At its core, adaptive computing comprises silicon hardware that can be highly optimized for specific applications. This optimization occurs after the hardware is manufactured and can be repeated an almost infinite number of times.
Because hardware can be updated after production deployment, operational systems can adapt to new requirements without needing new hardware to be installed.
Just like a production CPU can be given a new program to run, an adaptive platform can be given a new hardware configuration to adapt to, even in a live, production setting. The term adaptive platform refers to any type of product or solution that has adaptive hardware at its core.
Adaptive platforms include much more than just the silicon hardware / device; however, they also provide comprehensive software development tools and accelerated APIs. In addition, adaptive platforms can include deployment-ready solutions such as the Alveo Data Center acceleration card.
In a fixed silicon device such as an Application-Specific Standard Product (ASSP), or even a CPU, the function of the device is defined upfront and that exact, fixed hardware function is then manufactured. If you need to change the function, you need to manufacture new hardware.
The principles of adaptive computing were established in 1984 when Ross Freeman brought his idea for FPGAs to life with the founding of Xilinx.
Although adaptive computing is built on top of FPGA technology, it has grown to encompass a great deal more, including new types of adaptive hardware such as Xilinx’s AI Engine.
The ability to have the hardware function changed after manufacturing led to the FP, or "Field Programmable" in FPGA. It means the hardware can be programmed in the field after deployment into its production environment.
The "GA" in FPGA refers to Gate Array, which describes a blank canvas of hardware capable of being configured into a multitude of different functions.
Adaptive computing platforms have come a long way since the days of gate arrays, but the concept is still a valid way to explain how the underlying technology works.
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