In recent years, two seemingly conflicting technology trends have affected many rugged embedded aerospace and defense applications. First, system designers have witnessed rapidly increasing requirements for processing speed, bandwidth, and distributed processing through the adoption of serial fabrics. Meanwhile, size, weight, and power (SWaP) are critical design considerations for emerging applications such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and technology-insertion upgrades of already crowded existing platforms.
Previously, system integrators who were confronted with these competing demands had to compromise their design or turn to proprietary and costly integration options. The lack of an openstandard, high-performance, small-form-factor board architecture constrained the choices.
Until now, 3U CompactPCI (cPCI) represented the best option for a small-form-factor board. However, a six-slot, 32-bit cPCI bus is limited to a maximum transfer rate of 33 MHz or 133 Mbytes/s. Also, implementing a switched serial fabric such as Serial RapidIO (SRIO) or PCI Express (PCIe) requires the use of serial-to-parallel bridge conversion chips. While 3U cPCI remains a good solution for many embedded applications, a better solution has emerged for demanding high-performance systems.
3U VPX, the small-form-factor variant of the new VPX (VITA 46) and VPX-REDI (VITA 48) open standards, can satisfy both sides of the seemingly incompatible demands for more performance from smaller cards. VPX’s MultiGig RT2 connector significantly raises the performance bar, with support for 4 to 5 Gbytes/s for eight fabric lanes of SRIO or PCIe. With the advent of 3U VPX, the days of rugged small-form-factor compromise are over.