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Intel targets cryptocurrency mining, networks, and more with Agilex M-Series FPGAs

The M is for memory bandwidth, not Meme-coins

Intel said its new Agilex M-Series FPGAs offer the highest memory bandwidth in the industry, and it expects a wide range of applications to benefit, from cryptocurrency mining to network virtualization.

The Agilex M-Series, revealed by Intel on Monday, relies on high-bandwidth RAM in the form of two in-package HBM2e DRAM stacks to provide up to 820GBps in memory bandwidth, which is 60 percent higher than previous generation Stratix 10 MX FPGAs. With these two stacks, the new FPGA lineup can reach up to 32GB in high-bandwidth memory capacity.

When combining the Agilex M-Series' HBM2e memory with eight attached DDR5 SDRAM DIMMs, a system can theoretically deliver nearly 1.1TBps, according to Intel product marketer Sabrina Gomez.

The chipmaker is claiming other superlatives for the Agilex M-Series: the first FPGA to use the Intel 7 node, previously known as the company's 10nm SuperFin process; the first FPGA to support cache and memory coherency with Intel Xeon CPUs using the Compute Express Link interconnect standard; and the only FPGA to support DDR5, HBM and Intel Optane memories. In addition to CXL, the Agilex M-Series supports PCI Express Gen 5 and 400Gb Ethernet.

Intel said the Agilex M-Series also has the highest compute density for digital signal processing in an HBM-enabled FPGA, and it provides more than two times better fabric performance-per-watt compared to the Xilinx Versal FPGA, which rival AMD now owns as a result of its Xilinx acquisition.

What's more, the Agilex M-Series comes with a new kind of component called the Memory Network-on-Chip that "acts as a superhighway" between the FPGA's HBM2e DRAM and external DDR5 SDRAM.

"The dual Memory NoC's aggregate peak bandwidth is 7.52 [TBps] – a truly massive amount of on-chip bandwidth that consumes none of the FPGA's on-chip programmable logic resources – which greatly reduces the potential for a memory bottleneck," Gomez wrote in a blog post.

Intel told us it expects to start sampling the FPGAs with customers by the end of the year.

The Agilex Series-M is the second product in a month that Intel is touting for cryptocurrency mining, which has been criticized in part for its high-energy consumption. Less than a month ago, Intel revealed an energy-efficient ASIC for cryptocurrency mining called Bonanza Mine, which CEO Pat Gelsinger says will "dramatically" reduce energy use.

Beyond cryptocurrency mining and network virtualization, Intel is eyeing several other applications across different markets, including high-performance computing and cloud computing for data centers, radar and electronic warfare for aerospace and defense, as well as 5G cellular network tests and arbitrary waveform generators for the test and measurement industry.

"The abilities of the new Intel Agilex M-Series FPGAs provide the industry with the high-speed networking, computing, and storage acceleration required to meet ever more ambitious performance and capability goals for network, cloud, and embedded edge applications," Gomez wrote.

Intel's FPGA products represent the chipmaker's smallest business when excluding Mobileye, which the company plans to take public later this year. In 2021, the Programmable Solutions Group brought in $1.9bn in revenue, which is only a tiny fraction of the $74.7bn in revenue generated last year. ®

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