Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Apache Authors: Dana Gardner, Liz McMillan, Mohamed El-Refaey, Ajay Budhraja, Don MacVittie

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, API Journal, @CloudExpo, Apache, Cloud Security

Microservices Expo: Blog Feed Post

Bare Metal Blog: Introduction to FPGAs

FPGAs change a lot. Here’s why they’re a big deal

We’re having all of our sidewalks redone right this instant. In fact, I’ll include a picture of the “pavers” – which is the fancy new word for the stones used to build the sidewalk. If the construction and design team do something wrong, it will cost them a pretty penny to come back out, rip up the pavers (and the columns or knee wall they’re putting in with the pavers on the patio), and move things around or replace pavers to make it right. We hired a great company that has done good work for us in the past, so I’m not terribly worried about this possibility. It happens in construction, but happens a lot less with a reputable installer.

image

It does offer a solid introduction to Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) though. Because before there were FPGAs, most hardware out there shipped with a well-defined, non-changeable logic path. It did what it did, and if the hardware designers made a mistake in this increasingly complex product, you were stuck with the results. Some EEPROMs were shipped with re-programmability, but the vast majority of hardware did not have any way to update it. If a bug appeared, you lived with it or the vendor took the very expensive step of replacing it. Much like what happens when pavers are installed incorrectly. The difference of course is that you can look at pavers and see if you think the work is right, while hardware needs to be run – and run a lot – before weaknesses show. Kind of like the case where pavers are laid down but the material underneath them is not properly prepared. The next spring you can expect a jungle to grow up between the pavers, but until then they look nice.

EEPROMs (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) and then FPGAs brought the ability to fix bugs in the field into the realm of hardware. As FPGAs progressed and became more complex, even real-time updating (as in on-the-fly) became a possibility. At this point, there are billions of gates on an FPGA, and they’re used in a wide variety of devices. If you’ve ever “Flashed the ROM” or “Updated Firmware” there is a good chance you’ve been updating the FPGA in the device (though of course, these terms are vague enough that it could be other things you’re updating too).

But the power of updating on-the-fly is huge. If for nothing else than prototyping and training. Need to teach people hardware design? How better than on a device that you can program, test, reprogram, test again… Indeed, for at-home use (having nothing to do with F5, just one of my many geek toys), I use an Actel FPGA to set up complex circuits. Actel is now MicroSemi, but I haven’t dealt with them since the change, so I don’t know any details there. But for designing circuits, you can’t beat it. I’ve abused mine, and it still does what I tell it to. Note I said “what I tell it to”, not “what I expect it to”… I’m not a professional at FPGA programming, but it is a lot of fun.

But in a professional setting, the power is even greater. Not only can you train staff in FPGA programming and prototype solutions with FPGAs, you can also ship with FPGAs installed. Having FPGAs installed means that a huge percentage of the logic that makes a device go can be updated as-needed. This helps the vendor by giving them a path to fixing logic errors that were not discovered before ship time (say because the error is not obvious until the device is under massive load for a long period of time). It helps the customer by giving them an obsolescent-resistant product. If the logic of the hardware can be updated, then the device is much more forward-compatible than those that are not. When an FPGA can have 500,000 to millions of logic elements on it, the level of re-programmability becomes amazing. No support for the newest standard that impacts your device? Download the update, and BAM! You’ve got support for a standard that might not have even existed when your device was originally designed.

This does of course come with some risks. A part of your system that was stable forever now has changes introduced to it dynamically, but most reputable vendors have tools/steps/security in place to protect their customers from hardware problems bringing down the entire system. I can’t speak for everyone, in fact, at this instant I can’t even authoritatively speak for F5, but this next week I’ll be talking to the hardware folks about what we do, and the next two installments in this blog will cover both what we do with FPGAs, and how we protect our customers.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is currently a Senior Solutions Architect at StackIQ, Inc. He is also working with Mesamundi on D20PRO, and is a member of the Stacki Open Source project. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so they don't have to be replaced and are instantly converted to become smart, connected devices.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.