One of my most common customer requests is to speed up execution of a software application using FPGA hardware acceleration. If the application runs on a PC or server, you can achieve impressive performance gains by using off-the-shelf FPGA development boards for PCI Express.

Here is a comparison of the available 7 Series FPGA boards for PCI Express applications:

AC701

Artix-7
$1295
  • XC7A200T-2FBG676C
  • 4-lane Gen2 PCIe
  • 1GB DDR3 SODIMM
  • 8Kb EEPROM
  • No BPI Flash
  • 32MB Quad SPI
  • SD Card slot
  • No LPC FMC
  • 1x HPC FMC (*)
  • 1x SFP
  • 1GB Ethernet
  • No USB
  • UART over USB
  • HDMI out
  • XADC header

KC705

Kintex-7
$1695
  • XC7K325T-2FFG900C
  • 8-lane Gen2 PCIe
  • 1GB DDR3 SODIMM
  • 8Kb EEPROM
  • 128MB BPI Flash
  • 16MB Quad SPI
  • SD Card slot
  • 1x LPC FMC
  • 1x HPC FMC (*)
  • 1x SFP+
  • 1GB Ethernet
  • No USB
  • UART over USB
  • HDMI out
  • XADC header

VC707

Virtex-7
$3495
  • XC7VX485T-2FFG1761
  • 8-lane Gen2 PCIe
  • 1GB DDR3 SODIMM
  • 8Kb EEPROM
  • 128MB BPI Flash
  • 16MB Quad SPI
  • SD Card slot
  • No LPC FMC
  • 2 x HPC FMC
  • 1x SFP+
  • 1Gb Ethernet
  • No USB
  • UART over USB
  • HDMI out
  • AMS port

VC709

Virtex-7
$4995
  • XC7VX690T-2FFG1761C
  • 8-lane Gen3 PCIe
  • 4GB DDR3 SODIMM x2
  • 1KB EEPROM
  • 32MB BPI Flash
  • No Quad SPI Flash
  • No SD
  • No LPC FMC
  • 1x HPC FMC (*)
  • 4x SFP/SFP+
  • No Ethernet
  • No USB
  • UART over USB
  • No Video
  • No Analog

  • (*) Note: These HPC FMC connectors are only partially populated which means that they wont be able to support all standard FMCs.
  • There are many more FPGA boards for PCIe on the market, but I chose to limit the comparison to those that are more strongly supported by Xilinx.

 

The reason these types of boards are so useful in the hardware acceleration space is because PCI Express is the highest bandwidth, lowest latency link that you can have between a PC’s CPU and an external FPGA. There’s no use shipping off work to an FPGA if the time it takes the data to get there and back is more than the time saved through improved processing efficiency.

For companies looking at creating their own FPGA based hardware acceleration solution (or any FPGA solution for that matter), my advice is always to first prove that the concept works using off-the-shelf hardware before designing your own custom board. I develop FPGA based hardware acceleration solutions for companies around the world, in applications such as data mining, network security, high frequency trading and more. If you have an application that you would like to speed up using FPGA hardware acceleration, I can help.

 

Jeff is passionate about FPGAs, SoCs and high-performance computing, and has been writing the FPGA Developer blog since 2008. As the owner of Opsero, he leads a small team of FPGA all-stars providing start-ups and tech companies with FPGA design capability that they can call on when needed.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn