 90nm process was a big deal…
Altera announces 40-nm Stratix IV FPGAs and HardCopy IV ASICs
Dave Strenski of Cray and Jim Simkins, Richard Walke and Ralph Wittig from Xilinx have published an updated version of Strenski’s earlier article on floating-point performance in FPGAs.
Strenski’s analysis indicates that the biggest, baddest Xilinx FPGAs today (for floating point that would be the new Virtex-5 SX240T) have significantly higher peak performance than the biggest, baddest quad-core AMD Opteron. The article doesn’t delve into the relative power consumption of the FPGA vs the Opteron. That’s where the real story lies.
Here’s a reconfigurable computing blog of note I just came across. Check out this posting by Amir Hirsh about server power management: Datacenter Power Management: Subverting the Dominant Paradigm.
Last month I attended the Washington Technology Summit where power efficiency and alternative energy were big topics (along with life sciences and advanced materials). During a panel discussion on Green IT, Christian Belady of Microsoft described methods that Microsoft and its competitors use to power and cool the hundreds of thousands of CPUs that now make up a large scale data center.
During the Q&A I couldn’t help raising my hand and asking the obvious question: aren’t we attacking the wrong problem? If most of the general-purpose processors in the data centers are being applied to highly specialized problems (web-search, for example, or streaming video transcoding), they why aren’t we making more use of lower-power reconfigurable hardware?
Christian had sort of a blank look (after all, his job is watching the power meter on the building, not deciding what actually goes in all those server boxes) but another panelist, Don Tilton of Spraycool knew exactly what I was getting at. He took the microphone and opined that “GPU and FPGA accelerators are a potential solution” to the problem.
Ed is in geek heaven with his new ML507 board from Xilinx. This is a board designed to be a development and prototyping vehicle for all kinds of embedded applications. It’s got a PCI Express interface, video inputs and outputs, audio, network interface, all kinds of connectors. Too big to re-install the computer’s cover after installing it in a slot… but who cares?
If you are thinking about development using Xilinx FPGAs with an embedded PowerPC, then get yourself an ML507. And get a compatible C-to-hardware compiler while you’re at it.