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Leading the New Era of FPGAi

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Leading a New Era in AI with Altera FPGAs 

In the world of technological innovation, the fusion of FPGAs with AI marks a new era we call “FPGAi”—the tight coupling of programmable logic and artificial intelligence capabilities that enable innovators to easily add AI within custom solutions. Altera, an Intel Company, is at the forefront of FPGAi, delivering FPGAs with high-performance fabrics infused with AI compute hardware which is complemented by enhanced AI design automation tools. FPGAi empowers systems to make autonomous decisions, adapt to new data in real-time, and process information intelligently with speed and efficiency.  

Today’s innovators see the potential of AI and are eager to implement the technology in their products. However, the knowledge domains and experience of AI experts and FPGA engineers seldom overlap. Yet FPGAs have a long history of adding new processing capabilities when the need arises. For example, Altera added hardened floating-point math in the form of DSP Blocks in 2014 in order to better implement Deep Learning Accelerators. Evolution continued with the addition of faster transceivers, enhanced communications protocols, better data pre/post processing, and support for new numeric formats needed for AI.  When all these capabilities are integrated into a customizable FPGA data pipeline, it enables customers to accelerate the implementation of their innovations and differentiate themselves from their competitors. 

The tech arena is rife with challenges that traditional computing systems can no longer handle. Data centers buckling under the weight of skyrocketing energy demands underscore the necessity for energy-efficient architectures. Networks faltering under peak traffic reveal a need for scalable infrastructures capable of expanding seamlessly. Industrial controllers at The Edge, struggling to interpret the deluge of sensor telemetry data, highlight the need for a robust computing solution leveraging Generative AI Large Language Models and the adaptable I/O capabilities of FPGAs for real-time insights and enhanced edge intelligence. Ubiquitous processing bottlenecks impede performance and adaptability, signaling the need for a revolutionary approach that transcends incremental improvement and ushers in a new era. 

The lifeblood of AI applications is efficient data movement, ensuring that the vast amounts of data generated by sensors, users, and digital interactions are ingested and egested swiftly and reliably into AI pipelines. FPGA based AI system and board management removes processing and connectivity roadblocks.  And with FPGA AI NICs, data can be pre-processed at the edge to reduce latency and offload critical tasks from the central processing units. This streamlines the data pipeline and enhances overall system efficiency by ensuring that AI models receive clean, timely data required for accurate and rapid decision-making. 

The Agilex™ portfolio of FPGAs delivers the capabilities needed to thrive in the new era of FPGAi.  With 2x better performance per watt vs. competing 7nm FPGAs1, users can deliver the needed performance without exceeding power limitations. In addition to hardware acceleration, the Agilex 7 FPGA M-series provides up to 32 GB of HBM2E memory, alleviating bottlenecks for memory-bound AI workloads like LLMs. For compute-bound AI problems, such as CNNs, the Agilex 5 family provides the only FPGA fabric infused with AI. This family enhances our traditional DSP blocks with AI tensor capability which are embedded into the core fabric to vastly increase the amount of AI compute. Agilex 5 delivers up to 56 INT8 TOPS* of AI performance and is well-suited to the needs of new intelligent embedded edge solutions.  

FPGAi is not just about hardware. Altera’s FPGA AI Suite is the cornerstone of our FPGAi strategy, offering a seamless design automation environment for embedding AI inference engines into Altera FPGAs. The development process is intuitive, instantiating an AI capable block within your RTL and enabling the addition of AI capabilities with the ease of adding IP. With an emphasis on usability, FPGA AI Suite integration within Quartus® Prime Software and Platform Designer simplifies the incorporation of AI inference IP, making the development process more accessible and less time-consuming. It bridges the gap between AI model development and real-world AI deployment by ensuring compatibility with leading frameworks such as TensorFlow and PyTorch through the OpenVINO toolkit, which is an integral part of the environment. By tailoring deep learning models for FPGA hardware, the FPGA AI Suite empowers developers to take advantage of FPGAi, merging the power of AI with the flexibility of FPGAs. 

With rapidly changing technologies like AI, having the agility to adapt and extend a product while ensuring product sustainability is paramount. The Agilex™ FPGA family, with its inherent ability to be reprogrammed on-the-fly, offers a canvas for fast prototyping, efficient verification, and continuous innovation, allowing engineers to tailor solutions to emerging challenges and changing methods and standards. Reconfigurability enables FPGAs to efficiently handle a diverse array of applications—from real-time data processing to AI-driven analytics—while maintaining more architectural consistency to reduce development cost and speed time-to-market. By leveraging this power, industries can confidently strive towards a future where their technological investments are not only powerful and intelligent, but also sustainable and enduring. Agility and longevity are what sets FPGAi apart in the AI revolution, promising a smarter and more adaptable world.  

FPGAi is a technological leap that combines the transformative power of AI with the versatility of FPGAs. FPGAi will redefine applications by delivering efficient, intelligent solutions that can quickly respond to the ever-changing demands of our world. By adopting FPGAi, you are not just tackling today's challenges—you are entering the new era of technology taking us into the future.  

To discover the transformative impact of FPGAi and its advantages for your industry, check out Intel.com/FPGAi. 


*Theoretical calculations for the largest density Agilex™ 5 D-Series device.