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I know that Intel acquired Altera in 2015 and the new Intel chips include a built-in FPGA. But what is it for?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which Intel chips? There's several applications where you would've had a CPU and an FPGA, and now you only need one chip. \$\endgroup\$ – user253751 May 28 '18 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Custom acceleration of state-machine behaviors. \$\endgroup\$ – analogsystemsrf May 28 '18 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @immibis Xeon Scalable Processor 6138P, currently. \$\endgroup\$ – duskwuff -inactive- May 28 '18 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Too many transistors available now and not enough good ideas how to use all of them. \$\endgroup\$ – jonk May 28 '18 at 4:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ To run algorithms in their own "piplelines", a lot of companies (voip, video) that need data computed in real-time (micro seconds) off load the heaviest stuff to FPGA's. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike May 30 '18 at 18:07
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But what is it for?

It's a bit early to say for sure. As of May 2018, Intel has only demonstrated one FPGA/CPU part (the Xeon Scalable Processor 6138P), and it's not yet shipping to the general public.

That all being said, the theoretical advantage of having an FPGA in the CPU package is high-speed, low-latency data transfers between the CPU and FPGA fabric (and, potentially, to connected devices). One of Intel's example applications is software-defined network switching, for instance.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A fast FPGA also gives you a on-the-fly changeable address decoder and memory mapper, but I think Intel has been doing that for a while. \$\endgroup\$ – VTNCaGNtdDVNalUy May 28 '18 at 6:24
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"Anything" you want for which you cant afford the MIPS otherwise. There is a lot of effort in "non traditional" industries, such as Brokerages, that are using FPGAs/ASICs to execute trades faster, as latency equates to dollars.

Also, Intel is pushing the OpenCL (higher-level "Configurable Logic" language) for use in their (formerly Altera) tool flow, to lower the entry point for "consumer-side FPGA use". This is not going to change the ASIC/FPGA commercial/professional world, but will allow consumers to create custom logic. Like when you want to try and cheat on your non-server-side FPS game maybe(?) ;)

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    \$\begingroup\$ OpenCL is "Open Computing Language", not "Configurable Logic" language. Its used for distributed computing across GPUs and CPUs, as well as to a certain extent FPGAs. \$\endgroup\$ – Tom Carpenter May 29 '18 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ At first, I thought your example of low-latency trading using FPGA was made-up bullshit. Then I looked it up and there seems to be actual companies developing this kind of things. And now, I don't want to live on this planet anymore... Anyway, have an upvote. \$\endgroup\$ – dim May 29 '18 at 20:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, my bad on acronym translation, should have googled it... same-same, it's an HLS as far as I am concerned :/ @dim, I am surprised Axe Capital hasn't cornered it yet :) \$\endgroup\$ – CapnJJ May 30 '18 at 4:51

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