The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives in ways we could never have imagined. For example, the most basic methods of teaching and learning based on group settings are no longer easy or even possible in many locations. The challenge is to deliver high-quality instruction while dealing with the reality of group-learning restrictions. Like all educational institutions, universities are currently struggling to meet their students’ needs for remote instruction and hands-on experience without access to traditional on-campus environments or shared lab equipment.
The Intel Programmable Solutions Group’s Academic Program Team decided to help its university partners by developing a new remote lab framework for FPGA development based on the existing Intel® DevCloud service, which provides remote access to servers configured with the 6th to 8th generation Intel® Core™ processors and Intel® FPGA Programmable Acceleration Cards (Intel® FPGA PACs) based on Intel® Stratix® 10 and Intel® Arria® 10 FPGAs. The Academic Program Team added a new remote Intel FPGA Dev Kit experience to these existing Intel DevCloud resources.
The Intel DevCloud also provides access to a wide variety of development tools including:
- Intel® Quartus® Prime Pro Edition design software
- Intel® FPGA SDK for OpenCL™ software technology
- Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit
- Acceleration Stack for Intel® Xeon® CPU with FPGAs
- Intel® C++ Compiler
In addition, the Intel DevCloud provides remote access to frameworks such as the TensorFlow machine learning library and the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), which consists of libraries used to accelerate packet processing workloads.
Last semester, the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) and Intel piloted this newly enriched teaching framework. Dr. Yan Luo, an associate professor at UML, said:
“By using the FPGA Cloud framework for remote labs, it has eliminated staff support and procurement cost to maintain the local development environment, and given us access to the latest and diverse FPGA hardware and development tools with 24×7 availability of the dev environment to students. It has also improved student productivity, flattened the learning curve of new technologies, and lowered the barrier for innovation. This has been invaluable to address the challenges of COVID-19.”
Using the Intel DevCloud, graduate students studying heterogeneous computing can remotely access high-end servers based on Intel CPUs and Intel FPGA PACs to run lab exercises. Students in undergraduate labs now have access to Intel® Quartus® Prime Pro design software and can interact with Intel Dev Kits hosted remotely in the Intel DevCloud.
These upgraded FPGA capabilities in the Intel DevCloud are not restricted to university students and faculty. Anyone can now access these tools and learn to use them, for free.
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