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the Connection Options for Embedded
The Incredible Shrinking Server Blade Safety Certification Easing the Path
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the Connection Options for Embedded
42 Latest Xeon Processors on New 6U cPCI Boards
44 Dual-Channel PoCL Frame Grabber Supports 64-bit Addressing
47 ATCA Quad-Core Node Blade Features Latest Intel Microarchitecture
The Incredible Shrinking Server Blade
Safety Certification—Easing the Path
The Incredible Shrinking Blade 6Editorial 12 “At No Time Do the Fingers Leave the Server: New Possibilities beyond Hand” the Data Center Insider 8Industry Latest Developments in the Embedded Marketplace
Small Form Factor Forum Standards: The Bedrock of the Small Form Factor Community
Products & Technology Newest Embedded Technology Used by Industry Leaders
David Pursley, Kontron
Industry Insight USB in Embedded
3.0 Boosts Speed 10x, Broadens Embedded-Systems 16 USB Applicability
Adrian Braine and Ben Papps, PLX Technology
20 and StackableUSB: Enabling Efficiency and Scaling for 26 USB Embedded Designs USB I/O for the Embedded OEM
the Demand for COTS Safe and Secure Certification Evidence 38Meeting Randy Kyte and Rick Hearn, Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing
Xeon Processors on New 6U 42Latest cPCI Boards Concurrent Technologies
Suite Provides End-to-End 43Tool Software Verification LDRA
Stephen Newbegin, ACCES I/O Products
Susan Wooley, Inter Stackable Standards Group
Offers Many Choices for Use 32 USB in Embedded Systems Yingbo Hu and Ralph Moore, Micro Digital
Digital Subscriptions Avaliable at http://rtcmagazine.com/home/subscribe.php RTC MAGAZINE MAY 2009
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MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
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from CM Computers pushes the limits of conducƟon cooling to meet the demand for low weight, stand alone advanced COTS military systems. Expressly designed to compete against unpracƟcal liquid cooled chassis alternaƟves, up to 150+ WaƩs per slot can be cooled to 85ºC at card edge whilst providing further signicant advantages. The SixHex is available in a single pack ½, ¾ and 1 ATR soluƟon with 5, 7 & 12 slot sizes, also incorporaƟng all standard features and innovaƟons established in previous CM Series (S, SEF, HES & FAC). Our fourth generaƟon SixHex is perfectly suited to forthcoming true military systems that require lighƟng thermal performance and uncompromising reliability. This series features an opƟonal Microcontroller Supervisory Unit that monitors all relevant electrical & environmental chassis operaƟonal parameters. - Contaminant-free enclosure - VPX, VME & cPCI ready - Accepts ConducƟon & Air-cooled 6Us - Flexible top & boƩom I/O wiring - Integrated Temperature Control Unit - Six internal Heat Exchangers - Up to 3.6 m² thermo-acƟve surface - Up to 1.8 KW total Power DissipaƟon - Up to 150 W per slot - DramaƟcally increases payload MTBF - 2 User dened PSU DC outputs - 20ºC less than heat exchanger ATRs - 45ºC less than convenƟonal ATRs - Customizable to specic requirements
All our chassis products are delivered Tested and Certified by independent authorized Labs per MIL-STD-461E & MIL-STD-810F for immediate deployment in US Navy & US Air Force military Fighters and Helicopters.
EDITORIAL may 2009
Tom Williams Editor-in-Chief
am by no means an expert on security, but I do claim to have a fairly good nose for razzle-dazzle. Now, by that I do not exactly mean dishonesty, but rather the phenomenon where a given phrase or catch word is used as a claim or marketing meme without being actually understood by either the customer or the marketer. Prolonged use often makes such terms and concepts so entrenched that they are seldom, if ever, questioned. In the world of computer security, this appears to be happening with what are known as the “Common Criteria” and the associated Evaluation Assurance Levels (EALs). EALs run from Level 1 to Level 7 and there is a common misconception that having a product evaluated to EAL 4 or 6 or whatever is synonymous with a level of actual security against intrusion, decryption, etc. It is not. While this is a very complex area, it is important to remember that there are basically two aspects. There are evaluation levels and then there are claims about security
says, “Our product has been evaluated to EAL4,” I usually say, “Well, so has Microsoft Windows. Are you telling me your product is every bit as secure as Windows?” Then it’s “Er, well, no. What we mean is . . .” EAL4 is described as, “methodically designed, tested and reviewed.” What the Common Criteria say about EAL4 is, “EAL4 is the highest level at which it is likely to be economically feasible to retrofit to an existing product line.” In other words, getting your product evaluated to higher levels of assurance is not cheap. It involves significant costs in both time and money. EAL7 is the highest level, involves formal mathematical proof and has only been done for one product. But does that mean that a level of EAL4 is only as secure as Windows? Absolutely not. Depending on the protection profile in the ST and the security functional requirements that are provided by the product, it may very well be quite secure. All that EAL4 means is that the assurance that the profile and the security requirements are actually valid has been verified (and in many cases certified) to that level of confidence (assurance). By ludicrous example, it would be theoretically possible to claim in the ST document that your product boots 75 percent of the time, have that formally verified to EAL7 and go around claiming you’re EAL7. Obviously, nobody would waste the time or money on such a thing. On the other hand, there are certainly products out there that offer very high and specialized levels of actual security, but have only been evaluated to EAL4. In many cases the customer can satisfy his or her concerns by a careful review of the ST and protection profile and confidently use the product. But you can’t do it just by relying on EAL with some number following it. Also, it is important to remember that the implementation of cryptography within the product is not covered by the Common Criteria. Other national standards like FIPS 104-2 deal with specifications for cryptographic modules while yet other standards are concerned with cryptographic algorithms. In cases where security is a vital part of a design goal, it is important to look beyond what anybody may claim and take a hard look at what has been validated and to what degree. After all, there is no such thing as absolute security. There are only levels that we can convince ourselves to be comfortable with.
