Electronic Design

Tiny SBC Builds Modular Systems

Smallest single-board computer distributes computing power via Ethernet.

Thanks to miniaturization, a PowerPC-based single-board computer (SBC) can be squeezed into a compact, 2.8- by 1.9-in. package. Nicknamed the Spider, this General Micro Systems SBC is available in two versions. The P501 uses a 400-MHz 440GP PowerPC processor from IBM. The P502 contains an 800-MHz 440GX CPU. Both are hot-swappable.

Each board features dual Ethernet links. The P501 uses Fast Ethernet, while the P502 has 1-Gbit Ethernet links. With this approach, distributed computing systems can be linked easily. In fact, the GMS C80x is a 6U CompactPCI board with eight Spiders. Also, the board's dual Ethernet switches link the tiny SBCs to a PICMG 2.16 switched backplane.

Spiders can spin in multiple SBCs on a carrier board as well as in industrial control. Their small size lets designers place them close to the data and control points so they don't have to bring this data back to a central processor.

The P501 needs passive cooling, drawing only 300 mA at 3.3 V. The boards have up to 256 Mbytes of double-data-rate SDRAM, 16 Mbytes of flash, and 32 kbytes of user flash. There are two serial ports, an I2C port, a real-time clock with battery backup, DMA, and a PCI interface. The boards can plug into a line of Lim I/O modules that provide connectors and additional peripherals.

Pricing for the P501 and P502 starts at $300 and $400, respectively. They support Linux and VxWorks.

General Micro Systems

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