Data Centers Get a Performance Boost From FPGAs

However, with the advent of next generation workloads, such as Big Data and streaming analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), …

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Bill Mannel explores how as big data continues to explode, data centers are benefitting from a relatively new type of offload accelerator: FPGAs.

Software-Defined HPC Solutions
Bill Mannel, Vice President & General Manager – High Performance Computing & Artificial Intelligence, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Data centers have traditionally been dominated with CPU-based computing. However, with the advent of next generation workloads, such as Big Data and streaming analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), genomics, and network security, CPUs are seeing different data types, mixtures of file sizes, and new algorithms with different processing requirements.

Although server CPUs continue to execute applications faster with each new processor generation, the amount of data that needs processing is increasing explosively. The latest Cisco Visual Networking Index, dated February 27, 2019, forecasts that global IP traffic “will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26 percent from 2017 to 2022,” which would result in an annual IP traffic rate of 4.8 Zettabytes per year (396 Exabytes per month). As a result of this constantly increasing data load—coupled with new workloads, data center operators will need to add more and more servers to meet the computational demands for new services and for processing ever larger amounts of data.

When Data Centers Reach Their Limits

At some point, every data center reaches concrete limits in terms of electrical power capacity, cooling capability, and rack space. Consequently, data centers are increasingly turning to accelerators to offload some of the algorithms in these applications, either to perform the required computations more quickly or to achieve more performance with less power consumption to ease the load on the data center’s electrical power and cooling, as well as the rack-space limitations. One or both improvements—performance and performance per watt—are important for various applications.

New workloads targeted for acceleration include:

  • Data storage and analytics
  • Networking applications and cybersecurity
  • Media transcoding
  • Financial analysis
  • Genomics

All of these workloads employ algorithms that can be accelerated by other computational hardware, resulting in better data throughput and lower response latency.

FPGAs as Offload Accelerators

A relatively new type of offload accelerator in current use is based on FPGAs. FPGAs have a 30-year history throughout the electronics industry but their use as server accelerators in data centers is relatively new. The hardware resources incorporated into FPGA hardware can be dynamically reprogrammed to exactly match the precise computational needs of a workload or algorithm and this close matching results in faster computational speed and lower power and energy consumption.

Like microprocessors, FPGAs are integrated circuits. For server use, FPGAs are packaged as acceleration cards that plug into a slot in the server’s motherboard.

FPGAs

FPGA Use Cases

Many companies are now developing workload-specific FPGA-accelerated applications. For example:

  • rENIAC has developed a distributed data engine that accelerates the Apache Cassandra NoSQL database by improving both throughput and latency. The distributed Cassandra database application handles large amounts of data across many commodity servers while providing high availability. The accelerated rENIAC version of the Apache Cassandra NoSQL database already has up to 4x the throughput compared to the unaccelerated version of the database, with further performance gains expected through additional development.
  • Myrtle has developed an FPGA-accelerated deep neural network (DNN) inference engine for machine-learning (ML) applications based on a speech-transcription model called DeepSpeech that has 165x throughput compared to a multi-core server CPU with a 1,000x improvement in performance per watt2. In other words, from a performance perspective, one server using an FPGA-based accelerator card could replace many servers, greatly reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) through capital expense and operational expense reductions.
  • Algo-Logic builds FPGA-accelerated financial trading solutions that have very low delay and time variation. Speed directly translates into money for high-speed financial trading. Algo-logic’s library of pre-built infrastructure software for financial trading can implement order-processing algorithms with sub-microsecond processing delays with just nanoseconds of time variation. Algo-Logic’s Tick-To-Trade (T2T) System can read market data and execution reports, obtained directly from 10 Gbps SFP+ links, and then send buy/sell orders instantly back to the market over the same links
  • IBEX Technology is developing a growing number of media and video transcoding algorithms that are specifically adapted to FPGA-based acceleration hardware to meet the needs of massively multi-stream, mass-market video and gaming services such as YouTube and Twitch. IBEX encoders and decoders cover a variety of video standards including HEVC/H.265, H.264, MPEG-2, Sony XAVC, and Apple ProRes.

