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Intel awards Paderborn University a Hybrid Cluster with Arria 10 FPGAs

The Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing (PC²) has been selected by Intel to host a computer cluster that uses Intel’s Xeon processor with its Arria 10 FPGA software development platform. This server cluster connects Intel Xeon processors with an in-package field-programmable gate array (FPGA) via the platform’s high-speed QuickPath interconnect improving system bandwidth.

We are very happy to have been selected by Intel as one of only two academic sites worldwide to host a cluster based on Intel Xeon processors and Intel Arria 10 FPGAs . Our computing center has a strong research background in accelerating demanding applications with FPGAs. The availability of these systems allows us to further expand our leadership in this area and – as a next step – bring Intel FPGA accelerators from the lab to HPC production systems,” says Prof. Dr. Christian Plessl, director of the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing, who is been active in this research area for almost two decades.

The Intel FPGA can be programmed to serve as a workload-optimized accelerator offering substantial performance, agility, and energy-efficiency advantages. This solution is suitable for a number of application domains, such as machine learning, data encryption, compression, image processing and video-stream processing. The platform also an ideal experimentation platform for innovative operating system or computing systems research, that focuses on novel approaches of integrating CPUs with accelerators at the software and hardware level.

Researchers worldwide can get access to the cluster by applying to Intel’s Hardware Accelerator Research Program. “We are looking forward to collaborate with Intel and other members of the Hardware Accelerator Research Program on using FPGA acceleration for emerging HPC and data center workloads. By provisioning access to the system to a large number of researchers, we are also gathering experience in how to manage systems with FPGA accelerators in a multi-user setting and for handling parallel applications that use multiple servers with FPGAs. This experience is crucial for deploying systems with FPGAs at scale,” explains Dr. Tobias Kenter, senior researcher and FPGA expert at the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing.

Currently, the Paderborn Center is working on accelerating applications including theoretical physics, material sciences and machine learning with FPGAs. This work is in collaboration with scientists from the application areas. In addition, novel domain-specific programming approaches for FPGAs are being developed to simplify the use of FPGAs for developers without a hardware design background.

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