Startup Accelize Simplifies FPGA Acceleration

FPGAs have been the hot new topic in data center discussions, ever since Microsoft shared their FPGA successes at the HotChips conference in August. Xilinx  and Amazon Web Services continued to amp up the buzz by partnering with IP providers such as Edico Genome, Ryft Systems Inc., and NGCodec Inc., to deliver acceleration-as-a-service with Amazon Machine Images. In addition, Alibaba has recently announced two FPG acceleration-as-a-service platforms with Xilinx . Now a French startup called Accelize (which spun off of PLDA Group) is hoping to take that concept a step further with an App Store-like model, which will reportedly enable partners to develop, sell, and run accelerated applications in the cloud of their choice—supporting both Intel and Xilinx  FPGA configurations. What does Accelize do? The first question I asked Stephane Monboisset (Accelize's Director of Marketing & Partnerships) was “Why do we need anything more than AWS Marketplace for F1?” Monboisset’s view is that the market needs a new business model to enable solution providers to economically develop and connect their IP in a comprehensive platform, with both Intel and Xilinx  FPGA configurations. With Accelize, solutions can be built, tested, and deployed on cloud instances, which can be rented as a service for as little as ~$1/hour. Also, some end users may prefer to deploy on other Cloud Service Providers, such as OVH—a popular provider in Europe, which announced participation with Accelize and Intel this week. Accelize claims to address three challenges to FPGA acceleration. First, the company provides QuickPlay, a software-defined FPGA development framework for FPGA application and IP development. Using this framework and cloud-based FPGAs, app developers can spend less than $1/hour for the complete toolset and development IAAS, instead of the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the required hardware to support each acceleration component of their application (such as encryption, decryption, search, etc.). Second, Accelize has created the QuickStore marketplace to simplify the procurement process for applications, IP, and FPGA-equipped servers. Accelize says this will securely address the IP monetization problem, fostering a healthy ecosystem of IP providers and accelerator developers. QuickStore offers a large selection of ready-to-use 3rd-party FPGA Accelerators and optimized IP cores. Each IP block can be used singularly or in concert with others in a plug-and-play platform. Providers of IP and accelerated applications are supported by a built-in mechanism that tracks hardware usage and ensures that the solution providers are paid for the use of their IP.
Lastly, Accelize is creating a scalable ecosystem that it hopes will unlock the potential of acceleration-as-a-service. The Accelize QuickAlliance supports an initial portfolio of a dozen IP providers (including CAST and Barco Silex), seven cloud service providers, and now includes Intel as well as Xilinx .
Figure 1: Accelize partners with the IP inventors and cloud service providers to create an ecosystem for accelerated applications.
We understand now how FPGAs could cross the chasm to wider adoption as a cloud acceleration platform. Amazon Web Services F1 was a great start, and now Accelize is providing an ecosystem of applications, IP, and infrastructure that should attract crafty IP inventors to jump on board and leverage the wide reach and low-cost routes. This model will not be an overnight sensation, seeing as it takes time for partners to develop the IP, and then to create the market and sales channel. As a small European company, Accelize will need to quickly establish a market presence in the US and Asia to gain attention and traction. However, I believe Accelize has the potential to add to the momentum that Microsoft and  have ignited.