New 70 FPGA supercomputer is 900 times faster than opteron cluster it replaces. FPGAs are reconfigurable hardware. Hardware that customizes itself to run an application or algorithm can be hundreds of times faster than software running on general purpose hardware. FPGAs entering the mainstream will greatly accelerate the solution of scientific problems and some business problems.
SGI’s reconfigurable supercomputer featured 70 FPGAs, more than any single system built to date. SGI’s FPGA supercomputer accelerated the performance of a complex BLAST-n query by more than 900 times, completing in less than 33 minutes what took a 68-node Opteron-based cluster approximately three weeks to finish. The application matched 20 nucleotide base pairs against 600,000 queries.
SGI configured the system using only off-the-shelf components, including its SGI(R) RASC(TM) (Reconfigurable Application Specific Computing) appliance for bioinformatics — Featuring Mitrion(TM)-Accelerated BLAST-n. No hardware or software was modified for the test