Microsoft is working on tools to help people use cloud-based FPGAs

However, there are big challenges with programming hardware

Earlier this year, Microsoft made a splash at its Ignite conference for IT professionals when it announced that it has been racking cards of programmable chips together with servers in its cloud data centers.

The chips, called field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), can be reconfigured after being deployed to optimize them for particular applications such as networking and machine learning.

Now, Microsoft is investing in tools that would allow customers to program the FPGAs, said Scott Guthrie, the executive vice president in charge of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise division, during a talk at the Structure conference in San Francisco.

Using those tools could help increase performance of workloads that the chips are deployed to tackle. Guthrie said he hopes businesses will see performance improvements between two or three orders of magnitude using FPGAs compared to CPUs or GPUs.

There are issues with just giving people raw access to the FPGAs, though.

"When something goes wrong, you really need to be able to debug that quickly," Guthrie said."Because it's hardware, it could brick the machine, there are lots of things that we've had to learn how to protect against."

That said, there's an advantage to be gained from using FPGAs for business applications. 

Right now, the FPGAs are being used to power Azure's Accelerated Networking feature, as well as Microsoft products like Bing. They have the ability to radically speed up some computation.

Doug Burger, a Microsoft researcher who helped spearhead the FPGA project, said that the company's entire deployment could be used to translate all of English-language Wikipedia in a tenth of a second.

Actually writing code for the FPGAs is something that would likely appeal to a small subset of businesses. But for those companies that want access, Microsoft's cloud platform could become a more interesting choice.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Microsoft

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?