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Technical Perspective: FPGA Compute Acceleration Is First About Energy Efficiency

The following paper presents a research deployment of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) in a Microsoft Bing datacenter. The FPGAs enabled more efficient search processing directly at the digital logic level. This pioneering work is the first to successfully demonstrate at scale the idea of FPGAs as an effective large-scale, first-class component in cloud computing. Following this landmark effort, Microsoft has launched full-scale production deployment of FPGA accelerators in its new datacenter servers for a range of cloud services.

For most of its 30-year existence, FPGA technology had primarily served as an alternative to application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), with only niche applications in computing. Today, besides Microsoft's activities, we are also finding Intel and IBM adding FPGAs as programmable computing substrates to their product lines. At the root of the computing industry's current embrace of FPGAs is the same Power Wall struggle that brought about the transition to multicore microprocessors in the last decade.


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