“At No Time Do the Fingers Leave the Hand” that are evaluated to one of those levels. One doesn’t mean much without the other. Add to that the fact that some of the criteria to which products are evaluated are undergoing certain revisions by the government and things can really get murky. Basically, a product is evaluated against a document known as the Security Target (ST), which often includes a governmentvalidated protection profile (i.e., what is actually being claimed as to what is secure and how secure it is) along with functional requirements contained in the product and assurance criteria that are evaluated to a given assurance level. These evaluations are not done by the government itself but rather by accredited, licensed and approved evaluation facilities. The National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) manages the Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme (CCEVS) and is in turn run by the National Security Agency (NSA). The caveat is clearly on the Web site www.niap-ccevs.org for all to read, “Readers are advised to carefully read the Validation Report and Security Target of the product to determine what was included in the evaluated configuration.” For example, let’s consider some claims that are out there without naming (many) names. When a company comes to me and
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
INSIDER MAY 2009 COMIT Interface Standard for Next-Generation COM Products The Small Form Factor Special Interest Group (SFF-SIG), a collaboration of suppliers of embedded component, board and system technologies, has announced COMIT, a new form factor independent, ComputerOn-Module interface standard. COMIT stands for Computer-On-Module Interconnect Technology and is targeted toward small form factor COM processor modules and host baseboards leveraging the latest ultra-mobile and low-power processor/chipset combinations. COMIT is the enabling technology to allow design of tiny processor modules to fit within the footprint of industry-standard, small form factor boards such as EBX, EPIC, PC/104, Pico ITX or other standard or custom-designed baseboards. COMIT is an electromechanical interface specification that is designed to be processor-independent and focuses on bus interconnect and module manufacturing technology rather than any single processor, DSP, or microcontroller architecture. COMIT can be used to support different processors with a single baseboard allowing easy migration to future processors for performance/feature enhancement or for obsolescence mitigation. The purpose is to enable compact, easy-to-use, reliable COM solutions for embedded systems designs suitable for industrial environments using the newest low-power chip sets. In a single 6 x 40 connector, COMIT’s 240 pins support three PCI Express x1 lanes, one PCI Express x4 lane, six high-speed USB 2.0 channels, VGA, SDVO and dual LVDS video interfaces, two SATA channels, Ethernet, 8-bit SDIO, HD Audio, LPC (Low Pin Count) Bus, SPI/uWire, SMBus/I2C Bus, system clock and control signaling plus ample power and ground connections. The use of a single connector eliminates registration problems that plagued manufacturing with products based on earlier-generation COM standards. COMIT uses the SEARAY high-speed, high pin density, rugged and lowcost connector system from Samtec. It is a second-sourced, compact and rugged connector well suited for both commercial and industrial applications for current and future embedded systems designs. SEARAY is capable of differential signaling rates of 9 GHz bandwidth, which can support interfaces like PCI Express Gen2 and USB3. These extremely rugged connectors are also some of the lowest cost-per-pin and highest density available on the market for this type of multi-gigahertz-capable interconnect.
Open VPX Committee Moves to the Fast Track
Dealing with the inevitable issues of a very complex technical specification has not been without its bumps in the road, but the Open VPX Industry Technical Working Group has grown in
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
membership with the addition of more VITA members and is now at about 29 members. The goal is to hammer out a set of system specification standards for VITA 46 (VPX) interoperability over a range of different topologies and interconnect technologies. This
involves sorting through a large number of dot specs, protocols and other implementations to come to a set of topologies that will satisfy the variety of applications on the market without being overly or confusingly complex. The industry appeared divided earlier this year when a number of companies went off from the VITA Standards Organization (VSO) and formed the Open VPX group. Whatever rift there was now seems to be patched up as several VITA members that had not originally been part of the group are now working with it and in cooperation with VITA. Membership in the group requires a commitment of time and personnel that not every VITA member is comfortable with, so the group will devote itself to the task with target timelines and as the work is frozen will bring it back to the VITA 65 committee on VPX System Specifications and Practices to go through the approval process for submission as an ANSI standard. The work is being considered in two phases. Phase I is described as information gathering, definitions and discussions to work out a common terminology and understanding of the different system implementations. Focus will also be on the “utility plane,” which involves such issues as power. The goal of Phase I is to gather all the existing topologies and define them in order to understand similarities and differences. This phase is nearing completion and was expected to be wrapped up by the end of April. Phase II will concentrate on consolidating the topologies into a minimal set including module and backplane profiles that can both satisfy the demands of the market while also offering a manageable selection. This will include the ability for certain vendors to offer development chassis with defined slots, cooling methods, power supplies, etc., to meet the approved specifications. This phase is expected to produce documents that can be brought to the
VITA 65 committee by around September.
