After an upbeat Bus and Board show in 2006, I was looking forward to some interesting news at this year's show (Fig. 1). I was not disappointed. Some of the sessions could have used a topic redirect, but others were spot on, like P.A. Semiconductor's low power PWRficient family of 64-bit multicore processors that are finally making it onto silicon. The sessions are online at the Bus and Board website. Check out Paul Zorfass' "Critical Perspectives for Embedded Applications and Solutions." He does a better job with the numbers than I do here.
New technologies like VPX and Serial Rapid IO (SRIO) were high on people's lists, but older technologies like VME and CompactPCI had their share of new product announcements as well. These remain the bulk of shipments even now, as Curtiss-Wright Embedded Computing was showing off the first shipping VPX-based system (Fig. 2). VPX systems are sporting both SRIO and Ethernet links were being shown or announced at the show. It is just getting started but it offers one of the highest performance platforms around.
What should really be hot this year is VXS, the mix fabric/VME system. This standard offers compatibility with VME and access to high speed serial interfaces. Surprisingly, the high speed serial interfaces are not always for fabrics. I/O links via PCI Express or other high-speed serial interfaces that are often used to connect a single-board computer (SBC) to peripherals. Gigabit Ethernet is often used for a control plane interface and sometimes for data plane work when providing network infrastructure support.
What Wasn't At Bus And Board
Don't look for Advanced Switching, the PCI Express-based fabric. It's long gone, leaving SRIO, InfiniBand, 10Gig Ethernet and virtualized PCI Express to handle connectivity chores for high performance systems. Obviously SRIO and 10Gig Ethernet had a high profile at Bus and Board and I had some backroom discussions about virtualized PCI Express. InfiniBand tends to show up in other arenas, though some of the Bus and Board vendors dabble in it.
CompactPCI Express (CPCIe) was a no show at the show as well, but this is more due to its newness than because of the competition. Many of those using CompactPCI do not need the performance that CPCIe offers, yet. Also, 3U VPX and MicroTCA are garnering interest; there is major support for these form factors.
And What Was
Liquid cooling is still being used, but not much was being shown this year. Improvements in convection cooling by companies like Tracewell Systems (Fig. 3) are kicking up the amount of heat a system can generate without resorting to esoteric liquid cooling approaches.
Other general trends include adoption of new interfaces like SATA (Serial ATA) and SAS (serial attached SCSI) disk drives and flash memory storage. Large flash drives are starting to become common on the consumer side and this is rolling over to embedded applications. Of course, rugged flash requirements are more demanding, but non-rotating storage has a strong draw for these applications. Check out ACT/Technico's PMCStor secure flash storage.
One item that seems to be slow on the uptake is USB. It is common in SBCs for keyboard and mouse interfaces, but it is rarely found elsewhere. On the other hand, IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) is one interface that is standard for platforms like Advanced TCA (ATCA) and MicroTCA. IPMI software is getting more sophisticated with the added bonus of tie-ins to high availability middleware and system management software. Emerson's SpiderWareM3 platform management was being shown for MicroTCA systems. The M3 stands for Monitor, Manage and Maintain. It can handle multiple AdvancedMC (AMC) blades residing in multiple MicroTCA chassis.
I saw a number of other new products at the show. Check out the EiED Online Reviews for more details on these. There is something for everyone.