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Intel Launches Atom CPU With Integrated FPGA

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the made-to-order dept.

Intel 188

An anonymous reader writes "Intel is quite clearly serious about offering competition to ARM in the embedded market, and has just announced a new Atom processor series that offers a unique selling point: an integral FPGA processor. Billed as 'the first configurable Intel Atom-based processor,' the Atom E600C series combines an Intel Atom 'Tunnel Creek' chip with an Altera Field Programmable Gate Array — offering, the company claims, significantly more flexibility for ODMs and OEMs."

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188 comments

Awesome (4, Informative)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314928)

Assuming it's priced relatively reasonably, that is fucking awesome.

My Story (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314984)

I know this is not the most appropriate place to divulge this, but I was hired by Sarah Palin as her Palin For Governor campaign in 2006. During that period, Mrs Palin sexually abused my by cornering me in the campaign office server room and demanding that I drop to my knees and eat her pussy while she stood at "parade rest". Occasionally, she would urinate in my mouth as I tounged her gash. When I complained, she threatened to have me sent back to prison (I was on work release while serving time for bank fraud involving a mortgage scheme).

Re:My Story (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315090)

I'm sorry, but that really isn't news. Its been known for quite some time.

Re:My Story (0, Offtopic)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315892)

During that period, Mrs Palin sexually abused me

Ah yes. Contrary to popular belief, some females are especially prone to bouts of arousal during their period.

Re:Awesome (1)

badran (973386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315006)

From the article:

Previously rumoured under the codename 'Stellarton,' the Intel Atom E600C series will initially comprise the E665CT, E645CT, E665C, and E645C chips, and become available for ordering priced between $61 and $106 (around £38.21 to £66.40) in batches of 1,000 in the next two months. A further two processors, E625CT and E625C, will hit the channel in the first quarter of next year.

Re:Awesome (5, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315298)

It is not the pricing which is interesting here, it is will there be anticompetitive marketing restrictions.

Atom was intentionally crippled through pairing with crippled 5+ year old video and a specific resolution restriction for systems with it. After NVidia broke this restriction it was redesigned to exclude it.

i815e was intentionally crippled to 512 RAM through a marketing restriction so that RDRAM and 840 and 820 sell.

Turning off SMP anywhere they could turn it off for 10 years since PPro so that the "server varieties" of the same chip (often from the same tray) sell.

And so on.

Intel has a long history of shooting itself in the foot on non-cannibalisation grounds. I suspect it shot itself here as well. This can make a phenomennal HPC platform due to its motherboard "real estate" and cooling requirements, however that will eat into Intel Xeon + QPI enabled FPGA sales. So I guess it will be crippled through marketing to disallow that.

FFS, it does not take a genius to understand the basic idea that "If there is money in it, someone else will cannibalise it for you, so you might as well cannibalise yourself and expand the market".

Re:Awesome (5, Interesting)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315468)

Dude, everyone does that. AMD/ATI does it, Nvidia does it, IBM does it, Motorola used to do it, and if Apple ever designed/manufactured anything themselves, they would do it, as well. It's called marketing. Those $1000 "Extreme" CPUs that Intel sells only cost about $100 to manufacture, if that. Probably only $25 or $50. How do you think Intel recoups its R&D costs? It prices the high end chips as high as the market will allow, then sells the mid-range chips for a more reasonable price.

Did you forget that AMD was selling Athlon XP and Athlon MP chips at wildly different prices, even though you could enable MP on the Athlon XP by drawing on them with a pencil? What about disabling MP every one of the later Athlon chips? Even some Opteron chips have MP disabled! That's seriously wrong, in my opinion. As far as I know, no Xeon has ever had MP disabled. Say what you will about Intel, but if you buy a Xeon, you know what you're getting.

What do you want Intel to do, anyways? Sell all their CPUs at manufacturing cost, with no feature differentiation at all? So that everyone can buy Xeon MP chips for $50 each? Yeah. OK. Let's see how long that lasts. I'd say Intel would be bankrupt in less than a year.

