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Bare Metal Blog: Introduction to FPGAs
FPGAs change a lot. Here’s why they’re a big deal

We’re having all of our sidewalks redone right this instant. In fact, I’ll include a picture of the “pavers” – which is the fancy new word for the stones used to build the sidewalk. If the construction and design team do something wrong, it will cost them a pretty penny to come back out, rip up the pavers (and the columns or knee wall they’re putting in with the pavers on the patio), and move things around or replace pavers to make it right. We hired a great company that has done good work for us in the past, so I’m not terribly worried about this possibility. It happens in construction, but happens a lot less with a reputable installer.

image

It does offer a solid introduction to Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) though. Because before there were FPGAs, most hardware out there shipped with a well-defined, non-changeable logic path. It did what it did, and if the hardware designers made a mistake in this increasingly complex product, you were stuck with the results. Some EEPROMs were shipped with re-programmability, but the vast majority of hardware did not have any way to update it. If a bug appeared, you lived with it or the vendor took the very expensive step of replacing it. Much like what happens when pavers are installed incorrectly. The difference of course is that you can look at pavers and see if you think the work is right, while hardware needs to be run – and run a lot – before weaknesses show. Kind of like the case where pavers are laid down but the material underneath them is not properly prepared. The next spring you can expect a jungle to grow up between the pavers, but until then they look nice.

EEPROMs (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) and then FPGAs brought the ability to fix bugs in the field into the realm of hardware. As FPGAs progressed and became more complex, even real-time updating (as in on-the-fly) became a possibility. At this point, there are billions of gates on an FPGA, and they’re used in a wide variety of devices. If you’ve ever “Flashed the ROM” or “Updated Firmware” there is a good chance you’ve been updating the FPGA in the device (though of course, these terms are vague enough that it could be other things you’re updating too).

But the power of updating on-the-fly is huge. If for nothing else than prototyping and training. Need to teach people hardware design? How better than on a device that you can program, test, reprogram, test again… Indeed, for at-home use (having nothing to do with F5, just one of my many geek toys), I use an Actel FPGA to set up complex circuits. Actel is now MicroSemi, but I haven’t dealt with them since the change, so I don’t know any details there. But for designing circuits, you can’t beat it. I’ve abused mine, and it still does what I tell it to. Note I said “what I tell it to”, not “what I expect it to”… I’m not a professional at FPGA programming, but it is a lot of fun.

But in a professional setting, the power is even greater. Not only can you train staff in FPGA programming and prototype solutions with FPGAs, you can also ship with FPGAs installed. Having FPGAs installed means that a huge percentage of the logic that makes a device go can be updated as-needed. This helps the vendor by giving them a path to fixing logic errors that were not discovered before ship time (say because the error is not obvious until the device is under massive load for a long period of time). It helps the customer by giving them an obsolescent-resistant product. If the logic of the hardware can be updated, then the device is much more forward-compatible than those that are not. When an FPGA can have 500,000 to millions of logic elements on it, the level of re-programmability becomes amazing. No support for the newest standard that impacts your device? Download the update, and BAM! You’ve got support for a standard that might not have even existed when your device was originally designed.

This does of course come with some risks. A part of your system that was stable forever now has changes introduced to it dynamically, but most reputable vendors have tools/steps/security in place to protect their customers from hardware problems bringing down the entire system. I can’t speak for everyone, in fact, at this instant I can’t even authoritatively speak for F5, but this next week I’ll be talking to the hardware folks about what we do, and the next two installments in this blog will cover both what we do with FPGAs, and how we protect our customers.

Read the original blog entry...

About Don MacVittie
Don MacVittie is Founder of Ingrained Technology, LLC, specializing in Development, Devops, and Cloud Strategy. Previously, he was a Technical Marketing Manager at F5 Networks. As an industry veteran, MacVittie has extensive programming experience along with project management, IT management, and systems/network administration expertise.

Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was a Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing, where he conducted product research and evaluated storage and server systems, as well as development and outsourcing solutions. He has authored numerous articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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Cloud Expo - Cloud Looms Large on SYS-CON.TV


Cloud Expo 2013 East Opening Keynote by IBM
In this Cloud Expo Keynote, Danny Sabbah, CTO & General Manager, Next Generation Platform, will detail the critical architectural considerations and success factors organizations must internalize to successfully implement, optimize and innovate using next generation architectures.
Lisa Larson, Vice President of Enterprise Cloud Solutions of Rackspace Hosting Live From New York City
In the old world of IT, if you didn't have hardware capacity or the budget to buy more, your project was dead in the water. Budget constraints can leave some of the best, most creative and most ingenious innovations on the cutting room floor. It's a true dilemma for developers and innovators – why spend the time creating, when a project could be abandoned in a blink? That was the old world. In the new world of IT, developers rule. They have access to resources they can spin up instantly. A hybrid cloud ignites innovation and empowers developers to focus on what they need. A hybrid cloud blends the best of all worlds, public cloud, private cloud and dedicated servers to fit the needs of developers and offer the ideal environment for each app and workload without the constraints of a one-size-fits-all cloud.

