Programmers are increasingly turning to heterogeneous systems to achieve performance. Examples include FPGA-based systems that integrate reconfigurable architectures with conventional processors. However, the burden of managing the coding complexity that is intrinsic to these systems falls entirely on the programmer. This limits the proliferation of these systems as only highly-skilled programmers and FPGA developers can unlock their potential. The goal of the Liquid Metal project at IBM Research is to address the programming complexity attributed to heterogeneous FPGA-based systems. A feature of this work is a vertically integrated development lifecycle that appeals to skilled software developers. A primary enabler for this work is a canonical IP bridge, designed to offer a uniform communication methodology between software and hardware, and that is applicable across a wide range of platforms available off-the-shelf. © 2013 IEEE.