Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Siliconscapes: Finds development faster, easier with Linux, CAPI and POWER8
By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak
Are you skeptical of tales describing easy ports of code to new platforms? Do you say “It can’t be that easy; that wouldn’t happen with a complicated program.”? Well, we have a story about the conversion of complicated technology to POWER8 that will interest you. Meet Dr. Kevin Irick, founder of SiliconScapes.
Dr. Irick formed SiliconScapes to provide real-time image and video analytics systems. Initially, they used x86-based systems to host the FPGAs needed to achieve the high processing speeds required for video analytics. Each different project required changes in the FPGAs, usually involving a lengthy development process, followed by a difficult integration. Shifting to POWER8 with IBM’s CAPI interface eliminates the problem while offering the potential of a significant speed boost from POWER8.
SiliconScapes built a framework to integrate accelerators; moving the framework to POWER8 to access CAPI made sense. Prior to receipt of the system, an IBM software simulator was used to debug code for CAPI. Integrating HW acceleration into a system using CAPI reduces development costs and time, increasing customer satisfaction. Overall, it took several months. IBM’s simulation tools also proved to be very useful and critical.
The effort was worthwhile. POWER8’s power and speed allows real time performance; its stability permits always-on video analytics with very high reliability and up-times. Faster, easier integration with CAPI reduces development costs and time, increasing customer satisfaction.
SiliconScapes’ experience demonstrates a migration to POWER8 delivers ease-of-use, speed and robustness as well as the benefits of open standards, even for very complicated programs with significant hardware dependencies. Other lessons-learned by the developers include:
· It helps significantly to be thoroughly familiar with the existing technology before attempting a port to a new system.
· For maximum benefit and efficiency, take time to learn the new POWER8 environment including new technology like CAPI.
· IBM simulation tools are very useful.
· It is worthwhile to request help from IBM, SiliconScapes received excellent support.
Kevin Irick, founder/developer of SiliconScapes, is an enthusiastic supporter of OpenPOWER systems, Linux, CAPI and Open Standards. With IBM’s help and support, the migration went faster than he anticipated; providing a win all-around. Developers interested in more details about this port can contact Dr. Irick directly at Kevin.Irick@siliconscapes.net or through the SiliconScapes website.
 For background on FPGA see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-programmable_gate_array
 For more about CAPI, see: http://www-304.ibm.com/webapp/set2/sas/f/capi/home.html
 A delayed delivery of the loaner system slowed the process. It went quickly with the installed system