Adding Software into the FPGA Accelerator Solution for Greater Performance

However, hardware alone is not sufficient to realize the acceleration benefits of an FPGA-based acceleration card. You need a fair bit of software as well. Traditionally, FPGAs are programmed with hardware description languages (HDLs)—typically Verilog or VHDL—but these HDLs are not in common use among software teams. These teams are far more familiar with software programming languages such as C and C++. For maximum programming efficiency, the application-development teams prefer to use their familiar programming languages and development tools. This aspect of accelerated application development is critical to the adoption of FPGA-based accelerators.

Consequently, Intel has developed a software stack environment to help facilitate the integration of their programmable acceleration cards (PACs) into server environments. The Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card (Intel FPGA PAC) D5005 is supported by the Intel Acceleration Stack for Intel Xeon CPUs with FPGAs, which provides a common developer interface and includes drivers, application programming interfaces, and an FPGA Interface Manager. The acceleration stack works with industry-leading operating systems and virtualization and orchestration software, providing a common interface for software developers to get fast time to revenue, simplified management, and access to a growing ecosystem of acceleration workloads. The difference in effort between not having and having a software stack associated with an FPGA-based accelerator card is like the difference between using a hand crank to start an automobile engine and using an ignition key to start the engine.

For this reason, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is now supplying Intel FPGA PAC D5005 accelerators, based on Intel Stratix® 10 SX FPGAs, as an installed option for its new line of ProLiant DL380* Gen10 servers (as well as individually for installed servers). These servers are based on various first- and second-generation multicore Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Adding the Intel FPGA PAC D5005 as an installed option to the ProLiant DL380 Gen10 Server family reduces installation times by relieving the end user of the need to install and configure the Intel acceleration card in the server and simplifies the ordering process by turning the acquisition into a one-stop shopping effort.

Intel accelerator cards open the HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen10 server’s adaptability to an even wider range of applications. Software developers develop their application code, targeting the HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen10 server’s Intel Xeon Scalable processor. They then migrate that code to the Intel FPGA PAC D5005 using the acceleration libraries and development tools within the Intel Acceleration Stack to achieve even higher performance.

For additional information:

Intel technologies’ features and benefits depend on system configuration and may require enabled hardware, software or service activation. Performance varies depending on system configuration. No product or component can be absolutely secure. Check with your system manufacturer or retailer or learn more at intel.com.

Bill Mannel is Vice President & General Manager of High-Performance Computing and Artificial Intelligence at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Global CPU Market Overview 2018: Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard …

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Contrasting Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) & Pixelworks (NASDAQ:PXLW)

Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) and Pixelworks (NASDAQ:PXLW) are both computer and technology companies, but which is the superior investment?

Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) and Pixelworks (NASDAQ:PXLW) are both computer and technology companies, but which is the superior investment? We will compare the two businesses based on the strength of their earnings, risk, institutional ownership, profitability, analyst recommendations, valuation and dividends.

Profitability

This table compares Finisar and Pixelworks’ net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Finisar -4.16% 4.22% 2.74%
Pixelworks -5.20% -9.01% -6.12%
Institutional and Insider Ownership

94.1% of Finisar shares are owned by institutional investors. Comparatively, 36.8% of Pixelworks shares are owned by institutional investors. 1.1% of Finisar shares are owned by insiders. Comparatively, 4.6% of Pixelworks shares are owned by insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that endowments, large money managers and hedge funds believe a company will outperform the market over the long term.