Seriously, dude, if you want cheap SMP motherboards and CPUs, go shop on ebay for used stuff from failed dotcoms. That's what I used to do. I even scored some high-end server-grade hardware, like DEC Alpha CPUs, SCSI RAID enclosures, SCSI drives, and smart UPSes. There's no need to rant about Intel's "anti-competitive" tactics, of which exactly zero legitimate examples exist in your post. Intel has done some pretty shitty things in the past, but this isn't one of them. Save your rant for something that matters.

Re:Awesome (4, Funny)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315970)

Dude, everyone does that. AMD/ATI does it, Nvidia does it, IBM does it, Motorola used to do it, and if Apple ever designed/manufactured anything themselves, they would do it, as well.

Dude, WTF? If Apple were any more vertically-integrated they'd own their own African tantalum mine.

Re:Awesome (1)

teachknowlegy (1003477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316244)

Throwing a bunch of hardware together and putting a software layer that seamlessly integrates them (to the user) may be a great marketing strategy, but that doesn't mean they created the stuff.

Re:Awesome (1)

MichaelKristopeit161 (1934886) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316314)

weird that they still put the "designed in california by apple" on all their products if they really aren't designed there...

even weirder watching all those cars that pulled into the lot at 1 infinite loop every single day across the street from my old apartment where i lived from 2004-2006. it must have taken a few thousand people to come up with a "seamless integration" marketing strategy.

Re:Awesome (2, Interesting)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316188)

Did you forget that AMD was selling Athlon XP and Athlon MP chips at wildly different prices, even though you could enable MP on the Athlon XP by drawing on them with a pencil?

Done that. It ups the heat output of the chip from "lots" to "ow my fingerprints"...

I suspect that the chips actually sold as MP were from the higher-end binnings so that they produced less heat (the same bins that the highest performance and the laptop versions of the chips also come from). The "midrange" chips often can't be clocked to the same speed as the top-end chips, because they are physically inferior.

Incidentally the Athlon XP-M chips used less power and put out less heat than the normal ones, and oddly were left with MP enabled. Unfortunately unless you have an MP board capable of manually altering the CPU multiplier (mine didn't) or you cut a bunch of traces on the chip, they'll only run at 4x the fsb (600MHz in my case). Seeing how things freak out when you have one 2GHz cpu and one 600MHz cpu in SMP was interesting though.

Re:Awesome (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316306)

Even some Opteron chips have MP disabled!

You know, the first thing I thought about when reading that Intel was going to include FPGA on the Atom was that some manufacturer(s) would figure out how to use it to give consumers less for their money, or preventing them from doing something with their hardware.

Re:Awesome (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316430)

s/YOUR MESSAGE/every company in the world tries to charge what the market allows them to, it's called the elasticity of demand such that price is determined by competition not the price of production.

scary title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314930)

Launch and Atom in the same sentence? What do you smoke?

2nd post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314934)

If only I'd had a FPGA! (

Don't know if this is a first (1)

smoot123 (1027084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314942)

I seem to recall Xilinx offering a FPGA with an embedded PowerPC core 8-ish years ago. Or maybe it was four cores, I heard it from a co-worker.

Seemed like a fun part to hack around with. Too bad we never got to use any.

Re:Don't know if this is a first (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314972)

All of the Xilinx Virtex parts have an integrated PPC hardware core. This announcement is somewhat different, though, in that it seems they have integrated an FPGA fabric on a traditional CPU die.

Being able to implement application-specific memory controllers would be handy, to say the least.

Only certain Virtex-2Pro/4/5s have PowerPC cores (4, Informative)

Jan (7105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315058)

Many Virtex-II Pro, Virtex-4, and Virtex-5 don't have PowerPC cores. No Virtex-6 or later device does.

Re:Only certain Virtex-2Pro/4/5s have PowerPC core (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315448)

What?

Re:Only certain Virtex-2Pro/4/5s have PowerPC core (2, Funny)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315948)

Shush AC, there there, don't let the scary electronics frighten you...

Re:Don't know if this is a first (2, Insightful)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315066)

This announcement is somewhat different, though, in that it seems they have integrated an FPGA fabric on a traditional CPU die.

No they haven't - it's two chips in one package.

Re:Don't know if this is a first (1)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314982)

I seem to recall Xilinx offering a FPGA with an embedded PowerPC core 8-ish years ago. Or maybe it was four cores, I heard it from a co-worker.

Summary does say 'the first configurable Intel Atom-based processor'.

