So you want to turn a network-based micro into a product, and your boss wants it done yesterday? No problem. Chip vendors like Freescale and Cirrus Logic are going to make your job much easier. Their solutions are platforms that build on their chips but surround them with reference designs and software that can address 90% of your product needs. Mix in peripherals, an enclosure, and some custom applications, and get ready to ship.
Plenty of platform vendors do the same kind of thing, but getting closer to the source is becoming more common. This approach already dominates the Internet gateway market. Now it's moving into other areas, like network attached storage (NAS) and integrated platforms like Freescale's MPC8349E mITX Office-in-a-Box (Fig. 1).
Freescale has teamed up with Jungo to deliver an impressive array of hardware and software components. Freescale's hardware is built around the 32-bit MPC8349 microcontroller with hardware encryption, dual Ethernet media access controllers, and USB host, device, and OTG (On-the-Go) support. The platform includes a Gigabit Ethernet switch, four Serial ATA ports, PCI, mini-PCI, Compact Flash, and voice sockets—all in a standard Mini-ITX form factor.
Jungo's software platform takes advantage of the hardware to provide a menu of features, from firewall and NAS support to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) private branch exchange and virtual private network support. There are even options for antivirus and antispam processing.
Cirrus Logic's EDB9315A is less expensive, but it's targeted more at the NAS market (Fig. 2). Its $295 development kit features Linux support, including a preconfigured Samba server, hot-plug RAID support, and auto backup with Web-based management. Its line of ARM9 microcontrollers, like the EP9312, can deliver a range of features, including audio and video support. Its built-in IDE, USB, and Ethernet controllers can cut costs by over $10 compared to other chips.
Keep an eye on EIED Online at www.electronicdesign.com for a hands-on look at these platforms.