Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reconfigurable computing sees giant launch

With 96 high end FPGAs and 26 quad-core Nehalem Xeon processors, the world's largest and most powerful reconfigurable computer has been launched at the University of Florida.
Novo-G uses 96 Altera Stratix-III E260 devices, each with 768 18x18 multipliers, 254K logic elements and 204K registers, with 4.25GB of memory attached. These are housed in 24 GiDEL ProcStar-III quad-FPGA boards and supported by the 26 quad-core processors, 20Gb/s non-blocking DDR InfiniBand, GigE, and 576GB total RAM.
“Construction has been completed on the new Novo-G machine and it is now ready to support a variety of research experiments in CHREC for various projects and participants,” said Dr. Alan D. George, Professor of ECE and Director of the NSF Centre for High-performance Reconfigurable Computing (CHREC) at the University of Florida. “Novo-G is believed to be the most powerful reconfigurable computer in the known world, certainly at least the academic/research community and the FPGAs featured in Novo-G are among the most powerful available today.”

“Although Novo-G may at first sound like it only serves as a research machine in the HPC realm of reconfigurable computing (RC), in reality it supports equally well the HPEC (embedded) realm of RC,” he said. “The boards featured in Novo-G (GiDEL ProcStar-III) are themselves originally marketed and intended as embedded processing boards, each with four big FPGAs with many attached memory banks plus various other supporting devices. We happen to be putting and using more of them in a single machine than anyone has attempted before and researchers can focus on issues with a single FPGA, a set of two, three, or four FPGAs on a single board with fast streaming pipes between, or many FPGAs (up to 96) spanning multiple boards, as their needs require. Thus, Novo-G will be supporting RC research projects that span the HPC and HPEC sides.

Novo-G will support a variety of tools, including vendor tools as well as various CHREC tools for formulation, design, translation, and execution. At the device level, Novo-G of course supports applications design with VHDL and Verilog, but also several high level ESL programming languages.
“We have successfully ported the Impulse-C tool to this platform, the Altera FP Compiler is already in use in our work, and efforts are in progress to do the same for Mitrion-C, all with help from the board and associated tool vendors,” said Dr George “Efforts are in the works to port our CHREC performance tool (ReCAP) and its debug/verification sidekick to Novo-G, and our folks on RCML, Intermediate Fabrics, etc. also have plans for Novo-G.”

CHREC research equipment features a broad assortment of high-end FPGAs, accelerator boards, servers, clusters, and scalable systems. RC resources include those from AlphaData (boards), Altera (devices, boards, tools), Celoxica (boards), Cray (machines), DRC (machine, module), GiDEL (boards, tools), Nallatech (boards, cluster, tools), Pico Computing (boards), SGI (machines), SRC (machines), Tilera (GFE board), Xilinx (devices, boards, tools), and XtremeData (machines, modules).

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