But yeah Xilinx have had PowerPC on FPGAs for a while and they are still current products. Altera has offerings with an embedded CPU as well

In particular... (5, Informative)

Jan (7105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315082)

Altera used to have FPGAs with an embedded ARM core + support "stripe" (Excalibur, early 2000s) -- e.g. Altera Excalibur EPXA10.

Of course Xilinx has announced a family of 7 series FPGAs with ARM Cortex-A9MPCore cores. http://www.xilinx.com/technology/roadmap/processing-platform.htm [xilinx.com]

Both Xilinx and Altera also have in-house soft-processor cores and infrastructure, and ecosystems of third-party soft processor cores.

0,1, or 2 PowerPC cores (1)

Jan (7105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315052)

Virtex-II Pro, Virtex-4, and Virtex-5 offered devices with 0, 1, or 2 PowerPC cores. Xilinx once showed die floorplans of Virtex-II Pros with 4 PowerPC cores but if I recall correctly they never shipped such devices.

Re:Don't know if this is a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315998)

Both Xilinx and Altera have marketed FPGA:s with hard CPU cores. It was to my knowledge a complete and utter market failure. Maybe they were too expensive or not available enough compared to a standard FPGA + a separate CPU. Availability is one of the most important, if not the most important, factors when you select parts for a design. Maybe the hard cores didn't offer enough performance for the money compared to soft cores and discrete CPU:s. A lot of simple applications run fine on soft cores and there are loads of people who know how to connect an FPGA to an external CPU, so it's not like the market is screaming for these parts.

If Intel markets high performance and low power Atom cores integrated on high performance and low power FPGA:s at reasonable prices and with good availability, then we could see a different outcome.

..... Really? (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314952)

I would say x86 fails before it uses too much power per unit of processoring power.

FPGA users already don't care (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315028)

If you care about power, you make an ASIC. An FPGA is all about being cheap and getting to market. FPGAs burn power and don't even clock fast.

Re:FPGA users already don't care (4, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315128)

FPGAs aren't all that cheap either. They're about rapid development, and are cheaper than an ASIC for small to medium lots. Large scale ASICs win out on cost per unit being really low.

Re:FPGA users already don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34316130)

FPGAs aren't all that cheap either. They're about rapid development, and are cheaper than an ASIC for small to medium lots. Large scale ASICs win out on cost per unit being really low.

They used to be about rapid development/prototyping. Nowadays, all (most) FPGAs support partial runtime reconfiguration, which means that you can use the same die area for different functions at different times. There is quite a lot of research in this area, though at this time there are few commercial solutions available. But the technology could be used for both HPC (accelerating large parallel computations) as well as embedded computing (reducing area footprint/memory consumption).

Granted, the reconfigurable computing field in academia is already 15 years old. The ideas haven't changed, but only recently have FPGAs become suitable for applications beyond academic theory.

Re:FPGA users already don't care (2, Informative)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316264)

There are very cheap FPGAs too! Actel igloo nano are even under $1. These are often used as glue logic or nano-controllers like to connect a USB port to an ADC and DAC. In many cases, low cost ($1-20) FPGAs are use instead of microcontrollers and often FPGAs are even being programmed with microprocessor cores like the Nios(altera) or Microblaze (xilinx) or even soft ARM cores. You can run Linux on them!

Re:FPGA users already don't care (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315270)

It might very well burn a lot less than the same thing done in software.

Re:FPGA users already don't care (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315570)

Surely if you're doing something simple and very parallelisable though, it's useful.

Re:FPGA users already don't care (2, Insightful)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315604)

THis might be the weak point. Suppliers cannot change to a ASIC in a later phase, unless intel licenses the atom cpu. (right....). The biggest advantage of atom is de x86 development tools and applications (windows). The Quick to Market is a big win there. However to optimize power/price in a later phase is not possible.

Re:FPGA users already don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34316242)

If you care about power, you make an ASIC. An FPGA is all about being cheap and getting to market. FPGAs burn power and don't even clock fast.

There is a kernel of truth to that, however more and more portable applications need to be quick to market, which means you either need low power FPGA:s, or a super-fast ASIC development cycle, or low power standard parts and good embedded software developers.

double rainbows (3, Funny)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314978)

I'm kinda excited for whatever this means. Could somebody please explain? Does this mean Atom processors might be useful now?

