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Communications of the ACM


FPGAs in Client Compute Hardware

processor chip on a circuit board

Credit: Jiang Jie Feng

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Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are remarkably versatile. They are used in a wide variety of applications and industries where use of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) is less economically feasible. Despite the area, cost, and power challenges designers face when integrating FPGAs into devices, they provide significant security and performance benefits. Many of these benefits can be realized in client compute hardware such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

An FPGA is an integrated circuit (IC) composed of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects (Figure 1);22 it can be configured to desired application or functionality requirements after having been manufactured (hence, field-programmable). In contrast, an ASIC cannot be modified or changed after manufacturing. Examples are a CPU, GPU, or SoC (system on a chip).


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