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19 July 2010 Heterogeneous real-time computing in radio astronomy
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Modern computer architectures suited for general purpose computing are often not the best choice for either I/O-bound or compute-bound problems. Sometimes the best choice is not to choose a single architecture, but to take advantage of the best characteristics of different computer architectures to solve your problems. This paper examines the tradeoffs between using computer systems based on the ubiquitous X86 Central Processing Units (CPU's), Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based signal processors, and Graphical Processing Units (GPU's). We will show how a heterogeneous system can be produced that blends the best of each of these technologies into a real-time signal processing system. FPGA's tightly coupled to analog-to-digital converters connect the instrument to the telescope and supply the first level of computing to the system. These FPGA's are coupled to other FPGA's to continue to provide highly efficient processing power. Data is then packaged up and shipped over fast networks to a cluster of general purpose computers equipped with GPU's, which are used for floating-point intensive computation. Finally, the data is handled by the CPU and written to disk, or further processed. Each of the elements in the system has been chosen for its specific characteristics and the role it can play in creating a system that does the most for the least, in terms of power, space, and money.
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John M. Ford, Paul Demorest, and Scott Ransom "Heterogeneous real-time computing in radio astronomy", Proc. SPIE 7740, Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy, 77400A (19 July 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.857666;

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