FPGA Acceleration for Big Data Analytics: Challenges and Opportunities

Joost Hoozemans, Johan Peltenburg, Fabian Nonnenmacher, Ákos Hadnagy, Zaid Al-Ars, H. Peter Hofstee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
295 Downloads (Pure)


The big data revolution has ushered an era with ever increasing volumes and complexity of data requiring ever faster computational analysis. During this very same era, CPU performance growth has been stagnating, pushing the industry to either scale their computation horizontally using multiple nodes in datacenters, or to scale vertically using heterogeneous components to reduce compute time. However, networking and storage continue to provide both higher throughput and lower latency, which allows for leveraging heterogeneous components, deployed in data centers around the world. Still, the integration of big data analytics frameworks with heterogeneous hardware components such as GPGPUs and FPGAs is challenging, because there is an increasing gap in the level of abstraction between analytics solutions developed with big data analytics frameworks, and accelerated kernels developed with heterogeneous components. In this article, we focus on FPGA accelerators that have seen wide-scale deployment in large cloud infrastructures. FPGAs allow the implementation of highly optimized hardware architectures, tailored exactly to an application, and unburdened by the overhead associated with traditional general-purpose computer architectures. FPGAs implementing dataflow-oriented architectures with high levels of (pipeline) parallelism can provide high application throughput, often providing high energy efficiency. Latency-sensitive applications can leverage FPGA accelerators by directly connecting to the physical layer of a network, and perform data transformations without going through the software stacks of the host system. While these advantages of FPGA accelerators hold promise, difficulties associated with programming and integration limit their use. This article explores the existing practices in big data analytics frameworks, discusses the aforementioned gap in development abstractions, and provides some perspectives on how to address these challenges in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9439431
Pages (from-to)30-47
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Circuits and Systems Magazine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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