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To leverage the flexibility of FPGAs and the variety of customizable hardware architectures that can be implemented, we have introduced the concept of reference platforms to provide a better out-of-the-box experience for performing Open Computing Language (OpenCLTM) evaluations, creating custom OpenCL applications, and creating custom boards with an FPGA accelerator on it. The reference platforms contain both the hardware and software layers for our reference designs to communicate with the board.
The traditional OpenCL model has a host that passes data to the accelerator system over PCI Express® (PCIe). For the High-Performance Computing (HPC) platform, the system requires a large amount of local bulk storage for processing the data that the host sends to the accelerator. These applications require large amounts of memory bandwidth and are systems where computing power is of most importance. This platform is the standard platform for OpenCL accelerators.
To get started evaluating the standard HPC platform architecture, you can:
- Download a reference design that runs on the HPC platform and learn the OpenCL application development flow
- Download an HPC platform by one of our Altera Preferred Board vendor boards, or
- Purchase a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) board that supports the HPC platform from one of our Altera Preferred Board vendors by clicking their logo below
The Network platform deviates from the traditional OpenCL model by extracting the datapath from the PCIe command and status path. Data is now streamed into the kernels using I/O channels, without host interaction over two 10 Gb user datagram protocol (UDP) ports. This streaming architecture allows the host to configure the datapath pipeline and then step out of the picture for a much lower latency data processing path that traditional FPGA developers are used to. Applications using this platform are much more concerned with achieving a lower latency result.
To get started evaluating the low-latency Network platform architecture, you can:
- Download a reference design that runs on the Network platform and learn the OpenCL application development flow
- Download a Network platform by one of our Altera Preferred Board vendors boards, or
- Purchase a COTS board that supports the Network platform from one of our Altera Preferred Board vendors by clicking their logo below
The SoC platform resembles the traditional OpenCL model with a shared global memory that is used to pass data between the ARM® host and the FPGA accelerator, which in this case is the same package. There is also an optional version of the architecture that adds a scratch DDR3 SDRAM interface on the FPGA accelerator side.
To get started evaluating the Cyclone® V SoC platform, you can:
- Download a reference design that runs on the network SoC platform and learn the OpenCL application development flow
- Download the Altera SDK for OpenCL, which ships with the SoC reference platform for the Cyclone V SoC
- Purchase a COTS board that supports the network platform from one of our Altera Preferred Board vendors:
While it is convenient if the architecture of the FPGA accelerator you want falls into one of these existing categories, it is not required. These reference platforms are a starting point to aid in building your own custom FPGA. Start with the existing SoC or Network platform, and simply remove or modify the component interfaces for the ones you desire and rebuild it. This uses traditional FPGA design to create the “I/O ring” for the OpenCL kernels to communicate with the I/O interfaces that will be on your custom board.
In order to build your own custom FPGA accelerator board, you will need a few things. To start building a custom board support package from a blank template, start with the custom platform toolkit.
- Raw template for a platform
- Board Test kernels to exercise the I/O interfaces
- MMD header file to get started building drivers
- HPC platform migration text file (from version 13.1)
To start with an existing platform and modify it, here are the current reference platforms available:
Altera Stratix V Network Reference Platform: s5_net (w/ PLDA UDP stack):
Cyclone V SoC Reference Platform
- Altera SDK for OpenCL Cyclone V SoC Getting Started Guide
- Cyclone V SoC Development Board Reference Manual (PDF)
- Altera Cyclone V SoC Development Kit Reference Platform Porting Guide
- Cyclone V SoC Development Board Getting Started video
Altera Preferred Board for OpenCL
Several of Altera’s partners have already created boards and ported the reference platforms to their boards for purchase, in either evaluation mode or full production. These third-party production boards are tested according to the strict requirements of the Altera Preferred Board for OpenCL Partner Program. Only preferred boards are optimized for the most current Altera device architectures and design software. Altera works closely with these selected partners to ensure that their boards continually meet these standards. An Altera Preferred Board for OpenCL typically contains the following items:
- Specific OpenCL board design files (including the platform)
- Quartus® II Development Kit Edition software (one-year evaluation license)
- A license for Altera's SDK for OpenCL
- Reference designs
Third-party preferred boards are purchased directly from Altera Preferred Board partners. The terms and conditions for the license of each certified board may vary from partner to partner. Altera preferred boards for OpenCL are carefully developed by third-party partners to ensure the highest possible quality. If a problem is traced to a preferred board, the partner is responsible for resolving the problem. If a problem arises in Altera’s SDK for OpenCL, Altera will provide the appropriate engineering support.
Third-party preferred boards for Altera’s SDK for OpenCL are provided without warranty from Altera. Altera disclaims all warranties, express and implied, with respect to the board supplied by the partner, including, but not limited to, implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. The Altera Preferred Board partners may offer guarantees or warranties for design performance or functionality. Please contact the individual partners for details.