$387B of “Shovel-Ready” Open Source Code Available to Fuel Growth and Innovation
Open source software (OSS) and collaborative development have grown from being academic pursuits in the early 1980s into a major economic and development force transforming the way software is created today. According to research by Black Duck Software, there are over 200,000 OSS projects on the Internet representing more than 4.9 billion lines of available code. Black Duck estimates that reproducing this OSS would cost $387 billion and would take 2.1 million people-years of development. In addition, they estimate that 10% of U.S.-based development, representing $22 billion, is redundant and could be offset using OSS; and much of the $22 billion could be reinvested for true innovation. This is, in effect, a potential fiscal stimulus for innovation, larger than many of the programs in the Obama administration’s $787 billion fiscal stimulus plan. In the current economic and budget climate, development organizations are increasingly turning to open source software (OSS) to maintain the speed of innovation and to reduce costs. Fiscal stimulus packages in the U.S. valued at hundreds of billions of dollars are being appropriated to get the economy back on track. While the U.S. and other federal governments around the world are doing their part to stimulate the economy, what can the private sector do to help itself, to fuel its growth? One answer may be for software development organizations and IT organizations to tap the vast pool of OSS and thereby write less of their own code and stop reinventing the wheel. This will enable them to shift scarce resources into projects that represent innovation and competitive differentiation.
Black Duck Software has been tracking the available pool of known open source software available on the Internet since the company’s founding in 2002. Today the company has a comprehensive database of open source software and related metadata. According to Black Duck’s research, there are over 200,000 open source projects representing over 4.9 billion lines of code. Given the quantity of OSS projects representing just about every facet of an application, is it feasible to find OSS code to displace 10%, 25% or more of development? Black Duck states that many customers use a much higher proportion of OSS code in their projects, some up to 88%. With 4.9 billion lines of “shovel-ready code” available to developers, OSS is a stimulus resource that may well be able to help development organizations around the world increase innovation, stretch budgets and spur growth.
Design Partner Network Provides Carrier Board Design Services for ETX and COM Express Modules
Ampro Adlink Technology has announced the formation of a Design Partner Network—a group of well-known electronic engineering design services firms. The intent of the network is to ensure that Ampro Adlink’s prospects and customers have immediate access to professional and technical engineering design services, either internally with Ampro Adlink or via one of the partners, for the design and development of custom carrier boards for ETX and COM Express embedded systems solutions and applications. By combining Ampro Adlink’s embedded computing products and the design partners’ experience in providing state-ofthe-art design services for custom single board computer and carrier board products, Ampro Adlink is striving to provide its customers with an extended
array of personnel, design tools and services. The initial members of the Ampro Adlink Design Partner Network are in the table below.
policies. The fast growth in enduser markets offset the slowdown of the machinery market.” In 2005, the Chinese government announced an ambitious goal of reducing energy consumption per unit Amest Corporation Rancho Santa Margarita, CA of GDP by 20% beArira Design, Inc Sunnyvale, CA tween 2005 and 2010. Boston Design Solutions Chelmsford, MA One of the key initiaClarity Design, Inc Poway, CA tives for realizing this Concept Development, Inc. Irvine, CA goal is the Top-1000 Paragon Innovations, Inc Plano, TX Energy-Consuming Enterprises program Pinnacle Technology Group Ottawa Lake, MI started in April of 2006 Sedona International, Inc. Nashua, NH and which will continue until 2010. The government has strengthened the China’s Low-Voltage Motor implementation of this top-1000 Drive Market Shows Growth program because many compaDespite Recession nies did not reach their target in Sales of low-voltage motor 2007. Eight of the nine members drives in China were estimated of the Standing Committee of the to be worth $1.7 billion in 2008, Political Bureau visited the latest a growth of about 8.3% over 2007 energy saving and emission reaccording to the latest statistics duction expo this March in Beifrom IMS Research. The comjing. Their collective presences in pany says this growth is quite the exhibition indicate the great impressive considering the globimportance of energy-saving and al economic slowdown and the emission reduction especially in abrupt drop in exports of several the current difficult time. types of machinery during the second half of 2008. IXXAT Automation Teams The China drives market with TenAsys for Real-Time is heavily dependent upon maCAN with Windows chine builders, with sales to this The INtime software from channel representing almost two TenAsys combines deterministic, thirds of total market revenues hard real-time control with stanin 2007. Some major suppliers dard Windows operating systems started to worry about the marwithout requiring additional hardket in the first half of 2008 before ware. Real-time and non-real-time the global economic crisis started applications run in separate virtual because of the sharp decline of machines on a single computer, the demand from the textile maenabling cost-effective, reliable chinery sector, which accounted control that is easy to develop and for 25% of the total shipment in maintain. terms of units. The TenAysy Embedded Analyst Jackey Wang comCommunication Interface driver mented: “The slowdown or even (ECI) will be made available initialdecline of some machinery sectors ly for the iPC-I XC16/PCI interface did decelerate the growth of sales board, an intelligent CAN interface to machine builders significantly board from IXXAT designed for in the second half of 2008. Howevindustrial PC applications. INtime er, the impact of the global finandrivers for other IXXAT CAN cial crisis on end-user markets was boards will follow. This will enable insignificant until now. Sales to running real-time CAN applicaend-user markets continued growtions on the same processor with a ing as a result of the governmentWindows-based human interface. guided energy-saving and emis“INtime is a natural platform sion reduction projects and related for deterministic control of time-
critical applications on a standard PC because it eliminates the need for a separate real-time platform in addition to the Windows-based human interface,” said Karl Judex, IXXAT VP of sales & marketing. “Offering INtime drivers for our CAN boards is a logical choice for us.” “Partnering with IXXAT is a perfect fit for TenAsys,” said Kim Hartman, TenAsys VP of sales & marketing. “Our expanding customer base in the automotive test and measurement market will benefit greatly from the direct support for CAN by our INtime RTOS for Windows.”