Earnings & Valuation

This table compares Finisar and Pixelworks’ revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Finisar $1.28 billion 2.25 -$53.22 million $0.59 40.73
Pixelworks $76.55 million 1.47 -$4.62 million ($0.07) -42.86

Pixelworks has lower revenue, but higher earnings than Finisar. Pixelworks is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Finisar, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Volatility & Risk

Finisar has a beta of 1.49, suggesting that its share price is 49% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Pixelworks has a beta of 1.93, suggesting that its share price is 93% more volatile than the S&P 500.

Analyst Ratings

This is a summary of current ratings and recommmendations for Finisar and Pixelworks, as reported by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Finisar 0 12 1 0 2.08
Pixelworks 0 0 2 0 3.00

Finisar currently has a consensus price target of $25.53, indicating a potential upside of 6.23%. Pixelworks has a consensus price target of $7.00, indicating a potential upside of 133.33%. Given Pixelworks’ stronger consensus rating and higher possible upside, analysts plainly believe Pixelworks is more favorable than Finisar.

Summary

Finisar beats Pixelworks on 8 of the 14 factors compared between the two stocks.

About Finisar

Finisar logoFinisar Corporation provides components and subsystems to networking equipment manufacturers, data center operators, telecom service providers, consumer electronics, and automotive companies in the United States, China, Malaysia, and internationally. The company’s optical subsystems primarily include transmitters, receivers, transceivers, transponders, and active optical cables, which provide the fundamental optical-electrical or optoelectronic interface for interconnecting the electronic equipment used in wireline networks comprising switches, routers, and servers, as well as wireless networks, such as antennas and base stations. It also offers wavelength selective switches that are used to switch network traffic from one optical fiber to various other fibers without converting to an electronic signal. In addition, the company provides packaged laser, receivers, and photodetectors for data communication and telecommunication applications; and passive optical components for telecommunication applications. It markets its products through direct sales force, as well as distributors, manufacturers’ representatives and resellers, and system integrators; and to the manufacturers of storage systems and telecommunication equipment, as well as to their contract manufacturers. Finisar Corporation was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

About Pixelworks

Pixelworks logoPixelworks, Inc. designs, develops, and markets video processing semiconductors, intellectual property cores, software, and custom application specific integrated circuits (ICs) solutions for video applications. Its products enable customers to deliver the energy efficient video quality on their devices. The company provides video display processor products, including image processor ICs, such as embedded microprocessors, digital signal processing technology, and software that control the operations and signal processing within high-end display systems; and video co-processor ICs that work with an image processor to post-process video signals to enhance the performance or feature set of the overall video solution, as well as transcoder ICs, such as embedded microprocessors, digital signal processing technology, and software that control the operations and signal processing for converting bitrates, resolutions, and codecs. As of December 31, 2017, it had an intellectual property portfolio of 536 patents related to the visual display of digital image data. The company’s products are used in digital projection systems, tablets, and smartphones, as well as over-the-air streaming devices. Pixelworks, Inc. sells its products through a direct sales force, as well as distributors and manufacturers’ representatives worldwide. The company was founded in 1997 and is based in San Jose, California.

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Head-To-Head Contrast: Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) and Pixelworks (NASDAQ:PXLW)

Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) and Pixelworks (NASDAQ:PXLW) are both computer and technology companies, but which is the better investment? We will …

Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) and Pixelworks (NASDAQ:PXLW) are both computer and technology companies, but which is the better investment? We will compare the two companies based on the strength of their earnings, valuation, institutional ownership, risk, profitability, analyst recommendations and dividends.

Profitability

This table compares Finisar and Pixelworks’ net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Finisar -4.16% 4.22% 2.74%
Pixelworks -5.20% -9.01% -6.12%
Institutional & Insider Ownership

94.1% of Finisar shares are owned by institutional investors. Comparatively, 36.8% of Pixelworks shares are owned by institutional investors. 1.1% of Finisar shares are owned by company insiders. Comparatively, 4.6% of Pixelworks shares are owned by company insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that hedge funds, large money managers and endowments believe a stock will outperform the market over the long term.

