Two things were especially surprising to me. First, virtually every vendor who builds CompactPCI, which remains very popular, was showing CompactPCI Serial products – boards, chassis, and complete systems. We saw CompactPCI Serial gear in dozens of booths and it is fairly clear that this technology, which was developed largely in Europe, is being adopted more broadly than in the US or Asia. I believe it has become very popular because it builds on a trusted platform, CompactPCI, but is much faster using modern serial interfaces and can be built using regular CompactPCI I/O cards if that is required.
The CompactPCI Serial specification was released in March, 2011 and is being adopted more quickly than most embedded technologies, which usually take 5 years or so to reach widespread deployment.. The technical committee that developed the specification was headed by Manfred Schmitz of MEN Mikro and that committee is now ready to release Revision 2 of the spec, which will provide more flexibility by incorporating more user defined rear I/O pins and a more flexible way to use Ethernet, which can be used for external communications or to interconnect up to 8 CPUs in the same chassis.
The second thing that struck us was that COM Express seemed to be everywhere. There are dozens and dozens of small form factors in existence, but COM Express seems to be the most popular with the broadest support. That a mature organization like PICMG is managing its evolution, and not just a few companies, was mentioned by quite a few people. Most people we talked to believe the global market for COM Express boards is now in the 2-4 million units per year range. The development of Rugged Com Express, which provides surfaces on all four edges of the board to which a metal clamshell can be clamped, will further open up Com Express to more mil/aero/UAV and rugged industrial and transportation applications.