Blog

September 13, 2023

Fall 2023 State of PICMG – President’s brief

Jess Isquith

Welcome to the Fall 2023 PICMG Member Newsletter!

2023 has been one of the most prolific years in PICMG history. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far:

  1. Ratified COM-HPC 1.1
  2. Ratified Revision 3 of the base MicroTCA specification
  3. ModBlox7 (our new industrial box PC Specification) has completed the member review process (ratification expected by the end of the year)
  4. COM-HPC 1.2 (Mini) has completed the member review process (ratification expected by the end of the year)

Thank you to all the working group leaders and participants who contributed to the creation of new open hardware standards. Your work will continue the accelerated adoption of technology across industries. Your efforts have also contributed to the addition of more than twenty new members companies to the PICMG community.

The tremendous efforts of the technical working groups warranted an increase in PICMG’s technical marketing capabilities. We have added a second marketing officer to our ranks, Brandon Lewis, who is working in tandem with the elected marketing officer, Valerie Andrews. We have also established a marketing council comprised of experts from each specification working group who have deep knowledge of the PICMG organization. Council members work with the officers to define strategic promotions for PICMG and its specifications.

PICMG marketing initiatives have thus far included securing a conference track at Embedded World 2024 in Nuremberg (paper submissions due 9/29), the re-launching of this newsletter, unified messaging and branding work, and the creation of a virtual PICMG Implementers’ Forum, and more.

We encourage all members to participate in PICMG technical and marketing activities and engage the officers with questions and new ideas.

With so much going on already in 2023, I can’t wait to see what we accomplish over the rest of the year.

Jess Isquith

President, PICMG

March 12, 2023

A Fresh Look at CompactPCI Serial

Industry NewsNewsPICMG

A Fresh Look at CompactPCI Serial

Contributors: Dolphin, EKF, Elma Electronic and PICMG’s president

CompactPCI Serial has been around for many years. It’s enjoyed notable success in a diverse set of rugged embedded industries thanks to its modularity, scalability and cost efficiencies, especially in more complex application environments. We believe it’s a modular, open standard that has great application opportunities in applications where it can withstand most tough environmental requirements. After all, it’s widely used in the railway and transportation industry.

We asked a few CompactPCI Serial community members the following question, and this blog is the result of their shared thoughts.

Q: What are some aspects that engineers should know about when evaluating CompactPCI Serial as a potential system architecture?

Jess Isquith, President, PICMG

CompactPCI Serial is alive and thriving! In fact, the active technical working group addresses increased high-speed I/O, processing, and system management requirements. New applications and products are regularly introduced to strengthen the ecosystem, and the level of collaboration between PICMG members working on the specification and in industry has been remarkable.

Thanks to all of this, the CompactPCI Serial standard has become a popular platform for various applications requiring modularity, high performance, and symmetric multi-processing.

Recent enhancements include the cPCI Serial Space specification, which the European Space Association (ESA) adopted for many applications. As a result, over twenty European space agencies have acquired the specification and are incorporating cPCI Serial Space-compliant components in their systems. This development will ensure decades of deployment.

This current level of adoption and momentum ensures that the CompactPCI community will see continued success in various transportation, medical, industrial control/automation, communications, robotics and space applications.

On the PICMG website, you can learn about the many CompactPCI Serial reference materials and view the member product directory, which has over 140 standard product listings from over fifteen companies. https://www.picmg.org/openstandards/compactpci-serial/

Herman Paraison, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Dolphin Interconnect Solutions

System engineers evaluating potential system architectures should consider the new capabilities of CompactPCI Serial.  Those developing complex systems can now use CompactPCI Serial to not only connect I/O components, but also multiple processors and more.  With the introduction of new CompactPCI Serial advanced PCIe switch modules, larger, more complex topologies can be created, which will have increased performance and lower latency.

New features such as processor-to-processor communication, I/O sharing, scaling multiple chassis with copper and fiber cabling are now available.  You will also be able to connect a CompactPCI Serial chassis to standard servers, increasing the processing power and scalability of CompactPCI Serial topologies.  System engineers can envision heterogenous environments with multiple processor and high-speed I/O based on CompactPCI Serial systems.

