It's time for MicroTCA to grow, at least in volume. The PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) approved the standard for the MicroTCA architecture this summer, and the availability of advanced mezzanine cards (AMCs) is accelerating. AMCs already have been used because they're part of the AdvancedTCA standard, where AMCs are plugged into AdvancedTCA carrier boards.
While MicroTCA is hot in communications now, it also suits a range of embedded applications that can take advantage of its high-speed fabric. Its small size coupled with its low cost and high volume make it very interesting for video applications as well as high-performance data-processing applications.
MicroTCA only has a single system management fabric compared to AdvancedTCA's dual redundant system management system, though. But even a single system is more than many other bus standards employ, making MicroTCA ideal in a managed environment. And, more products continue to arrive.
Elma Bustronic's 14-slot MicroTCA backplane implements a single-star topology for any of the standard high-speed serial fabrics such as Serial RapidIO (see the figure). A dual-star version also is available.
Emerson Network Power's 12-slot MicroTCA development system incorporates the company's Fat Pipe switch module. The Fat Pipe is based on Tundra Semiconductor's Tsi568A Serial RapidIO Switch chip, which has an aggregate bandwidth of 80 Gbits/s.
AMC processor boards are readily available, supporting a range of processors and DSPs. Products like Mercury Computer's AXA-100 AMC can take advantage of this bandwidth. It supports the Intel Core Duo processor L2400 an optional Xilinx Virtex-4 FPGA.
This arena is definitely one to watch. It's also worth a closer look if you need high performance in a small package.