Zoltán is the originator and lead developer of the Hastlayer Project which is being born at Lombiq Technologies, the company that he co-founded in 2013. Below is an interview with Zoltán following his talk at our Progscon conference last week.
A word about Lombiq
Imagine a thriving, inspiring open source tech community with an ever-growing membership. This is what Lombiq aims to be, with a company around it. And if you need anything with Orchard CMS-based web development, we have you covered.
Ready for keywords?
Open source .NET software development, distributed team, clients like Microsoft, cloud-first with Azure expertise, Orchard CMS development, advisory/consultancy, training, hosting/operations and support. So, a lot. And also green-field experimental projects like Hastlayer, turning software into hardware.
What is an FPGA and why every dev should now a little about it?
(Everything below is overly simplified, and I’m not the best person to ask about FPGAs in general, so if you’re an FPGA professional, bear with me.) An FPGA (field-programmable gate array) can function like any computer chip (within certain limits of course) and this behaviour can be dynamically changed, without actually touching the FPGA. I bet you’ve heard how the early computers could be re-programmed by rewiring the whole machine; then programs came and today we only write code. FPGAs allow the same shift, but for the hardware itself: you can write code and in the end a computer chip comes out.
While the similarity with writing software is appealing, it’s very different, since as a software developer you’d need to learn a lot and apply a different mindset to utilize FPGAs. However in certain cases you can use FPGAs to cheat the system and make your software orders of magnitude faster and consume less power. So if you work with such demands this is where tools like Hastlayer come into play to automagically transform your software into FPGA-implemented hardware, so you get the best of both worlds.
Which business would get the most value of FPGA?
If we look at FPGA’s as a way to offload certain kinds of work to them from a standard x64 processor (much like how GPUs can be utilized) then typically applications that already use a server cluster for large computations can benefit from using them. This affects businesses running high-demand applications like medical image processing, scientific simulations or other high-performance computing tasks.
Do you think that FPGA can have some application in fintech?
They are already used in high-frequency trading but I think that eventually FPGAs will be as of a commonplace as GPUs are today. We’ll then learn to utilize them appropriately everywhere where high performance and/or low power consumption is an aspect to care about.
– How the FPGA might be eco friendly ?
FPGAs are generally low-power devices: it varies greatly by the specific usage characteristics of course but with FPGAs we’re mostly talking about power consumption in the order of magnitude of Watts (starting with 1-2 Watts). Compare this to the potentially hundreds of Watts of CPUs and GPUs. Of course all of these have different strengths and weaknesses with completely different ways of using them, but FPGAs have the potential to dramatically reduce the power usage of certain computations. Now imagine a datacentre with thousands of servers…