A key component enabling these new system architectures is the introduction of PCI Express (PCIe) software to CompactPCI Serial systems.  PCIe software is designed to enable communication between processors, SoCs, FPGAs, NVMe drives and other components.  For example, Dolphin’s standard PCIe software package, eXpressWare, includes APIs for shared memory, sockets, TCP/IP, and sharing as well as provides a standard interface to lower-level standard PCIe hardware.

Several new system architectures are now available to system engineers looking for scalability or increased processing within a CompactPCI serial format. Let’s say an engineer combines Elma CompactPCI Serial modules and chassis with Dolphin’s CompactPCI Serial switch.  The resulting system can use eXpressWare to communicate between processors, hot-add components within or to a CompactPCI Serial chassis as well as share components between multiple processors inside or outside these chassis.

The rugged, modular, scalable and cost-effective nature of CompactPCI Serial combined with these new capabilities, creates a powerful platform for system engineering evaluating potential new platforms.  And we expect these capabilities to increase in time as CompactPCI Serial continues to evolve. https://www.dolphinics.com

Wolfgang Wiest, Channel Manager, EKF

CompactPCI Serial is one of the most, if not the most, modular standard for embedded applications. Its robust features make it suitable for harsh markets like transportation and heavy vehicles, but it is still cost-effective enough to be a good alternative in more complex industrial and IIoT applications.

With its modularity, robustness and versatility, CompactPCI Serial offers many advantages. In principle, the broad ecosystem and the defined consistent compatibility of the CompactPCI Serial standard make it possible to combine many different boards from different manufacturers.

These advantages can bring with them challenges, as well, especially in the initial phase of system development. However, with the right bridging options, such as those offered by EKF, it‘s possible to accommodate different technologies, e.g. PCI Express and CompactPCI Serial, in a hybrid system.

The connection of CompactPCI and CompactPCI Serial has always been provided by the CompactPCI PlusIO bridge standard. But for all the well thought-out and forward-looking compatibility between cards from different manufacturers and technologies, it still takes an element of experience to bring all this together in a functioning system and guarantee smooth operation.

 

Many things are possible with CompactPCI Serial, but for certain implementations – especially those that are more complex or have high degrees of customization – be sure to have a strong partners as part of your development team, ones nimble enough to manage special application requirements. EKF values its ability to be this type of partner, and together with a broad partner network, the decision to implement a CompactPCI Serial system offers many more advantages than a less modular standard.  To see EKF’s full range of products: https://www.ekf.de.

David Caserza, Embedded Computing Architect Manager, Elma Electronic Inc.

CompactPCI Serial is a very economical, easy-to-use, robust computing standard.  It utilizes Eurocard packaging standards, which have been popular for decades, and been proven effective, when modular, rugged computing is required.  It supports both multi-processor as well as processor plus multiple-peripheral configurations and should be considered for new designs as well as when there is a need to migrate from legacy CPCI or even VME systems.

CompactPCI Serial backplanes are designed with dedicated slot-to-slot connections for PCIe, SATA, USB, Ethernet and other required connections.  The wide variety of plug-in-cards (PICs) also follows these standards, thereby making hardware integration very easy.  The use of Eurocard packaging standards enables the chassis and boards to all fit together nicely, both during initial build and when performing maintenance or upgrade operations.  This modular approach carries the often-important benefit of keeping the mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) low.

There are single-star and full-mesh backplanes available.  With single-star, one processor board can enumerate and communicate with several peripheral boards and with full-mesh, several processor boards can be connected to one another via Ethernet.  These topology options make CPCI Serial a good choice for replacing legacy CPCI and VME systems, as many of those older systems were often built using a single board computer with multiple peripheral boards or with a cluster of processor boards networked together.

The Eurocard mechanical form factor of CompactPCI Serial also offers the benefit of a very mature packaging ecosystem, where chassis of all types are readily available.  These can range from tabletop and portable to 19-inch rack-mount and other shapes and sizes suitable for a variety of markets including:  industrial, semiconductor processing, medical, transportation, test/instrumentation, military and others. https://bit.ly/cpcis-products.

