Monday, March 7, 2011

CompactPCI Serial could do for PCI what VPX did for VME

Posted by John Keller.

There's a new embedded computing standard in town called CompactPCI Serial, which brings PCI embedded computing into the era of high-speed serial switch fabric networks, and has the potential to do for PCI embedded computing what VPX did for VME.

CompactPCI Serial (PICMG CPCI-S.0) was ratified just last week at the Embedded World conference and trade show in Nuremberg, Germany, and has been on the street for so little time, in fact, that the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), based in Wakefield, Mass., hasn't had a chance to put out a formal announcement yet on the new guidelines, says PICMG President Joe Pavlat.

CompactPCI Serial offers embedded computer manufacturers and users the same Eurocard mechanics as the parallel databus version of CompactPCI -- 6U and 3U card form factors, options for conduction cooling and rugged construction, and card locks. "Everything about the Eurocard architecture is the same," Pavlat says.

The evolution from parallel-databus CompactPCI to CompactPCI Serial is like comparing the design of a 15-year-old PC to a PC fresh out of the box, Pavlat says. The new standard simply brings PCI into the realm of modern computing.

Aerospace and defense systems designers -- particularly those working with CompactPCI -- have a big stake in CompactPCI Serial, Pavlat says. "Those who have designed CompactPCI into mil-and-aero apps have a clear upgrade path. It's a really nice upgrade path for CompactPCI."

Pavlat predicts that aerospace and defense systems designers in the near term most likely will rely on hybrid-backplane architectures that enable them to use parallel and serial CompactPCI boards and components in the same system. The new standard facilities the use of serial technologies like USB 3.0, SATA, CompactPCI lanes, and Ethernet in CompactPCI-based systems, he says.

MEN Micro Inc. in Ambler, Pa., was one of the first embedded computing manufacturers to introduce CompactPCI Serial products, and Pavlat says the industry can expect a bunch of new products to hit the market in the coming months.

Still, Pavlat cautions that CompactPCI Serial -- like other new technologies -- most likely will take five years from standard ratification to full deployment.

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