PICMG Releases New COM Express Design Guide
Version 1.0 of the COM Express Design Guide for developers of COM Express modules has been released by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG). The Design Guide was revised by the PICMG over the last 18 months with the active collaboration of 15 companies. In addition to draft editor congatec, the following companies were involved: Adlink, Continuous Computing, Diversified Technology, Foxconn, GE Fanuc, Intel Corp., Kontron AG, MSC Vertriebs GmbH, NMS Communications, Nokia Siemens Networks, RadiSys, Trenton Technology, Tyco Electronics and VIA. The COM Express Design Guide provides information on how to design custom system carrier boards for COM Express modules. The vendor-independent, 160-page Design Guide includes a multitude of circuit examples that illustrate the correct implementation of all COM Express interfaces. Carrier boards designed on the basis of this guide enable greater interchangeability between COM Express modules from different vendors. The COM Express Design Guide is available for free download from the PICMG Web site at http://www.picmg.org/pdf/PICMG_COMDG_100.pdf.
RTC MAGAZINE MAY 2009
SMALL FORM FACTOR
Colin McCracken & Paul Rosenfeld
Standards: The Bedrock of the Small Form Factor Community A common thread that runs through virtually all the significant embedded technologies of the past 20 years is their emergence from an independent industry standards organization. Technologies such as PCI, SATA, USB, PCI Express, PC/104, VME, CompactPCI, ATCA, COM Express and many more originated from organizations dedicated to the definition, proliferation and longevity of industry standards. And these organizations continue to be the lifeblood of our industry, as new standards or upgrades to existing standards, such as USB 3.0, PCI Express Gen 2 and others take hold over the next few years. Standards organizations can embrace several roles. Some view themselves as primarily technical in nature, providing a neutral environment for companies throughout the industry to meet, discuss and document their ideas for a future that all industry players can share in. Other standards organizations see themselves with a marketing role, finding it necessary to promote their standards to increase their adoption throughout the industry. Both types of roles exist widely in our industry and the debate often rages within an organization as to which role it should play. But whatever their role, standards organizations have two fundamental needs that must be met by the industry at large for continued healthy existence. The first is financial support, usually in the form of annual dues and sometimes supplemented by nominal fees for copies of standards documents. Most standards organizations are set up under federal non-profit guidelines and have very low overhead compared to for-profit corporations. These standards organizations can exist on a very small income, but they are totally dependent on the contributions of members to continue. Paying members tend to have “skin in the game,” and are recognized and appreciated by users for backing multi-sourced standards. All members of our community should contribute by joining one or more standards organizations working in areas that they consider important. The second fundamental need is the involvement and active participation of the member companies in the definition of new standards and the timely evolution of existing standards to reflect new underlying technologies. Virtually all the work at these standards organizations is done by volunteers from the member companies who set aside competitive differences and understand
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
how their work transcends themselves to benefit the entire industry. While large industry players often can lend senior engineering staff to help define and document standards, the participation of lead engineers from even the smallest players, on a part-time basis of a few hours per week, can be critical to providing a broad review of new standards before they hit the streets to ensure their viability for suppliers and users alike. Every member of the small form factor community should be participating in the definition and evolution of one or more industry standards through the popular standards organizations. That said, every once in a while a “standards organization” (and we use the term loosely), emerges that does not contribute to the overall growth and health of our industry. Many of our existing standards began life as proprietary developments of a single company that were contributed, without strings, to a true standards body for finalization and proliferation. Among these are PC/104 (contributed by Ampro), PCI Express (Intel’s 3GIO) and COM Express (Kontron’s ETXexpress). Unfortunately, some companies see the emergence of a standard as a profit opportunity. A proprietary technology is protected through some sort of intellectual property lock, such as patent or copyright protection. A bogus standards body is set up specifically to shepherd the new “standard” to the industry. Companies who want to join or adopt the new standard are required to recognize the intellectual property rights of the originator by “licensing” the new technology and paying some form of license fees. Although this approach exists with consumer electronics, such as HDMI or Macrovision, there is no room in the small form factor embedded market for this type of self-serving, deceptive practice. We call on all members of the small form factor community to reject such tomfoolery. At the same time, we also call on all members of the community to support one or more of your relevant standards organizations, both financially through your membership and with your active participation in their technical committees or working groups. Involvement and sweat equity, not logo clubs, lead to longlived pervasive standards. In our highly fragmented industry with many, many small companies, these organizations represent the best way that all of us can work together to make the market we serve larger and to continue growing as fast as possible.
