Intel and Altera Develop World’s First HBM2, 2.5D Stacked, SiPs With Integrated Stratix 10 FPGA and SoC Solution

Usman Pirzada

HBM2 is quickly shaping up to be the future of next generation graphic cards and of very critical importance to both GPU manufacturers. Altera (now a subsidiary of Intel) has recently launched the world’s first System-in-Package (SIP) device which consists of HBM2 DRAM combined with FPGAs. As many of our readers will know, the logic of an FPGA can be reprogrammed which allows it unparalleled flexibility in certain computing tasks – a capability, which, when combined with HBM2 technology could result in astonishing results.

Altera introduces world's first Stratix 10 FPGA SiP device with HBM2 (memory)

FPGAs stand for Field Programmable Gate Arrays. For those not familiar with them, they are a type of processing device that has reconfigurable logic. Basically, you have ASICs which have hard-wired logic, tailored to a specific task and a specific load type allowing them to accomplish said tasks with unparalleled efficiency. Then, you have our modern day CPUs with hard-wired logic that allows many general applications and diverse load types resulting in an all rounder processor capable of doing just about everything – but not very good at certain load types. And finally, you have FPGAs, whose logic is not hard-wired and can be reconfigured accordingly resulting in a very customizable silicon solution for the semi-custom market.

The technology will use Altera's Stratix chips (SoCs and FPGAs) and combine them with Intel's EMIB fabric. The result is a device that can handle some specific work loads exceptionally well. Whether this will have any impact in the graphics segment of the industry - is anyone's guess. But even if it does, it will most probably be limited to professional GPUs and not the mainstream ones that most PC users are interested in.  Altera had the following to say at the time of launch:

“Supporting higher memory bandwidth requirements is one of the biggest challenges many of our customers face as they implement more computationally intensive tasks in their systems, such as machine learning, big data analytics, image recognition, workload acceleration and 8K video processing,” said Danny Biran, senior vice president of corporate strategy and marketing at Altera. “Altera is in a unique position to serve these system requirements by combining the industry’s highest performance FPGA with High-Bandwidth Memory in a single package. No other programmable solution can match Stratix 10 DRAM SiP in terms of performance, power efficiency and memory bandwidth.”

It is worth noting at this point, that AMD has already patented a technology along the very same lines some while ago – which means, that this is something that the Industry has been working on for quite a long time and is just recently becoming public (as is usually the case). What benefit these will net the average user is something that is of considerable mystery right now. The Zen-FPGA-HBM design does make sense but the patent published was a very general one and we have not heard anything about it actually being pursued. Intel and Altera however are already pursuing clients in the high performance compute sector and guiding them about integration of the Stratix 10 SiP HBM2 device. It is expected to ship sometime in the 2016-2017 time frame.



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