Keynote: Driving Cloud Innovation: SSDs Change Cloud Storage Paradigm
Cloud is a transformational shift in computing that can have a powerful effect on enterprise IT when designed correctly and used to its full potential. Join Citrix in a discussion that centers on building, connecting and empowering users with cloud services and hear examples of how enterprises are solving real-world business challenges with an architecture and solution purpose-built for the cloud.

Go Beyond IaaS to Deliver "Anything As a Service"
Many organizations want to expand upon the IaaS foundation to deliver cloud services in all forms—software, mobility, infrastructure and IT. Understanding the strategy, planning process and tools for this transformation will help catalyze changes in the way the business operates and deliver real value. Join us to learn about the new ITaaS model and how to begin the transformation.


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Sonus Networks introduced the Sonus WebRTC Services Solution, a virtualized Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) offer, purpose-built for the Cloud. The WebRTC Services Solution provides signaling from WebRTC-to-WebRTC applications and interworking from WebRTC-to-Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), delivering advanced real-time communications capabilities on mobile applications and on websites, which are accessible via a browser.
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Best Recent Articles on Cloud Computing & Big Data Topics
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Despite the economy, cloud computing is doing well. Gartner estimates the cloud market will double by 2016 to $206 billion. The time for dabbling in the cloud is over! The 14th International Cloud Expo, co-located with 5th International Big Data Expo and 3rd International SDN Expo, to be held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, N.Y. announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of providing or using massively scalable IT-related capabilities as a service using Internet technologies (see suggested topics below). Cloud computing helps IT cut infrastructure costs while adding new features and services to grow core businesses. Clouds can help grow margins as costs are cut back but service offerings are expanded. Help plant your flag in the fast-expanding business opportunity that is The Cloud, Big Data and Software-Defined Networking: submit your speaking proposal today!
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New York City Expo Floor Plan Revealed
Cloud Expo New York
[June 11-14, 2012]

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Introducing Big Data Expo
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There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Get a jump on that rapidly evolving trend at Big Data Expo, which we are introducing in June at
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Testimonials
Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
AHMAR ABBAS
SVP, Global Infrastructure Management, CSS Corp.
 
With our launch at Cloud Expo, we successfully transformed the company from a relatively unknown European player into the dominant player in the market. Our competitors were taken by surprise and just blown away. We got a huge number of really high quality leads..."
PETE MALCOLM
CEO, Abiquo
 
We were extremely pleased with Cloud Expo this year - I’d say it exceeded expectations all around. This is the same info we got from partners who attended as well. Nice job!"
MARY BASS
Director of Marketing, UnivaUD
 
Cloud Expo helps focus the debate on the critical issues at hand in effect connecting main street with the next frontier."

GREG O’CONNOR
President & CEO, Appzero


Who Should Attend?
Senior Technologists including CIOs, CTOs, VPs of technology, IT directors and managers, network and storage managers, network engineers, enterprise architects, communications and networking specialists, directors of infrastructure Business Executives including CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, presidents, VPs, directors, business development; product and purchasing managers.


