‘The cloud’ has been an industry buzz word for some time now and whilst the initial focus was on data storage and sharing – and spawned the likes of Dropbox – ‘cloud computing’ is currently the latest trend. For instance, Amazon’s cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), gives users access to servers and a range of applications. Storage is available as before but so too now are dedicated relational databases; which in Amazon’s case is provides through a different service.
Enterprise businesses are taking advantage of cloud computing platforms, and for a number reasons. These include pay-as-go (as opposed to investing considerable cap ex), speed and flexibility (resources and storage can be made available quickly), and one is spared the headache of maintaining a mass of IT hardware and keeping on top of software license renewals.
Also, earlier this year Amazon announced EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) F1, a compute instance with FPGAs that users can program to perform hardware accelerations. The F1 instance includes an FPGA developer Amazon Machine Image (AMI) which includes a development environment with scripts and tools for code compilation and design simulation.
It is expected the primary users of EC2 F1 will be software developers, working on complex and compute-intensive algorithms for which FPGAs lend themselves particularly well. For instance, High Performance Computing will increasingly exploit FPGA technology.
But let’s not forget one of the most important roles that FPGAs have been playing in our industry – EDA – for a number of decades: hardware acceleration for ASIC prototyping purposes.