Comprehensive Evaluation of OpenCL-based Convolutional Neural Network Accelerators in Xilinx and Altera FPGAs

R. Tapiador, A. Rios-Navarro, A. Linares-Barranco, Minkyu Kim, Deepak Kadetotad, Jae-sun Seo
Robotic and Technology of Computers Lab., University of Seville, Seville, Spain
arXiv:1609.09296 [cs.CV], (29 Sep 2016)


   title={Comprehensive Evaluation of OpenCL-based Convolutional Neural Network Accelerators in Xilinx and Altera FPGAs},

   author={Tapiador, R. and Rios-Navarro, A. and Linares-Barranco, A. and Kim, Minkyu and Kadetotad, Deepak and Seo, Jae-sun},






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Deep learning has significantly advanced the state of the art in artificial intelligence, gaining wide popularity from both industry and academia. Special interest is around Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN), which take inspiration from the hierarchical structure of the visual cortex, to form deep layers of convolutional operations, along with fully connected classifiers. Hardware implementations of these deep CNN architectures are challenged with memory bottlenecks that require many convolution and fully-connected layers demanding large amount of communication for parallel computation. Multi-core CPU based solutions have demonstrated their inadequacy for this problem due to the memory wall and low parallelism. Many-core GPU architectures show superior performance but they consume high power and also have memory constraints due to inconsistencies between cache and main memory. FPGA design solutions are also actively being explored, which allow implementing the memory hierarchy using embedded BlockRAM. This boosts the parallel use of shared memory elements between multiple processing units, avoiding data replicability and inconsistencies. This makes FPGAs potentially powerful solutions for real-time classification of CNNs. Both Altera and Xilinx have adopted OpenCL co-design framework from GPU for FPGA designs as a pseudo-automatic development solution. In this paper, a comprehensive evaluation and comparison of Altera and Xilinx OpenCL frameworks for a 5-layer deep CNN is presented. Hardware resources, temporal performance and the OpenCL architecture for CNNs are discussed. Xilinx demonstrates faster synthesis, better FPGA resource utilization and more compact boards. Altera provides multi-platforms tools, mature design community and better execution times.
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