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ploration your goal k directly age, the source. ology, d products
engineering THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING BLADE SERVER
The Incredible Shrinking Blade Server: New Possibilities beyond the Data Center Many embedded applications require compact, high-performance networking and data transfer capabilities. The range of power and connectivity of today’s MicroTCA technology offers opportunities for small, reliable and scalable data communications in dedicated application areas. by David Pursley, Kontron
hile blade servers have grown MicroTCA. Plus, MicroTCA offers flexin popularity as a high-density, ibility and system scalability benefits with cost-efficient and space-saving its compatibility to a variety of chassis alternative to rackmount servers in data form factors, from a small four-module centers and server farms, newer computing blade to a 19-inch rack-mountable redunplatforms such as MicroTCA now make it dant system. So, whether the blade server possible for additional applications to take is needed at a regional health center to advantage of the blade’s benefits. Shrink- support an MRI machine, or at a military ing the blade server to a quarter of the size ground support and control center moniof a rackmount server has its rewards, es- toring an unmanned aerial vehicle, Minies providing solutions nowsolution matches the highcroTCA has become a popular choice to pecially if the ion into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal is to research the latest environments. In addition, while availability, performance, low-power and fit these ation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you MicroTCA is certainly tough enough for rugged requirements of the industry and you require for whatever type of technology, a broad spectrum of applications, soon a and productsapplication. you are searching for. new rugged MicroTCA specification will Originally designed as a telecombe available to address the blade server munication application architecture, needs of more environmentally harsh enMicroTCA delivers the advanced feavironments. tures that are making it an attractive and smaller blade server option for networkcentric systems in military, medical and Smaller but Powerful industrial markets. Remote applications in At a quarter of the size of Adthese markets are realizing the advantages vancedTCA, a MicroTCA 2U is 3.5 of the performance, management func- inches in height by 0.6 to 1.2 inches in tionality and high-availability features of width by 7.22 inches deep, which is even smaller than 3U CompactPCI or VME cards. Despite its small size, MicroTCA Get Connected offers high bandwidth, both in terms of with companies mentioned in this article. compute and communication bandwidth. www.rtcmagazine.com/getconnected
End of Article
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article.
By packing up to 12 compute blades on a single backplane, MicroTCA offers a tremendous amount of computing power. The communication bandwidth for MicroTCA typically ranges from 40 Gbits/s to over 1 Terabit/s depending upon the implementation or application. For spaceconstrained designs, most would find that a MicroTCA-based blade implementation would give them enough networking and computing performance for even the most demanding applications. In a small 2U form factor, MicroTCA delivers high processing capacity and extremely high communication bandwidth. Today that same 2U system incorporates 12 blades that can each utilize a multicore processor. Due to MicroTCA’s compact size, two systems could be placed side-byside in a 19-inch rack; therefore offering twice the computing power still within a small form factor. By expanding that system to a 3U or even 4U system, it could accommodate as many as 24 cores to broaden the scope of relevant applications even further in a very small footprint. In addition, MicroTCA satisfies size, weight and power requirements in a growing
MicroTCA-based products shorten timeto-market and reduce development costs.
size also matters. As the medical industry advances, the requirements will likely change again. However, these applications must be updated without the need to start completely from scratch, so scalability and upgradeability must also be built in. Beyond processing performance and scalability needs, equipment designed for medical use must meet extended lifespan requirements, with some applications expected to last as long as 10 to 15 years.
MicroTCA-Based Blade Servers for Medical
In medical imaging equipment such as X-ray, ultrasound and MRI devices, the more images and data doctors can evaluate while examining a patient, the better patient care they can potentially provide. The need for extremely high-resolution
µTCA Analog FE FPGA/ASIC
Compression 2:1 3:1
number of high-end industrial and medical designs. MicroTCA offers up to 21 high-speed serial connections per blade on the backplane—versus the two generally found in CompactPCI implementations—each providing up to 2.5 Gbit/s bandwidth. Critical to any net-centric server application is its high availability. By reducing or eliminating unscheduled system downtime, a system’s total cost of ownership can also be favorably reduced. High availability has become a mandatory requirement in server environments due to the costly ramifications for end customers if the failure of one component is felt across the entire network. The good news is that features that support high availability are innate to MicroTCA and essentially come for “free.” Central to high availability for MicroTCA, and many other form factors, is the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI). IPMI is available to notify users when the system is not running at peak performance. IPMI allows remote monitoring and control of the system for thermal management and simplified troubleshooting and maintenance. Fans can be controlled automatically as temperature thresholds change, and if a board does fail, it can be removed and replaced with the system up and running. IPMI-based health monitoring, along with full redundancy with fail-over, prevents any single point of failure in the system. MicroTCA leverages AdvancedMC modules (AMCs) to meet the needs of compact, low-cost systems by connecting AMCs directly to a backplane, without the need for a carrier card. MicroTCA reuses many of the components and technologies developed for AdvancedTCA. This lowers the cost of entry for both component vendors and equipment manufacturers designing new systems. AdvancedMCs can act as building-block components that enable designers to take advantage of AdvancedTCA’s core network capabilities while utilizing MicroTCA’s smaller form factor. As a PICMG standard, MicroTCA has built-in regulatory compliance that is compatible with other computing technology standards. Because of this, COTS
Local Workstation PACS/NWrk Workstation
Figure 1 Medical imaging applications benefit from smaller MicroTCA-based blade servers that utilize high-performance multicore processors over high-speed buses to facilitate the processing of patient images and the archiving of important data.
