Tuesday, April 21, 2009

VME embedded computer industry buries the hatchet over VITA 46 VPX standard ... for now

Posted by John Keller

Cooler heads apparently have prevailed in the VME embedded computer industry in a dispute over how to ensure interoperability of VME bus technology pertaining to the VITA 46 VPX industry standard for high-speed serial interconnects in high-performance military, aerospace, and commercial embedded computing.

I had openly been fretting over a rift in the VPX standard groups that had threatened to tear the VME bus community apart. Apparently this VPX dispute has been settled, and it's none too soon. I'm frankly relieved to see tensions subside; I've been following the VMEbus industry for a long time -- 20 years, in fact -- and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances here for whom I have respect and affection. I just didn't want to see things get ugly, and I think we were headed down that road.

The fight erupted last January when several VME card providers founded the OpenVPX Industry Working Groupto formulate interoperability standards for VPX-based systems. Their intentions -- on the surface, at least -- were sound because these companies wanted to hurry the standards process along to build momentum in the market, especially with prime defense contractors who are eager to use the technology, but are frustrated by the lack of interoperability standards.

There were two problems with how the OpenVPX group got started, however. First, the group was operating outside of the VITA industry trade association, which caught many in this industry by surprise, because VITA is the traditional place for creating VME-related standards. Second -- and much more damaging -- was the OpenVPX group's failure to invite some influential VPX providers.

By getting started on the wrong foot this way, the OpenVPX group initially hurt feelings and caused suspicion. Make no mistake; there's bad blood in this industry, and the way the OpenVPX group got started -- noble though its goals may have been -- just made things a lot worse.

Some companies thought the rightful place to formulate VPX interoperability standards should have been VITA. The OpenVPX members thought VITA was too slow, too engineering-centric, and was not well structured to deal with business and time-to-market issues that they believed were core components of VPX interoperability problems.

Here's how members of the VME embedded computer industry set aside their differences: they created one industry organization that is masquerading as two organizations.

Within VITA, industry members created the VITA 65 working group. Meanwhile, the OpenVPX group invited everyone in the industry to join. The two organizations' goals and objectives are the same -- to come up with meaningful interoperability standards for VPX systems -- and all members have equal influence and voting privileges.

Next October, the OpenVPX group will dissolve, and all of its work transferred to the VITA 65 group, which will take it to the entire VITA membership for adoption. This sounds great, and I trust the goals will be achieved.

We have to remember something else, though. The old rivals in this industry are watching each other, perhaps more closely than they ever have. In the open, these companies are embracing with their right hands, but their left hands are clutching concealed daggers.

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