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FPGA maker Xilinx aims new software programmable chips at data centers

As data centers are called upon to handle an explosion of unstructured data fed into a variety of cutting-edge applications, the future for FPGAs looks bright.

That’s because FPGAs, or field programmable gate arrays, are essentially chips that can be programmed, after manufacturing, to act as custom accelerators for workloads including machine-learning, complex data analysis, video encoding, and genomics – applications that have far-reaching consequences for communications, networking, health care, the entertainment industry and many other businesses.

Such applications lend themselves to parallel processing, an important feature of FPGAs, which can also be reconfigured on the fly to handle new features as the nature of these workloads evolve.

Now Xilinx, which for decades has vied with rival Altera (now part of Intel) for technical leadership in FPGAs, is unveling what it calls a new product category – the Adaptive Compute Acceleration Platform (ACAP) – that, it says, goes far beyond the capabilities of current FPGAs.

What is an ACAP?

The first product range in the category is code-named Everest, due to tape out (have its design finished) this year and ship to customers next year, Xilinx announced Monday. Whether it’s an incremental evolution of current FPGAs or something more radical is tough to say since the company is unveiling an architectural model that leaves out many technical details, like precisely what sort of application and real-time processors the chips will use.

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