Electronic Design

System OEM, Chip Maker Begin Push For Interconnect Standard

The networking explosion has provoked a greater demand for higher bandwidth within embedded computer systems. That's why Mercury Computer Systems, Chelmsford, Mass., is collaborating with Motorola and other companies to create the RapidIO switched-fabric interconnect architecture and standard.

This technology enables chip-to-chip and board-to-board communications at performance levels that scale from over a gigabyte per second per port to an aggregate of hundreds of gigabytes per second in a single system. Unlike system-to-system protocols, the RapidIO Architecture provides the high bandwidth and the low latency required for intrasystem communications. It also is designed to fit inside a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), with room to spare for additional functionality.

Because of these qualities, the RapidIO architecture promises lower costs, increased bandwidth, and shorter development cycles. Larger embedded markets—such as networking and wireless communications and high-performance digital-signal and image-processing applications—should especially benefit from its increased connectivity and throughput. Specifically, these applications include digital video broadcasting, diagnostic imaging, radar, sonar, signals intelligence, and semiconductor wafer inspection.

The broad adoption and availability of RapidIO would let companies take advantage of a standard specification and off-the-shelf components. That way, they wouldn't have to develop their own proprietary solutions. Also, many of today's multiprocessing systems gain their speed from the switched-fabric chips and boards inside them. RapidIO, however, would put this power in a tiny corner of a single chip.

Mercury's involvement won't end with the architecture's creation, though. The company also hopes that the newly formed RapidIO Trade Association will drive the adoption of the interconnect as an open industry standard. So far, networking equipment providers Cisco, Lucent, and Nortel have joined the association, along with several other companies. This group will focus its efforts on maintaining and promoting the RapidIO interconnect standard.

For more information, point your browser to www.mc.com/RapidIO, or www.RapidIO.org.

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