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BrandPost: OpenVINO™ Toolkit and FPGAs

In this article, we’ll take a firsthand look at how to use Intel® Arria® 10 FPGAs with the OpenVINO™ toolkit (which stands for open visual inference and neural network optimization). The OpenVINO toolkit has much to offer, so I’ll start with a high-level overview showing how it helps develop applications and solutions that emulate human vision using a common API. Intel supports targeting of CPUs, GPUs, Intel® Movidius™ hardware including their Neural Compute Sticks, and FPGAs with the common API. I especially want to highlight another way to use FPGAs that doesn’t require knowledge of OpenCL* or VHDL* to get great performance. However, like any effort to get maximum performance, it doesn’t hurt to have some understanding about what’s happening under the hood. I’ll shed some light on that to satisfy your curiosity―and to help you survive the buzzwords if you have to debug your setup to get things working.

We’ll start with a brief introduction to the OpenVINO toolkit and its ability to support vision-oriented applications across a variety of platforms using a common API. Then we’ll take a look at the software stack needed to put the OpenVINO toolkit to work on an FPGA. This will define key vocabulary terms we encounter in documentation and help us debug the machine setup should the need arise. Next, we’ll take the OpenVINO toolkit for a spin with a CPU and a CPU+FPGA. I’ll discuss why “heterogeneous” is a key concept here (not everything runs on the FPGA). Specifically, we’ll use a high-performance Intel® Programmable Acceleration Card with an Intel Arria® 10 GX FPGA. Finally, we’ll peek under the hood. I’m not the type to just drive a car and never see what’s making it run. Likewise, my curiosity about what’s inside the OpenVINO toolkit when targeting an FPGA is partially addressed by a brief discussion of some of the magic inside.

The Intel Arria 10 GX FPGAs I used are not the sort of FPGAs that show up in $150 FPGA development kits. (I have more than a few of those.) Instead, they’re PCIe cards costing several thousand dollars each. To help me write this article, Intel graciously gave me access for a few weeks to a Dell EMC PowerEdge* R740 system, featuring an Intel Programmable Acceleration Card with an Arria 10 GX FPGA. This gave me time to check out the installation and usage of the OpenVINO toolkit on FPGAs instead of just CPUs.

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