Earnings & Valuation

This table compares Finisar and Pixelworks’ revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Finisar $1.28 billion 2.25 -$53.22 million $0.59 40.73
Pixelworks $76.55 million 1.47 -$4.62 million ($0.07) -42.86

Pixelworks has lower revenue, but higher earnings than Finisar. Pixelworks is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Finisar, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Risk and Volatility

Finisar has a beta of 1.49, suggesting that its share price is 49% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Pixelworks has a beta of 1.93, suggesting that its share price is 93% more volatile than the S&P 500.

Analyst Recommendations

This is a summary of current ratings and price targets for Finisar and Pixelworks, as provided by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Finisar 0 12 1 0 2.08
Pixelworks 0 0 2 0 3.00

Finisar presently has a consensus price target of $25.53, indicating a potential upside of 6.23%. Pixelworks has a consensus price target of $7.00, indicating a potential upside of 133.33%. Given Pixelworks’ stronger consensus rating and higher possible upside, analysts clearly believe Pixelworks is more favorable than Finisar.

Summary

Finisar beats Pixelworks on 8 of the 14 factors compared between the two stocks.

About Finisar

Finisar logoFinisar Corporation provides components and subsystems to networking equipment manufacturers, data center operators, telecom service providers, consumer electronics, and automotive companies in the United States, China, Malaysia, and internationally. The company’s optical subsystems primarily include transmitters, receivers, transceivers, transponders, and active optical cables, which provide the fundamental optical-electrical or optoelectronic interface for interconnecting the electronic equipment used in wireline networks comprising switches, routers, and servers, as well as wireless networks, such as antennas and base stations. It also offers wavelength selective switches that are used to switch network traffic from one optical fiber to various other fibers without converting to an electronic signal. In addition, the company provides packaged laser, receivers, and photodetectors for data communication and telecommunication applications; and passive optical components for telecommunication applications. It markets its products through direct sales force, as well as distributors, manufacturers’ representatives and resellers, and system integrators; and to the manufacturers of storage systems and telecommunication equipment, as well as to their contract manufacturers. Finisar Corporation was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

About Pixelworks

Pixelworks logoPixelworks, Inc. designs, develops, and markets video processing semiconductors, intellectual property cores, software, and custom application specific integrated circuits (ICs) solutions for video applications. Its products enable customers to deliver the energy efficient video quality on their devices. The company provides video display processor products, including image processor ICs, such as embedded microprocessors, digital signal processing technology, and software that control the operations and signal processing within high-end display systems; and video co-processor ICs that work with an image processor to post-process video signals to enhance the performance or feature set of the overall video solution, as well as transcoder ICs, such as embedded microprocessors, digital signal processing technology, and software that control the operations and signal processing for converting bitrates, resolutions, and codecs. As of December 31, 2017, it had an intellectual property portfolio of 536 patents related to the visual display of digital image data. The company’s products are used in digital projection systems, tablets, and smartphones, as well as over-the-air streaming devices. Pixelworks, Inc. sells its products through a direct sales force, as well as distributors and manufacturers’ representatives worldwide. The company was founded in 1997 and is based in San Jose, California.

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Global FinFET CPU Market 2019-25 Intel, TSMC, Samsung

Global FinFET CPU Market 2019-2025 report deals with end customers to grasp in progress industry trends, FinFET CPU market growth, strategies, …
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Key Regions & Countries Mentioned In The FinFET CPU Market Report:

North America ( United States), Europe ( Germany, France, UK), Asia-Pacific ( China, Japan, India), Latin America ( Brazil), The Middle East & Africa

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Intel(US)

TSMC(Taiwan)

Samsung (South Korea)

Xilinx(US)

NVIDIA(US)

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22nm

20nm

16nm

14nm

10nm

7nm

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Smartphones

Computers and Tablets

Wearables

High-End Networks

Automotive

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