Re:double rainbows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315034)

its a Field-programmable gate array (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-programmable_gate_array), they added a 'programmable logic', let's say some kind of programmable chip, wich the manufacturer can program (hopefully users as well anytime soon :D) so it can encode/decode vidéo on the fly or encrypt/decrypt stuff in (almost) real-time (for example) and being much more efficient than the atom itself, so you end up having more battery.....

Re:double rainbows (1)

Bozzio (183974) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315430)

This could have interesting implications for game AI.

Depending on how slow the FPGAs are to reprogramit'd be interesting to use these to simulate a neural network, or something similar. Live, adaptive AI which is independant of the CPU :)

Re:double rainbows (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315916)

Could the FPGA also implement codecs? that would be a more flexible alternative to hardware based decoding/encoding. Or is it a job for a programmable dsp instead, I don't really know.

Re:double rainbows (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316044)

This isn't for users, it's for ODMs and OEMs. You'll probably need physical access and a programming board to program the FPGA, no realtime in software programming.

Re:double rainbows (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316350)

Could this be used as an anti-jailbreaking tool? "Unauthorized OS detected, reprogram FPGA to 'guacamole mode' "

.

Re:double rainbows (5, Informative)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315046)

It means that intel has thrown an FPGA [wikipedia.org] into a normal CPU. FPGA's are highly programmable chips that are very fast in the thing they are programmed for. Changing the programming takes, by comparison, a lot of time and they usually can't do anything else than what they are programmed for.

If you would program one to be a decryption device you could have very fast decryption, but you can't let it do something else when there is nothing to decrypt (multitask).

All in all the result will be a major increase for applications that are reprogrammed to be in the FPGA (and are small enough for the FPGA) but nothing will change for the other applications.

There are many other chances and limitations, as it is a completely different device, but these are the most important (as far as I know) in this case.

Re:double rainbows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315086)

Wasn't that the selling point for the old Transmeta CPUs?

Re:double rainbows (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315206)

This sort of stuff isn't done for a general purpose computer usually. Instead you put whatever hardware acceleration you need into the FPGA because you've got an embedded system or have application specific hardware. It's often used when you have a low volume of devices that you're making because FPGAs are relatively expensive but easy to modify if you find bugs. I've worked on a system that had multiple FPGAs + multiple DSPs + CPU (and a big fan).

Though you can use them for things other than hardware acceleration as well, such as putting "support" hardware in the FPGA, simple peripherals, memory controllers, or whatever you can dream up. So it could be used for something like a netbook or mini tablet potentially.

Re:double rainbows (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315296)

Interesting. I was thinking the same as GP: what the heck is that!

Can this reprogramming be done by the OS, upon need? And how slow is slow?

Could be nice for e.g. video decoding.

Re:double rainbows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315424)

via/Cyrix used/uses? fpga in thier low-power high-efficiency cpu's
I think it was setup so that it kept track of what kinds of operations the cpu was performing most often, and then it would sub out as many multi-clock operations to a bit of temporary logic in the fpga as it could manage, attempting to turn them into single-clock or at least 'fewer-clock' operations in hopes of speeding the whole thing up.

Re:double rainbows (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315680)

Video decoding may be better on a dedicated chip. A good GPU should be fine (oh wait, it's Intel ...)

I guess FPGA could be used for nifty device drivers. You don't want to change the touchscreen interface very often (as an example), but if you (shudder) encounter a bug then the FPGA can be modified.

Re:double rainbows (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316224)

That's why my question: how slow is slow to reprogram? Could this be a replacement for various dedicated chips - taking up a task when needed? Like when you want to play a video, it becomes video decoder, or maybe it can be used for other tasks that are fairly intensive, and last long.

Re:double rainbows (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316300)

The only sure answer is unfortunately "it depends". Just because they are programmable in the "field" doesn't mean you can necessarily do it from software. Some FPGAs require a service tech to hook some other system up to the motherboard to change anything. Some require pulling the chip and putting it in a portable device. Some can have different programs swapped in from ROM at different times. Some can have custom programs loaded from RAM by an application. I'm not sure which this is, but since it's the Atom line I'm guessing it's going to be one of the more restrictive types to reprogram.