images that can be manipulated has driven medical equipment developers to require better graphics, faster processing and faster communication capabilities. While some imaging applications can be handled off-line by batch processing, many cases require patient images in real time. But the need for processing power does not end there. Processing can also provide assistance in the analysis of images and related patient information in screening and diagnostics. Requirements for realtime imaging include pattern recognition, organ rendering, volumetric analysis, multiple image type comparisons, and the ability to process related patient information from databases. Bringing these tasks to remote or mobile outpatient facilities is in increasing demand. In emergency medicine and rescue services where every second counts, getting the right information at the right time is vital, so real-time data is crucial. For many embedded medical applications,
As in all embedded applications, time-tomarket is also a concern. So, reducing implementation time, plus the time allotted for FDA and other regulatory testing and approvals, is also key a factor for consideration. Last but certainly not least, budgets for these products are not unlimited, so costs need to be optimized whenever possible. MicroTCA is an ideal architecture for a blade server application in the medical imaging market because of its small form factor and processing power. Broadening its scope even further for data-intensive imaging applications, MicroTCA gives the option of implementing multiple multicore processing blades on a single backplane. Multicore processors have become mainstream and can bring significant benefits to medical image processing by adding flexibility and scalability to system designs that offer high functional density, high throughput and minimum latency. Design integraRTC MAGAZINE MAY 2009
tion is also simplified with MicroTCAâ€™s form factor flexibility. A medical image processing system can be implemented in a smaller industrystandard MicroTCA server blade instead of a stack of servers. In comparison to stacks of isolated servers, systems based on MicroTCA blades provide the benefit of higher computing density and the tighter coupling of processors over the
backplane. MicroTCA also provides the benefit of having the Ethernet network infrastructure built into the system. Other benefits of embedded processor technology are lower power consumption and active power management. As an example, a computer tomography image processing medical system could implement a MicroTCA-based multiple processor blade server. Such
a server could be either tightly coupled over high-speed buses such as SRIO, or loosely coupled over network protocols (GbE, 10GbE). This application also requires high-performance graphics boards, which interconnect over high-speed PCI Express lanes. The main task for the MicroTCA blade is to reconstruct the image (Figure 1). Sensor data is digitized in an I/O module and then the raw data is sent to multiple processor boards over a highspeed connection using a standard protocol (such as SRIO or Ethernet). In the preprocessing step a 3D image is reconstructed from the raw image data. Preprocessing also typically includes cleaning out sensor artifacts, calibration and geometrical alignments. In post-processing, the 3D images are interpreted in different formats that the technician or physician can specify. The image can finally be displayed and archived. An appropriate choice for medical imaging systems is the Kontron OM6120, a MicroTCA platform that supports up to 12 AMC modules. It is designed for performance and versatility for high-bandwidth applications while realizing significant cost improvements compared to conventional MicroTCA platforms. Cost optimization is achieved by a streamlined design that includes Power Management and Fan Control on the backplane, and pluggable Power Supply Units instead of MicroTCA Power Modules (Figure 2). A platform like the OM6120 also provides the flexibility to use single and double-width form factor AMC modules that give medical imaging systems the high processing power, high throughput and low latency they require. The ability to accommodate a large number of multicore AMC modules and allowing a tight coupling of processors over high-speed communication links over the backplane, the Kontron OM6120 is well suited for image processing applications. Kontron Poway, CA. (888)-294-4558. [www.kontron.com].
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
2/17/09 4:47:07 PM
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embedded computer. It’s at the heart of any system. At VersaLogic, we design our embedded computer products to ensure high reliability and long-term availability. That’s why our single board computers can be found in a long list of medical products. And because we understand that medical customers have special requirements, every board we make is run through exhaustive quality tests, ensuring that we deliver only the best. Whether you need one of our standard products or a version customized to your needs, our skilled technical staff will work with you to meet your exact specications. Contact us to nd out how for more than 30 years we’ve been perfecting the ne art of extra-ordinary support and on-time delivery: One customer at a time.
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insight USB IN EMBEDDED
USB 3.0 Boosts Speed 10x, Broadens Embedded-Systems Applicability USB 3.0 represents a quantum leap in speed while maintaining backward compatibility with USB 2.0. Other features such as bidirectional data flows and improved power characteristics make it a tempting choice for embedded designs. by Adrian Braine and Ben Papps, PLX Technology
SB has become the interface of Non-SuperSpeed choice for many PC and consumer Super products, having reached an inHighFullSpeed Speed Speed stalled base of more than six billion units and counting. It is the ubiquitous connectivity interface, a status achieved through performance, reliability, ease of use (plugand-play) and wide device support. Now, SuperSpeed these same factors are driving adoption by Extended embedded Connector(s) nies providing solutionsand nowindustrial designers. USB started out in 1995 ion into products, technologies and companies. Whetheras yourthe goalreis to research the latest ation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical the goal ofand Get Connected is to put you placement connection for page, the mouse you require for whatever type of technology, keyboard. USB 1.0/1.1 provided 1.2/12 SuperSpeed USB 2.0 and products you are searching for. Hub Hub Mbit/s performance options and of course plug-and-play, but it was with version 2.0 that USBâ€™s true potential was realized. At 480 Mbits/s, it could deal with multimedia and storage applications, enabling a raft of new products from camcorders and digital still cameras to external hard disk and flash drives. SuperSpeed Non-SuperSpeed Yet, with more recent devices such as Function Function MP3 players reaching tens of gigabytes, and high-definition camcorders and hard
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with companies mentioned in this article. www.rtcmagazine.com/getconnected
USB 3.0 dual bus architecture.
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article.