CompactPCI Serial is a modern computing technology suitable for solving challenging demands in a wide variety of markets and applications.

Blog courtesy of Elma

March 12, 2023

PICMG COM-HPC Mini working group reaches key milestone in record time

NewsPICMG

COM-HPC Mini pinout and footprint defined

WAKEFIELD, MA., USA. PICMG, a leading consortium for the development of open embedded computing specifications, announces that the COM-HPC committee has finalized the pinout and dimension definitions for the COM-HPC Mini form factor in record time. This means that the vast majority of the details of the COM-HPC Mini standard have been defined and documentation has already begun. Reaching this critical milestone enables PICMG members to start design work on compliant modules so that embedded OEMs and developers will have access to an elaborated ecosystem shortly after specification launch. The outstanding performance of the 15 member companies in the COM-HPC Mini working group reflects the high market relevance and demand for a high-performance credit-card-sized Computer-on-Modules standard. Only 12 weeks passed between the approved Statement of Work and the final definition of the mechanics and pinout by the working group.
“The definition of COM-HPC Mini is happening almost at the speed of light. If the working group maintains this performance, and I see no reason to slow it down as there are no significant technical challenges left to address, I am confident to have a release candidate available for the PICMG release process in Q1 2023, and a published specification by Q2 2023. I anticipate first product announcements will be closely tied to the publication date,” explains Christian Eder, Chairman of the COM-HPC technical committee and Director Product Marketing at congatec.
“The ‘HPC’ in COM-HPC stands for ‘High-Performance Computing’ but we now use it to refer to the ‘High-Performance Crew’ developing the COM-HPC family of specifications. The team’s performance is keeping pace with the rapidly changing embedded applications and technologies,” adds Jessica Isquith, PICMG President.
Details on COM-HPC Mini
The COM-HPC Mini pinout specification defines the use of one connector instead of the two implemented for the larger COM-HPC Client and Server modules (Sizes A -E), just like COM Express Mini compared to COM Express Type 6. But with COM-HPC, half the number of signal pins still means 400 signal lanes, which equals 90% of the capacity that COM Express Type 6 modules provide. COM-HPC Mini offers a 50% smaller footprint compared to COM-HPC Client Size A modules, the currently smallest available COM-HPC form factor. Such extremely small modules measuring only 60 x 95 mm are required for high-end embedded computer logic in devices such as top-hat rail PCs for control cabinets in building and industrial automation, or portable test and measurement devices. In addition, the new specification will enable engineers to integrate state-of-the-art computer interface technologies such as PCIe Gen4 and Gen5 into ultra-small processing units that provide highest performance. As the new specification will come with a focused high-performance pinout and will comply with the entire COM-HPC ecosystem, it is expected to become the high-end standard on top of the PICMG’s earlier COM Express Mini standard. PICMG expects the COM Express specification to continue leading the COM market for many years as it meets numerous standard application requirements now to be allocated in the mid-range performance sector.

The working group comprises 15 member companies and is sponsored by ADLINK, Kontron and congatec. Christian Eder of congatec is the Chairman and Stefan Milner is the specification Editor.

For more information on COM-HPC, visit www.picmg.org/openstandards/com-hpc or purchase the specification for $750 from www.picmg.org/product/com-hpc-module-base-specification-revision-1-15.
More on PICMG’s range of open, modular computing standards can be found at 
www.picmg.org.

About PICMG
Founded in 1994, PICMG is a not-for-profit 501(c) consortium of companies and organizations that collaboratively develop open standards for high performance industrial, Industrial IoT, military & aerospace, telecommunications, test & measurement, medical, and general-purpose embedded computing applications. There are over 130 member companies that specialize in a wide range of technical disciplines, including mechanical and thermal design, single board computer design, high-speed signaling design and analysis, networking expertise, backplane, and packaging design, power management, high availability software and comprehensive system management.
Key standards families developed by PICMG include COM-HPC, COM Express, ModBlox7, IoT.1, CompactPCI, AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA, AdvancedMC, CompactPCI Serial, COM Express, SHB Express, MicroSAM, and HPM (Hardware Platform Management). For more information visit 
www.picmg.org.

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Jessica Isquith, President

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www.picmg.org

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