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A Reconfigurable Fabric For Accelerating Large-Scale Datacenter Services

By Andrew Putnam, Adrian M. Caulfield, Eric S. Chung, Derek Chiou, Kypros Constantinides, John Demme, Hadi Esmaeilzadeh, Jeremy Fowers, Gopi Prashanth Gopal, Jan Gray, Michael Haselman, Scott Hauck, Stephen Heil, Amir Hormati, Joo-Young Kim, Sitaram Lanka, James Larus, Eric Peterson, Simon Pope, Aaron Smith, Jason Thong, Phillip Yi Xiao, Doug Burger

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 11, Pages 114-122
10.1145/2996868

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Datacenter workloads demand high computational capabilities, flexibility, power efficiency, and low cost. It is challenging to improve all of these factors simultaneously. To advance datacenter capabilities beyond what commodity server designs can provide, we designed and built a composable, reconfigurable hardware fabric based on field programmable gate arrays (FPGA). Each server in the fabric contains one FPGA, and all FPGAs within a 48-server rack are interconnected over a low-latency, high-bandwidth network.

We describe a medium-scale deployment of this fabric on a bed of 1632 servers, and measure its effectiveness in accelerating the ranking component of the Bing web search engine. We describe the requirements and architecture of the system, detail the critical engineering challenges and solutions needed to make the system robust in the presence of failures, and measure the performance, power, and resilience of the system. Under high load, the large-scale reconfigurable fabric improves the ranking throughput of each server by 95% at a desirable latency distribution or reduces tail latency by 29% at a fixed throughput. In other words, the reconfigurable fabric enables the same throughput using only half the number of servers.

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1. Introduction

Cloud computing has emerged as a dominant paradigm for delivering scalable, reliable, and cost-effective online services to businesses and clients across the world. According to the IDC, public spending in IT cloud services will grow to more than $127B in 2016 as the adoption of cloud computing accelerates worldwide.10 This major shift will offer enormous potential in unlocking new applications and in improving the performance, security, and cost of computing.

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