Four years and $1 billion later, Xlinix has completed its adaptive computer acceleration platform (ACAP). CEO of Xlinix, San Jose, California-based technology company, Victor Peng told Venture Beat that the ACAP is groundbreaking technology because of its 50 billion transistors and 20-fold increase in deep neural network processing performance.
Xlinix makes field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which are chips whose basic functions can be changed according to what software you use to program it in the field or after they’ve been shipped. FPGAs were invented in the 1980s, and Peng claims that the ACAP chip is the biggest game changer since then. “This revolutionary new architecture is part of a broader strategy that moves the company beyond FPGAs and supporting only hardware developer,” he says. “The adoption of ACAP products in the datacenter, as well as in our broad markets, will accelerate the pervasive use of adaptive computing, making the intelligent, connected, and adaptable world a reality sooner.”
According to Peng, the ACAP technology is powerful and complex with unprecedented flexibility in the programming, as you can still change things in the chip’s design at the last minute. This flexibility also allows it to be used for a variety of applications such as video transcoding, database, data compression, search, AI inference, genomics, machine vision, computational storage, and network acceleration. ACAP-based products can also be designed to accompany end point, edge, and cloud applications.
Experts in the industry are excited to see exactly how powerful the ACAP chip will be, with Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, equating the new technology to “the future of computing.” “We are talking about the ability to do genomic sequencing in a matter of a couple of minutes, versus a couple of days,” he says. “We are talking about data centers being able to program their servers to change workloads depending upon compute demands, like video transcoding during the day and then image recognition at night. This is significant.”
Soon industry leaders like Moorhead will get to experience for themselves just how significant this new technology is, as the first ACAP product family will be developed in a 7-nanometer manufacturing process in TSMC factories later this year under the codename Everest.
For four years 1,500 hardware and software engineers at Xlinix have been working on ACAP and Everest, and once the design is finalized in 2018, chips will go out in 2019. As if the 20-fold performance improvement wasn’t enough, Everest’s 56 remote radio heads will have four times the bandwidth of the current 16-nanometer FPGA chip.
This development will not just affect computer buffs, as it will be integrated into virtually every market, from automotives to aerospace, from medicine to audio/video broadcast. “There is no canonical architecture that will work for all workloads,” Peng says. “Innovation needs adaptability, like survival of the fittest in nature. That’s our vision for the future of computing.”