The computing industry is at a critical juncture. Enterprise applications and advanced embedded systems require ever-higher levels of computing performance, at lower power consumption.
In the quest “do more with less”, system designers are now deploying reconfigurable, hardware-accelerated computing platforms. These platforms promise a greener, less power-hungry method of solving the world’s most complex processing problems—such as financial analytics, image search, cryptography, video processing, life sciences, and energy exploration.
Reconfigurable computing is most often based on well-proven electronic devices known as Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). FPGAs are commodity devices found in a wide variety of products and systems including network routers, automotive engine control systems, cellular base-stations, military electronics, satellites, medical devices, and consumer electronics. FPGAs can be found today in our homes and offices, in our cars, and in military and security systems. FPGAs are even found on Mars, in the robot brains of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
FPGAs first appeared in the 1980s. An FPGA is an integrated circuit containing programmable logic components and programmable interconnects. Unlike a conventional processor, which executes a predefined set of programming instructions, an FPGA can be reconfigured as needed to create a wide variety of parallel computing functions. Modern FPGAs provide enough parallel computing power to outperform standard processors by orders of magnitude, at reduced clock rates and correspondingly lower power consumption.