Re:double rainbows (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315048)

If there was a mass market, you'd make an ASIC. This lets embedded developers create special circuitry for whatever embedded need they have, which is useful but I don't see it as a mass market product for regular consumers.

Re:double rainbows (2, Informative)

Morty (32057) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315648)

Some vendors, such as Juniper, have transitioned at least some of their product lines from ASICs to FPGAs. A problem with ASICs is that you can't patch them for security issues. This is bad if, say, you sell firewall products.

Re:double rainbows (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315060)

Essentially this means that there is a chunk of the processor which will be *COMPLETELY* configurable. FPGA stands for "field programmable gate array" which just implies that you can re-program the way those gates are connected *after* the chip has been manufactured.

Without understanding basic electrical engineering logic it's hard to describe all the neato things you can do with this, but essentially FPGAs can do all sorts of neat things and they can do them in parallel. If you've ever heard of something being "cheap in hardware but expensive in software" that's exactly what an FPGA can solve.

Something like this (assuming the FPGA had enough gates) might allow you to implement the HDCP decoder in "software", and decode the bitstream in realtime. This would be neat!

Re:double rainbows (2, Funny)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316160)

And REALLY piss off intel at the same time. Using Intel chips to decode hdcp would be pretty ironic. I mean, Can you imagine using the FPGA to do the grunt work of decoding and then using the cpu to re encode the stream?

Re:double rainbows (3, Informative)

ThermalRunaway (1766412) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315098)

FPGAs are useful as the actual digital circuits are re programmable. So you could theoretically patch your CPU and change the physical functionality of at least part of it. This would lead to all sorts of nice customizations.

One interesting aspect of the Altera soft CPU (NIOS), is that you can add custom HW directly into the execution unit, basically making your own HW instructions. Then you can generate an assembly instruction for it and use it right from your code. This lets you do nifty things like build a custom piece of HW to implement some arcane computation that is specific to your particular use of the HW and have it built right into the CPU. Wonder if there is this sort of setup here.. that would be pretty nice.

www.altera.com/literature/ug/ug_nios2_custom_instruction.pdf

Re:double rainbows (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315142)

This is not a soft core CPU. You get a package with 2 dies inside: a regular Intel Atom CPU core, and a separate FPGA.

Re:double rainbows (2, Insightful)

ThermalRunaway (1766412) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315176)

I know.. I've simply giving an example of an interesting way Altera lets you customize some of their IP. The Atom has an Intel core and an Altera FPGA... im doing some wishful thinking that maybe you would get some level of access to the CPU like you do with the NIOS.

Re:double rainbows (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315542)

man, i remember working on a nios II project back in 2005 for my internship, that was an awesome experience, configuring my own cpu, bus-clock, multipliers, memory interfaces and all that stuff

Compile times sucked though, especially since the best hardware us interns got was a 2.4 GHz pentium 4.. i would click compile and go for a walk around the building, get tea/coffee, returning to find my 45 minute compile couldnt achieve the clock speeds i wanted it to run at...

Re:double rainbows (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315122)

The Win 7 hardware benchmark rating of 2.1 on the dual core version says no. If I had a pentium 3 machine at the moment, I'd totally benchmark it just to see who'd win. They can put an atom in my cell phone or something but keep them out of my real computers!

Re:double rainbows (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315300)

The Atom is not made to be fast. It's made to be fast *enough* while also very efficient. It'll give you around half the per-clock performance of a P4 (Citation needed), but do so at well under a tenth the power consumption. Perfect for portables, embedded, thin clients, etc. Throwing in an FPGA is aimed at the embedded sector: Have the heavy number-crunching tasks done in highly efficient FPGA, while the x86 core does general management and everything else.

Re:double rainbows (2, Insightful)

Macman408 (1308925) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315420)

Probably not for anything you'd be interested in. Unless of course, you're interested in a slow CPU with slow (but custom) logic. If you want fast custom logic, or ridiculously low-power, you go with an ASIC (assuming you have either high volume, or can tolerate a high per-unit price). If you don't have a rather complex, repetitive calculation to do, you go with a regular CPU. If you do have a big calculation, you might consider a faster CPU or GPU, or at least something with a faster connection between the FPGA and CPU. If your calculation isn't particularly complex (eg something simple like adding two numbers), a CPU will already be faster and lower-power, assuming it has an instruction (or several) that implements the function you need.