USB 3.0 Host
Extended Connector(s) Non-SuperSpeed (USB 2.0) Composite Cable USB 3.0 Hub
USB 3.0 Peripheral Device
disk drives (HDDs) now at hundreds of gigabytes, even USB 2.0 is becoming slow. Now, the next generation—USB 3.0, or “SuperSpeed USB”—is on the horizon, promising performance of 5 Gbits/s and aiming to substantially reduce transfer times. The much anticipated Revision 1.0 of the USB 3.0 specification was finally released in November 2008, followed by technology demonstrations in January 2009. A number of semiconductor and IP companies will introduce products in 2009 that should enable end products such as HDDs and camcorders to make their way into the market by 2010. However, it’s likely to take some time before USB 3.0 becomes as widespread as its predecessors. In the meantime, however, two factors are expected to drive its adoption. First is that there is an ongoing march toward more speed in the above-referenced applications; and secondly, embedded designs are now taking a serious look at USB. Clearly some embedded designs will be affected immediately, while others will take some time, if at all. USB 3.0’s backward compatibility and the physical-layer (PHY) similarities it has with PCI Express (PCIe)—itself the dominant high-speed interconnect in embedded designs—bodes well for its successful integration into industrial applications. Furthermore, USB’s legacy of simplicity and compatibility should ease its adoption of “SuperSpeed” USB, saving embedded systems developers significant design resources.
USB 3.0 Architectural Overview
A USB 3.0 host or device port is actually two interfaces in one; USB 2.0 operates in parallel with USB 3.0. USB 3.0 shares core architectural elements and a tiered star topology with USB 2.0, but at the semiconductor, connector and cable level, the interfaces and connections are completely separate (Figure 1). Equally important is that USB 3.0 is a dual-simplex system, as opposed to halfduplex in USB 2.0, which means data flows from the host can be in both directions simultaneously. A USB 3.0 cable then has to accommodate the standard connections for USB 2.0 (D+, D- and VBUS) plus the
high-speed differential connections for USB 3.0. As a consequence, the cables and connectors for SuperSpeed operation are specific to USB 3.0 (Figure 2). The USB 3.0 controller, however, is completely separate from USB 2.0, which means if a USB 2.0 device is plugged into a USB 3.0 host receptacle, it only com-
municates with the USB 2.0 controller, functioning completely as USB 2.0 and unaware of the host’s USB 3.0 capability. USB 3.0 hosts and devices are, therefore, completely backward compatible with USB 2.0, an invaluable feature of the interface cables and connectors. The USB 3.0 connector has the same
USB 2.0 Standard-A
USB 2.0 Standard-A or USB 3.0 Standard-A
USB 3.0 Standard-A
USB 3.0 Standard-A or USB 2.0 Standard-A
USB 2.0 Standard-B
USB 2.0 Standard-B
USB 3.0 Standard-B
USB 3.0 Standard-B or USB 2.0 Standard-B
USB 3.0 Powered-B
USB 3.0 Powered-B, USB 3.0 Standard-B or USB 2.0 Standard-B
USB 2.0 Micro-B
USB 2.0 Micro-B
USB 3.0 Micro-B
USB 3.0 Micro-B or USB 2.0 Micro-B
USB 2.0 Micro-AB
USB 2.0 Micro-B or USB 2.0 Micro-A
USB 3.0 Micro-AB
USB 3.0 Micro-B, USB 3.0 Micro-A, USB 2.0 Micro-B or USB 2.0 Micro-A
table 1 Valid plug and receptacle combinations.
SuperSpeed (5.0 Gbit/s)
Low-speed (1.5 Mbit/s), full-speed (12 Mbit/s) and high-speed (480 Mbit/s)
Dual-simplex, four wire differential signaling separate from USB 2.0 signalling Simultaneous bi-directional data flows
Hald-duplex two-wire differential signaling Unidirectional data flow with negotiated directional bus transitions
Cable signal count
Six: F our for SuperSpeed data path Two for non-SuperSpeed data path
Two: T wo for low-speed/full-speed/ high-speed data path
Bus transaction protocol
Host directed, asynchronous traffic flow Packet traffic is explicitly routed
Host directed, polled traffic flow Packet traffic is broadcast to all devices
Multi-level link power management supporting idle, sleep and suspend states. Link-, Device- and Functionlevel power management
Port-level suspend with two levels of entry/exit latency Device-level power management
Same as for USB 2.0 with a 50% increase for unconfigured power and an 80% increase for configured power
Support for low/high bus-powered devices with lower power limits for unconfigured and suspended devices
Port hardware detects connect events and brings the port into operational state ready for SuperSpeed data communication
Port hardware detects connect events. System software uses port commands to transition the port into an enabled state (i.e., can do USB data communciation flows)
Data transfer types
USB 2.0 types with SuperSpeed contraints Bulk has streams compatibility
Four data transfer types: control, bulk, interrupt and isochronous
table 2 USB 3.0 versus USB 2.0
RTC MAGAZINE MAY 2009
USB 3.0 cable connections.
