SuperVessel: Come Create the Era of Heterogeneous Computing with FPGAs for the Cloud

Michael_LeventhalBy: Michael Leventhal, Technical Manager, Data Center Acceleration, Xilinx

Xilinx believes that we, in collaboration with the OpenPOWER Foundation, are spearheading a new era of computing, one that is capable of expanding human potential. In a word, it is the cloud — which delivers compute capacity and data intelligence to the fingertips of billions. Big data and raw compute capacity have enabled the creation of computing solutions that are categorically different than anything ever done.

These developments have paved the way for systems that can understand speech, translate languages, recognize individuals, interpret actions in video streams and even autonomously drive cars. However, based on the 75-year old Von Neumann architecture, compute infrastructure alone cannot handle this work within reasonable limits of cost, space, power, and system complexity. In a very short time, this venerable architecture will be unable to meet the taxing demands of the cloud.

Soon, heterogeneous computing will be the new paradigm equipped to handle these complex workloads. Heterogeneous computing combines CPUs and compute engines with innovative architectures, which will be considerably more efficient for new era cloud workloads. Now, thanks to the IBM POWER Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI), Xilinx FPGAs are dynamically hardware-configured to efficiently run cloud applications with an IBM POWER processor and share coherent access to host memory between the processor and the FPGA.

The Von Neumann architecture has been refined over decades and the compute applications that run on it are highly optimized to run efficiently. Heterogeneous computing has been developing rapidly over the last decade, but there is still a great amount of research and development needed before reaching its full potential. This is one of the most critical areas of computing research today.

Xilinx is committed to supporting this research and development to help redefine the future of heterogeneous computing. That’s why we joined forces with IBM to design POWER processors with FPGAs attached and enable researchers, students, and developers in the community to leverage OpenPOWER and Xilinx development tools through SuperVessel. This open access cloud service, which was created by IBM Research Beijing and IBM Systems Labs, is now provisioned with CAPI-compatible FPGAs, providing a complete virtual R&D engine for the creation and testing of cloud applications in areas such as deep analytics, machine learning and IoT.

To further educate developers, Xilinx collaborated with several universities to organize the first international workshop on High Performance Heterogeneous Reconfigurable Computing (H²RC) at SC15 ( This will mark the first time an FPGA-focused workshop aimed at the heterogeneous computing community will be held at the supercomputing conference. We’d like to invite you to take advantage of the resources available through SuperVessel and share your experience with the community at H²RC.

See you in the Cloud and see you at SC15!

About Michael Leventhal, Technical Manager, Data Center Acceleration, Xilinx

Michael is responsible for leadership in the compute acceleration sector of Xilinx’s data center business unit. He has more than a decade of experience in co-processing engines and acceleration with reconfigurable logic, software, and design tools in a wide range of application domains as an inventor, technologist, product manager, and marketer.  He holds a BS-EECS degree from U.C. Berkeley.

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