In the end, Intel has just managed to invent yet another piece of hardware for which there is no good programming model. It's been how many years, and there is STILL no killer model for programming multiple core machines? Yes, there are many ways, but each has pretty significant disadvantages, and the vast majority of applications that people use see very minimal benefit from multiple cores (often because there's no great way to program for them without investing significant effort, see previous sentence).

This will be interesting for small embedded systems designers, who can come up with nifty ways to use the hardware, don't have large volumes, and can charge high prices since their customers have low-volume very specific needs. The rest of us will ignore it, forget it, and not shed a tear when Intel quietly discontinues the product.

Re:double rainbows (1)

jittles (1613415) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315936)

Atoms aren't totally useless. I actually have a dual core atom that I am using as a server, with a VM running. I also remote desktop into the machine and use it on a daily basis at work. Since I'm pretty much the only user of the machine, it works perfectly and consumes under 30W. I used to leave my desktop on 24 hours a day and it was sucking up 300W all day long. That's a huge power savings for me at $0.12a kWh.

If you're wondering why I keep this thing running all the time its because I run an SVN, VPN, and Zimbra mail server on there. I like being able to VPN into my home network from anywhere. I use an x86 architecture instead of PPC because that's what the software I need to use supports. Otherwise I'm sure I could get my power consumption down below 10W.

I will also admit that I cheat and run this all on an SSD, which definitely helps with some performance.

more jobs for me (4, Funny)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315014)

yay!

Re:more jobs for me (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315120)

I thought you don't need a programmer for FPGAs ;)

Re:more jobs for me (2, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315304)

You need an EE master. FPGA programming is *hard*.

Re:more jobs for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34316390)

No. Designing the PCBs are hard, programming FPGAs are easier than software programming. One just have to come to terms with the idea that everything is parallel and that communication between blocks are synchronous.

Actual information (4, Informative)

Mysteray (713473) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315056)

http://edc.intel.com/Link.aspx?id=3961 [intel.com]

350 user I/O pins. I think that could control a few Christmas lights. Or make a nifty message-passing bus for a parallel computer.

Wonder if anyone will make inexpensive boards with breakout IO?

Re:Actual information (2, Interesting)

allanw (842185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315102)

Only PCI-E 1x interconnect between the CPU and FPGA? Kinda disappointing.

Re:Actual information (1)

MichaelKristopeit193 (1942468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315452)

really? what sort of application are you thinking could benefit from a FPGA but also simultaneously saturate a PCI-E lane?

Re:Actual information (1)

allanw (842185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315490)

Since FPGA's are good at processing massively parallel data, high bandwidth is necessary to do any work. I suppose CPU to FPGA bandwidth isn't important if they can both access RAM.

Re:Actual information (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315978)

Video resizing/deinterlacing. 1 PCIE lane is 2.5GBps, uncompressed 1080P60 at 10 bit RGB is 3.7GBps.

Re:Actual information (1)

MichaelKristopeit193 (1942468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316034)

why would the signal need to be routed through the CPU? there are already cheap ASICs that do resizing/deinterlacing... but even without using one of those... the FPGA could handle the task on it's own and output directly to video memory.

Very cool and very kludgy (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315112)

The right way to do this license the Altera IP and integrate it closely with the CPU. Then the CPU could use it in normal operation, for floating point for example. You have various programs and every time you try to access one that's not in the FPGA an interrupt is generated.
Almost like in the good old days of WCS.

Put an ARM in the FPGA (0, Offtopic)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315116)

The obvious solution is to put an ARM processor in the FPGA.

Re:Put an ARM in the FPGA (4, Informative)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315260)

The advantage of the ARM business model is that you don't have to. Anybody can get a license from ARM to put a core in an ASIC. This means that is very easy to build an integrated system on a chip around a CPU and any kind of peripherals you want.

This is Intel's attempt to capture some of that market. But because they don't want to license their core, their trying to tie it to an FPGA. I have doubts whether this will be attractive. FPGAs are slow, use more power, and are more expensive compared to ASICs. For high-volume products they can't compete on price, and for high-performance products they can't compete on speed.

