Though it’s been nearly a month since NI (National Instruments) Week 2010, one of the presentations in particular has stayed top of mind for its potential in a variety of automation and OEM equipment designs. The presentation I’m referring to focused on using the cloud for FPGA code compilation.
In the demonstration at NI Week, an illustrative example was given to show how an engineer writing FPGA code could upload that code to the cloud for optimization and compilation, freeing up his CPU for other tasks. The compiled code would then be delivered back to the engineer’s computer for burning on an FPGA chip.
Though the prospect of sending such proprietary data into the cloud for manipulation will likely give some engineers pause, Rich Kuhlman of NI explains that the servers being accessed for NI’s cloud compilation service have an optimized OS and are dedicated to the task of FPGA code compilation.
NI will not host the compilation server farms itself, but will rely on the “vast resources of optimized machines available in the cloud to handle the compilation,” says NI’s Casey Weltzin.
Kuhlman clarifies that NI has “complete access to these servers, so that we can remotely access them and dynamically create the infrastructure needed.”
The need for this cloud service has emerged because FPGAs continually grow larger and more complex–making their compilation onsite a problem. In a white paper on the NI site (“LabVIEW FPGA Compile Farm”), Kuhlman notes: “The FPGA compiler is not one big monolithic algorithm. Instead, it is a collection of big complex algorithms. The computational challenge is taking your design through a flow that generates an optimized layout on a chip with millions of processing elements that you can configure in any way. The compiler uses synthesis to create a system of logical connections between processing elements. It then maps, places and routes executing an iterative process to find the best solution to hook everything up on the physical chip while attempting to meet constraints set by the user.”
NI’s Labview FPGA compiler cloud service will have its beta release in mid-October. If you’re interested in taking part, you can sign up for consideration at ni.com/beta.