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@CloudExpo Blogs
ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure for IaaS, today announced the release of a Node.js SDK written against its recently launched REST API. This new JavaScript based library provides coverage for all existing ProfitBricks REST API functions. With additional libraries set to release this month, ProfitBricks continues to prove its dedication to the DevOps community and commitment to making cloud migrations and cloud management painless. Node.js is an open source, cross-platform runtime environment. It offers an asynchronous event-driven framework designed to build scala...
Web application security. Everyone knows how important it is (and if they don't, they should) and yet the complexity of managing services that provide it often result in, shall we say, less than holistic coverage of applications. At least that seems to be the case given some rather disturbing statistics around the rise of bots and malware, which can often be deposited thanks to some overlooked or obscure web application vulnerability. Some in the application itself, others in the platform (remember Apache Killer?), and still others in the protocols used by just about every web application in e...
In my younger days (we won’t discuss how long ago that was) I decided to take up sailing. I had always been fascinated watching sailboats, gliding smoothly along the water, with nothing but wind as their engine. My first lesson on the water was an exhilarating and eye opening experience. The instructor took me out on a 17-foot day sailer. It was a brisk New England April afternoon, what seemed like a perfect day to be sailing. The instructor explained the different techniques and maneuvers required to traverse the lake, which I executed, though somewhat nervously. We were moving at what felt l...
This is my first blog post at AppDynamics, and I have to say that it’s great to be aboard. It’s been a hectic first couple of weeks, but the energy, enthusiasm and friendliness of everyone I have met has made me very excited about 2015! AppDynamics has a market leading APM and analytics platform but it also takes great people to make a great company – and AppDynamics has a wealth of talent! So to start my blogging life at AppDynamics I want to focus on something that is a red-hot buzzword in IT at the moment – DevOps! For the last couple of years, every conference I attended and nearly every ...
This is the final installment of the six-part series Microservices and PaaS. It seems like forever since I attended Adrian Cockroft's meetup focusing on microservices. It's actually only been a couple of months, but much has happened since then: countless articles, meetups, and conference sessions focusing on microservices have been delivered, many meetings and design efforts at companies moving towards a microservices-based approach have been endured, and five installments of this blog series have been written. There's no doubt that microservices, like containerization and DevOps, is a tren...
For me the mantra of achieving speed via automation tools is nothing new. In fact I was ‘automating’ Citrix Metaframe builds using windows scripting techniques back in 2004. The market though, has become awash with different automation products and it’s fair to say that many enterprises now suffer from ‘automation sprawl’. This results in a tactical rather than the strategic approach to automation required, meaning that benefits are never fully realized. In fact, I have spoken to many companies for which the word ‘automation’ leaves a bitter taste in the mouth as they have been burned by faile...
Even though Apple and Microsoft haven’t commented on the new open source technology which delivers high quality audio and video capabilities to desktop and mobile browsers, major carriers such as AT&T and Telefónica, leading infrastructure providers like Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson and new WebRTC application providers in likes of Teledini and NetDev are driving the technology forward. Research analyst, Sabir Rafiq comments, “WebRTC brings many opportunities; ABI Research believes major trends will start to form within the enterprise market with WebRTC. Companies will be willing to implement t...
With DevOps now "eating the world", as Intellyx principal analyst Jason Bloomberg described in a recent Forbes article, a number of companies are beginning their own DevOps initiatives, and are now looking for "DevOps engineers" to help them get off the ground. This likely isn't a title you currently possess, and if you can't claim years of DevOps mastery on your resume, how can you stand out to organizations looking for the best and brightest in a growing field thatmany are still trying to define?
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
PaaS has been such a great innovation for developers. They can develop and deploy applications from their desktop to the cloud, all in a consistent environment. They can deploy to production themselves, bypassing the IT middleman and speeding up the application delivery process. And they can develop in any language they want, without limitations. Developers have it made! But what about IT? Does PaaS help them in any way or is it just another system for them to manage? Is this an unnecessary complication or does it help them? Why do they need PaaS?
I woke up this morning to the devastating news about the earthquake in Nepal. Sitting here in California that destruction is literally on the other side of the world but my mind immediately went to thinking about my good friend Jeremy Geelan. See Jeremy and his family have been living in Kathmandu for a while now. His wife, in fact, is the Danish Ambassador to Nepal!
The healthcare world is often overwhelming, and as a first time HIMSS exhibitor we were amazed at the scale and complexity of the event, not to mention the number of "cloud" providers who didn't actually offer cloud services. The frenzy of activity at HIMSS15 was a fitting reflection of the overwhelming nature of the healthcare system. Fortunately, we got better and better at navigating the show as the conference progressed, made great connections and left with significant promise for building new relationships in the industry. The mammoth size and scope of the show serves as a fitting m...
Public Cloud IaaS started it's life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adoption as teams delay their cloud migrations or seek alternatives like the public cloud or await SaaS...
Last week, a public company Informatica got acquired by two private equity funds – the Permira fund and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) for $5.3B. This is the biggest leveraged buyout so far this year. I am happy for my friend Sohaib Abbasi (we were colleagues at Oracle during the 1990s) who is CEO of Informatica after being a board member for a couple of years. During Sohaib’s time, the company entered into playing a bigger role in data archiving and life cycle management. It also made progress into offering cloud-based services.
Microsoft is releasing in the near future Azure Service Fabric as a preview beta. Azure Service Fabric is built to run microservices - a complex application consisting of smaller, interlocked components that enables updating components without disrupting service. Microsoft has used this over the past few years internally for many of its own applications and the new release is for general use, a new product. OSIsoft is an early adopter of this system and run with it to expand into the exploding IoT market. OSISoft's PI: PI is a system envisaged to bring sensor data directly to the boar...
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2011west.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcexpo
2011east.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2010west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualization
2010west.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2010.
sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcomputingexpo
2010east.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo East
virtualizationconference
2010east.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualizationconference
2009west.sys-con.com
    GovIT Expo
govitexpo.com
 
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2009.sys-con.com
 

Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty

S.F.S.
Dell

Singer
NRO

Pereyra
Oracle

Ryan
OpSource

Butte
PwC

Leone
Oracle

Riley
AWS

Varia
AWS

Lye
Oracle

O'Connor
AppZero

Crandell
RightScale

Nucci
Dell Boomi

Hillier
CiRBA

Morrison
Layer 7 Tech

Robbins
NYT

Schwarz
Oracle

What The Enterprise IT World Says About Cloud Expo
 
"We had extremely positive feedback from both customers and prospects that attended the show and saw live demos of NaviSite's enterprise cloud based services."
  –William Toll
Sr. Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
Navisite
 


 
"More and better leads than ever expected! I have 4-6 follow ups personally."
  –Richard Wellner
Chief Scientist
Univa UD
 


 
"Good crowd, good questions. The event looked very successful."
  –Simon Crosby
CTO
Citrix Systems
 


 
"It's the largest cloud computing conference I've ever seen."
  –David Linthicum
CTO
Brick Group