Re:Put an ARM in the FPGA (1)

MichaelKristopeit193 (1942468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315480)

what about low-volume products? what about low-performance products? why not discuss them?

mask fees alone for ASICs are going to run 6 figures real quick.

granted, i don't see a use for CPU+FPGA in 1 package... but i also don't see a use for telling only half the story.

Re:Put an ARM in the FPGA (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315558)

I highly doubt Intel is interested in competing in the low-volume, low-performance markets.

Re:Put an ARM in the FPGA (1)

MichaelKristopeit193 (1942468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315644)

those markets are building products that are extremely cheap and yet functional for 95%+ of most users' task demands... if intel doesn't compete in those markets, eventually the markets they do compete in won't be required. a 2010 "netbook" blows away an average 1997 desktop. what am i doing on my 2015 desktop that requires so much more computational power or specialization than before?

sufficiency is cancer to intel's unchanged business model.

Re:Put an ARM in the FPGA (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316336)

They aren't. That's why they have this CPU+FPGA product that they'll sell in large volume to a large number of companies that do low volume work. That's what the FPGA is for: letting lots of low-volume products be built from one high-volume product.

Re:Put an ARM in the FPGA (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316420)

But for a medium sized company with no expertise on ASIC design it provides an option which previously didn't exist. Any recent EE grad would likely have done some FPGA programming in university. On the flip side ASIC design is quite specialised.

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Reading the Intel E6x5C Platform Brief... (5, Informative)

Jan (7105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315174)

Before you all speculate widely, try reviewing the actual product brief. http://download.intel.com/embedded/processors/prodbrief/324535.pdf [intel.com] . In which you will see this is an MCM with an Atom E6xx SoC die and an Altera FPGA die, interconnected by 1-2 PCIe x1 links. It has an amazing 1466 ball grid array package.

It's not clear to me what this level of packaging and integration achieves compared to mounting a (not integrated) E6xx BGA and a separate Altera or Xilinx FPGA BGA onto the main PCB, interconnected by PCIe x1 or perhaps even x4. Then you would get a broader choice of FPGAs -- and perhaps a simpler PCB escape for the two packages compared to one 1466 ball beast.

The advantages of this MCM as stated in the brief include:
* reduced board footprint
* lower component count
* simplified inventory control / manufacturing
* single-vendor support

True, but forgive me if I'm not over the moon. The dream of integrated FPGA fabric into a heterogeneous SoC (same die) includes a very low latency and possibly cache coherent interconect between the processor(s) and the FPGA. But here the FPGA is on the other side of a narrow PCIe link. It can't share the Atom SoC's memory hierarchy / DRAM channels very effectively. It is probably a very long latency round trip from x86 software control / registers and L1$ data, to some registers or function units in the FPGA, and back to the x86. So I think of this as more of a super-flexible Atom SoC platform than a dream reconfigurable computing platform.

It's a nice step but I look forward to so much more.

http://www.fpgacpu.org/usenet/fpgas_as_pc_coprocessors.html [fpgacpu.org] (1996): "... So as long as FPGAs are attached on relatively glacially slow I/O buses
-- including 32-bit 33 MHz PCI -- it seems unlikely they will be of much use in general purpose PC processor acceleration. ..."

Re:Reading the Intel E6x5C Platform Brief... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315470)

This PCIe link provides good bandwidth for the most likely purpose this FPGA is thought for: Being a programmable I/O chip. This is especially interesting in the context where you don't need most of the standard PC I/O components, but very specific ones. "Programmable" SoC, kind of.

Actually, this whole thing doesn't come as a surprise; Intel has been messing with the Atom + FPGA combo before already, which runs under the label "In-Vehicle Infotainment" (Russellville board, Atom + US15W + Xilinx FPGA). You will find references to IVI in Moblin/MeeGo as well.

Re:Reading the Intel E6x5C Platform Brief... (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315606)

i dont know, FPGAs are wonderfull for DSP/codec functions. This could give intel a way to really speed up HD playback on their platform without having to finally build a decent graphics chip (like nvidia has done with ion, or amd with their IGPs), but those applications benefit from high data throughput.

