Because of its flexibility, versatility, and lower cost, FPGA has been expanding its use in several industries like Aerospace, Defense, Medical, Automotive, Data Centers, and even in consumer electronics.
Intel FPGA Cards
As the largest semiconductor chip manufacturer, Intel expectedly found its place in the FPGA space. The microprocessor giant also ventured into producing highly efficient, state-of-the-art FPGAs. Starting in 2017, Intel introduced their Programmable Acceleration Cards (PAC), also known as Intel FPGA cards or Intel Acceleration Cards, integrating their most powerful FPGAs with interconnected memories, PCIe interfaces, network interfaces, and processors. Intel PACs also have a wide array of management software, such as board, power, and FPGA management software, for easy and efficient deployment in the field. Intel’s PACs were primarily built for networking and data center support but can also be used in any suitable environment. There are currently three PAC offerings from Intel featuring some of their top-of-the-line FPGAs.
N3000 is the PAC for Networking with a high-speed PCIe 3.0 x 16 interface, a built-in network card, and is driven by Intel Arria 10 FPGA. It is designed for telecom providers and aims to win the 5G infrastructure market with its fully customizable platform. 5G-enabled devices and applications are expected to dominate the market in the years to come and Intel is getting service providers ready to support their transition to 5G smoothly. The N3000’s 1.15 million logic elements, Intel Ethernet CNA XL710, and 2X QSFP with 10 Gbps and 25 Gbps support and high throughput, low-latency, and high bandwidth applications. A rarely odd-numbered 9GB of DDR4 memory and 144Mb QDR-IV are also built-in for faster performance. N3000’s capability to accelerate network traffic for up to 100 Gbps and all its other incredible features make it an ideal choice for every network designer for rapid network deployments.
The N3000 also ensures the board’s security while loading authorized workloads and board updates through the Root-of-Trust device which protects systems from FPGA-hosted security exploits and prevents unauthorized access to critical board interfaces and flash memory. The N3000 also comes with Intel Empirion Power Solutions for more efficient power management. Its powerful networking and security features are suitable for applications like Network Function Virtualization, Video Transcoding, and Finance.
The D5005 is designed for data centers to increase productivity at a lower cost. Many industries are now processing large volumes of data and the demand for faster processing of data workloads is still expected to increase in the next decade. Intel caters to this growing demand with its customizable and reprogrammable D5005, which is ideal for connecting servers to networks.
Like the N3000, the D5005 employs the PCIe Express Gen3 x 16 with USB 2.0 for debugging and programming of FPGA and flash memory. Its onboard memory set of 32GB DDR4 memory with error correction code and a 2GB QSPI flash memory can support high-volume data processing at a faster rate. At the core of D5005, it is the high-performance Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGA with transceivers supporting up to 100Gbps. Its 2.8 million logic elements, combined with Intel Acceleration Stack, allow it to be programmed and deployed in data centers in just a fraction of a second.
To keep the uploading or executing of workloads secure, the D5005 is protected by a Root-of-Trust device enabling more secured board updates, providing anti-rollback capability, and preventing unauthorized access to key interfaces and onboard memory.
The Intel Empirion aids in D5005’s power management for intelligent system power management and real-time telemetry and system health monitoring so it remains power-efficient despite high-volume processing.
Another Intel PAC designed for data centers is this Intel PAC powered by Arria 10 GX FPGA is capable of delivering high performance, low-power efficiency for midrange applications in data centers. With multi-gigabit serializer/deserializer (SERDES) transceivers up to 15 Gbps, 1.15M logic elements, 65.7 MB on-chip memory, and over 3K of DSP blocks, Intel PAC with Arria 10 GX FPGA provides the performance and versatility of FPGA acceleration. It supports a wide range of Intel tools such as Intel Acceleration Stack for Intel Xeon CPU with FPGAs, Intel Quartus Prime Software, Open Programmable Acceleration Engine (OPAE), and Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit to make the designer’s and developer’s life easier.
Onboard the Arria 10 GX FPGA PAC is the PCIe x8 Gen3 electrical and x16 mechanical interface, has USB2.0 interface for debugging and programming of FPGA and flash memory, and 1X QSFP+ with 4X 10GbE or 40GbE support. There are also two memory banks each with 4 GB DDR4 memory and a built-in 1 Gb (128 MB) flash.
Like the N3000 and D5005, the Intel PAC with Arria 10 GX PAC is protected by a Root-of-Trust device for added security.
Intel Still Inside
Intel’s penetration of the FPGA industry paved the way for the industry-grade Intel PACs. At the core of all three Acceleration Cards is Intel’s very own FPGAs. These FPGAs, combined with other components, interfaces, and remarkable features can handle applications that require huge computational capabilities. Intel PACs help companies save costs by closing the gap between maximizing the server CPUs to handle high-volume workloads and buying additional devices to handle such workloads. With its superior performance, power efficiency, and lower cost, Intel PACs are gaining popularity in streaming analytics, media transcoding, financial technology, and network security.
 “Intel® Programmable Acceleration Card with Intel Arria® 10 GX FPGA”. https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/programmable/products/boards_and_kits/dev-kits/altera/acceleration-card-arria-10-gx/specifications.html. N.d. Accessed April 27, 2021