MicroTCA® Overview

microtcaMicroTCA® is a modular, open standard for building high microtca1-348x232performance switched fabric computer systems in a small form factor. At its core are standard Advanced Mezzanine Cards (AMC’s – described here: AdvancedMC) which provide processing and I/O functions. Hundreds of different AMC’s are commercially available. MicroTCA systems are both physically smaller and less expensive than AdvancedTCA systems, although their internal architectures are largely the same. MicroTCA was originally intended for smaller telecom systems at the edge of the network but has moved into many non-telecom applications, with standardized, ruggedized versions becoming popular in mobile, military, telemetry, data acquisition, and avionics applications. These versions are described below.

The core specification, MTCA.0, defines the basic system, including backplane, card cage, cooling, power, and management. A variety of different sized AMC modules are supported, allowing the system designer to use as much or as little computing and I/O as necessary. Subsidiary specifications (MTCA.1, MTCA.2, MTCA.3 and MTCA.4) define more ruggedized versions specifically suited for mil/aero and other demanding physical environments. These designs have been verified through thorough rigorous environmental testing and the test reports are available.

Because of its modularity and flexibility, the MicroTCA standards are well-suited for a wide range of applications, including industrial control and automation, test & measurement, mobile and fixed mil/aero, avionics, traffic control and transportation, and telecom.

Short Form Specification

Key Benefits and Features

  • Provides computer architecture consistent with Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) principles for reduced life cycle costs
  • Defines fully redundant and non-redundant system configurations including power budgeting and hot-swap
  • Defines complete component and system management that allow failure detection and isolation (enhanced hardware platform management).

Family of Specifications

MicroTCA (MTCA.0)
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

MicroTCA (MTCA.0)

Rev 1.0 2006-07-06

Core specification defining common system elements, including backplane, power, cooling, system management, etc..

Air Cooled Rugged MicroTCA (MTCA.1)
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

Air Cooled Rugged MicroTCA (MTCA.1)

Rev 1.0 2009-03-19

Defines ruggedized version for exterior and mobile communications applications

Hardened Air Cooled MicroTCA (MTCA.2)
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

Hardened Air Cooled MicroTCA (MTCA.2)

Rev 1.0 2013-05-01

Defines a hardened version of MicroTCA for use in rugged environments typical of outside plant telecom; machine and transport industry; and military airborne, shipboard and ground mobile applications.

Hardened Conduction Cooled MicroTCA (MTCA.3)
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

Hardened Conduction Cooled MicroTCA (MTCA.3)

Rev 2.0

Defines a hardened version for commercial and mil/aero and avionics ruggedized applications.

MicroTCA Enhancements for Rear I/O and Precision Timing (MTCA.4)
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

MicroTCA Enhancements for Rear I/O and Precision Timing (MTCA.4)

Rev 1.0 2011-08-22

As an enhancement to MTCA.0, the base specification for the Micro Telecommunications Computing Architecture, the MicroTCA.4 specification defines an addition rear I/O area for specialized AdvancedMC™ devices and a corresponding rear transition module, called a MicroRTM.

The MicroTCA.4specification also includes extension of the platform management to allow these new resources to be accurately managed by the system, as well as specialized interconnects for control and distribution of high speed timing resources used by synchronous data acquisition applications.

MicroTCA.4 was originally created for the High Energy Physics community, but it is well-suited for a wide range of applications where RTMs/IO and synchronous data acquisition is required.

As it introduces rear I/O capabilities which offer larger real estate, MTCA.4 closes gap between AdvancedTCA and MicroTCA.

Key Benefits and Features 

  • Provides computer architecture consistent with Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) principles for reduced life-cycle costs, quicker time-to-market and a vast ecosystem from multiple vendor sources.
  • Provides high-speed synchronous data acquisition for applications where precision timing is essential.
  • Allows swapping of front modules while rear modules are engaged.
  • Provides user with more I/O options.
  • Provides ability to extend system backplane capabilities beyond standard MicroTCA backplanes by additional backplanes for MicroRTMs.

Target Industries/Applications

  • High Energy Physics
  • Research/Lab
  • Video Processing
  • Energy Exploration
  • Defense
  • Homeland Security


Target Applications

  • Industrial control
  • Mil/Aero/Avionics
  • Automation
  • Medical
  • Communication
  • Transportation
  • High-Energy & Nuclear Physics
  • Test and Measurement
  • Telemetry

System Requirements

A basic system consists of a backplane, enclosure, power supply, fabric switch board, management software, and one-to-many AMC processing and I/O modules. Full redundancy is supported with automatic switching in the event of individual module failure.