Unless this FPGA is somewhat undersized or has a decent chunk of ram directly attached to its own pins, it will be severely choked by the pci-e 1x interface

Re:Reading the Intel E6x5C Platform Brief... (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315706)

Using the FPGA as a replacement for a decent GPU would be crazier than Larrabee. Which isn't to say they won't try it ;)

Re:Reading the Intel E6x5C Platform Brief... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315508)

It's a nice step but I look forward to so much more.

http://www.fpgacpu.org/usenet/fpgas_as_pc_coprocessors.html [fpgacpu.org] (1996): "... So as long as FPGAs are attached on relatively glacially slow I/O buses
-- including 32-bit 33 MHz PCI -- it seems unlikely they will be of much use in general purpose PC processor acceleration. ..."

Well, it's not cheap but it's already there: For example the HC-1 [conveycomputer.com] delivers the envisioned performance for specific applications using FPGAs as a second CPU in a dual-socket system, so the bandwidth is not an issue. Of course, developing for a FPGA is an effort of its own, but for this they offer pre-defined personalities for the FPGAs by which the FPGA can be used using an extended instruction set as a co-processor for a specific task.

Re:Reading the Intel E6x5C Platform Brief... (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316028)

I was immediately thinking if that would mean someone could make a cheaper NetFPGA/LibreRouter (line rate forwarding open source router platform using FPGA instead of ASICs which the normal routers from Cisco, Juniper, etc. use for hardware-routing/switching).

It is mostly used for academic purposes, but if the FPGA does not have direct access to RAM and can not do direct I/O it's probably not useful.

Programming software? (1)

galvitron (1540437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315188)

I am hoping that the software needed to program the FPGA portion of the chip is available and that the FPGA itself is programmable by the end user. This would be a big leap in the kinds of projects that can be attempted by homebrew dudes and the like.

FPGA-based robot controllers (3, Interesting)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315478)

Articles (found freely on Google) like "Evolving FPGA-based robot controllers using an evolutionary algorithm." by Renato A. Krohling, Yuchao Zhou, and Andy M. Tyrrell is a dream!!!

Genetic algorithms and FPGA is way cool!

Cloud FPGAs (1)

davidjgraph (1713990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315652)

As has been pointed out, the FPGA isn't tightly coupled architecturally-wise enough to provide a performance gain in tightly coupled software. This solution, like any board with an FPGA, works best when the task allocated to it is relatively stand-alone (some intensive DSP, etc). Now what would be interesting in this field is cloud providers making FPGAs available as part of their packages, or even using them themselves. So many web applications grind the server for image processing, that would be well suited to an FPGA. Maybe Google should consider it for GAE, for example?

ARM and FPGA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315772)

"Therein lies the rub, of course: there's nothing to stop customers licensing one of ARM's chip designs and combining it with an FPGA themselves, but it means dealing with two companies - and Intel is obviously betting heavily on there being a sizable quantity of ODMs and OEMs that would prefer to work with a single firm."
What a beautiful lie. Like the leading FPGA manufacturer haven't done it yet - http://www.xilinx.com/technology/roadmap/processing-platform.htm

It's Complicated (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316356)

I love programming and wiring up some microcontrollers as much as the next geek, but at what point does a chip become too complex for realistic home use?

I don't need hundreds of GPIO pins, and I don't even think I can solder detailed enough or design home-made PCB with enough detail to accommodate a processor with this many pins and features.

I am pretty happy to see FPGAs making it into commercial projects - they're just so useful.

"You want your processor to use this specific logic pipeline? There's a chip for that!"

Hardly a unique product, apart from x86 (2, Informative)

hattig (47930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316434)

There are loads of FPGAs on the market with integrated PowerPC cores. There are probably FPGAs on the market with integrated ARM cores (ah yes, a post already links to one such creation). This is a dual-die package with a 60k gate FPGA. It's a nice option on the market, but it's hardly unique. The cost will be a major issue as well, although so far the prices look reasonable. But you can't put much into 60,000 gates (although maybe they're counted different from Xilinx or Spartan gates), certainly not a Minimig AGA core.

So enjoy your 600MHz Atom + FPGA. Or 1GHz. Or 1.3GHz. WIth enough FPGA to implement a C64. Yeah, I know that in industry it will be used for different purposes, but will that industry care about x86 compatibility ... or continue using the existing PowerPC and ARM options?

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