SC20 Proceedings

The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis

The Performance and Energy Efficiency Potential of FPGAs in Scientific Computing


Workshop:PMBS20: The 11th International Workshop on Performance Modeling, Benchmarking and Simulation of High-Performance Computer Systems

Authors: Tan Nguyen and Samuel Williams (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory); Marco Siracusa (Polytechnic University of Milan); and Colin MacLean, Douglas Doerfler, and Nicholas J. Wright (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)


Abstract: Hardware specialization is a promising direction for the future of digital computing. Reconfigurable technologies enable hardware specialization with modest non-recurring engineering cost. In this paper, we use FPGAs to evaluate the benefits of building specialized hardware for numerical kernels found in scientific applications. In order to properly evaluate performance, we not only compare Intel Arria 10 and Xilinx U280 performance against Intel Xeon, Intel Xeon Phi, and NVIDIA V100 GPUs, but we also extend the Empirical Roofline Toolkit (ERT) to FPGAs in order to assess our results in terms of the Roofline Model. Although FPGA performance is known to be far less than that of a GPU, we also benchmark the energy efficiency of each platform for the scientific kernels comparing to microbenchmark and technological limits. Results show that while FPGAs struggle to compete in absolute terms with GPUs on memory- and compute-intensive kernels, they require far less power and can deliver nearly the same energy efficiency.





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