USB 3.0 plug with 5 additional pins.
form factor as USB 2.0 but houses five additional pins (Figure 3). The USB 3.0 pins are arranged such that they only mate with a USB 3.0 cable; if a USB 2.0 cable is used only the USB 2.0 pins will mate. It’s worth noting that the USB 3.0 cable will also mate with the USB 2.0 pins, enabling the host to use both USB 3.0 and 2.0 in parallel. The valid combinations of plugs and receptacles are shown in Table 1, and it’s clear from this that there is no need to switch to USB 3.0 for compatibility reasons. Application Software
The USB 3.0 feature most talked about is, of course, the 5 Gbit/s transfer speed, but there are other features that will become useful in embedded designs. The main features of USB 3.0 are: • 5 Gbit/s peak data transfer rate • Dual-simplex differential signaling, enabling simultaneous bidirectional host data flows • Multi-level link power management down to the function level Application Software
Universal Serial Bus Driver (USBD)
eXtensible Host Controller Driver (xHCD)
Scope of xHCI USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller P0
Figure 4 USB 3.0 software stack.
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
• Increased bus power capability (now 900 mA) • Packet traffic explicitly routed • 100 percent backward compatibility with USB 2.0, 1.1 and 1.0 • Operation over 10-foot cables With power management being a primary objective of the USB 3.0 specification, many of the idiosyncrasies in USB 2.0 that inhibited effective power management, such as continuous device polling and broadcast transmission through hubs, have been removed. The introduction of multi-level power management provides a greater flexibility of link power state and the capability to power down different portions of circuitry, dependent on power state. From the software perspective, the main feature in the USB stack is the eXtensible host controller driver, or xHCD (Figure 4). The HCD is hardware-specific and provides the software layer between the host controller hardware and the USB driver (USBD) layer. As with the hardware, the xHCD has been designed to sit alongside the USB 2.0 HCDs, allowing for backward compatibility. The USBD is a system software bus driver that abstracts the details of the HCD to the USB driver interface (USBDI), which is the standard USB system interface. The USBD is similar to that used for USB 2.0 but has extensions to allow for USB 3.0-specific features. USB 2.0 class drivers for device classes, such as mass storage, audio and human interface, can be used directly for USB 3.0. Modification is only necessary if the USB 3.0 extensions of the USBD are
required. An example of this is the mass storage class, where the USBD has extensions intended solely for use by this class. Table 2 shows the essential differences between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
Empowering the Embedded Designer
Embedded designers need to consider which of their products actually need the features of USB 3.0. For example, if exceptionally large data files or power management are key considerations, embedding USB 3.0 would be advantageous. Effective use of USB 3.0 power management coupled with the higher transfer rate could result in substantially lower overall power than USB 2.0. Other factors that enter into the decision are increased bus power and interrupt-driven operation, providing better response times in embedded designs. Paramount in any embedded design, of course, is the consideration of cost. The SuperSpeed interface is effectively on top of standard USB 2.0, and thus is inherently more expensive to implement in silicon, and the increased complexity in the cables and connectors will increase their cost as well. Then there’s the design itself and sorting through the options available to design USB 3.0 into a system. Typically USB 2.0 is added as either a local bus controller sitting on the processor’s memory bus or as a PCI peripheral. First-generation USB 3.0 controllers are being designed for PCIe 2.0, or Gen 2, because of the 5 Gbit/s performance requirement; PCIe Gen 1, in contrast, would require multi-lane support. It is feasible to use the Gen 2 bridge on a Gen 1 lane (2.5 Gbit/s) which, while not achieving the maximum throughput, does provide more bandwidth than USB 2.0. Local bus support may not be practical for USB 3.0 because of the transfer rates involved, so PCIe will probably represent the best stand-alone solution in the short term. Beyond that, USB 3.0 is expected to be integrated into SoCs and processors, which will further simplify the embedded system process. From a software perspective, USB 2.0 is widely supported in both commercially available operating systems and RTOSs, but it’s likely that the same support for USB 3.0 will take some time, so designers
will need to write their own xHCD in the meantime. USB 3.0 is expected to become more commonly used in embedded systems than were earlier versions of the interface, though less-demanding designs could get by with USB 2.0. While local bus and PCIe-based USB 2.0 host controllers from companies such as PLX Technology can give designs ample data transfers, USB 3.0’s speed, power management, software
support and PHY similar to PCIe should lead embedded-systems designers to take a good, long look at this quantum leap in USB technology. PLX Technology Sunnyvale, CA. (408) 774-9060. [www.plxtech.com].
10:36:37 AM RTC MAGAZINE 5/7/09 MAY 2009
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insight USB IN EMBEDDED
USB I/O for the Embedded OEM The embedded computer I/O world has always adapted to a particular CPU-based form factor such as PC/104, PMC, cPCI, VME or PCMCIA. The first form factor of slot cards was rooted in the desktop. All these form factors were based on a similar parallel bus but with the appropriate connectors to serve a particular marketâ€™s purpose. by Stephen Newbegin, ACCES I/O Products
90mm ith the advent of the serial interconnect such as PCI Express and USB, the most obvious reaction and approach for designing new I/O has been to continue with just offering a connector for the particular form factor or just 72mm using USB as an external device in its own housing. Since this is not just a continuation of the progressive evolution of a faster shared bus, now this process has been painful nies providing solutions for most form factor consortiums. For exion into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal is to research the latest ample, design decision of the how ation Engineer, or jump the to a company's technical page, goalmany of Get Connected is to put you you require for whatever of technology, slots and type what type of express lanes (x1, and productsx4, youx8, are etc.) searching for for. the plethora of backplanes, makes the former legacy PCI/ISA slot number decisions seem trivial. The problem is the desktop world Micro Header Micro Header is moving in a different direction than Micro B Optional External Type B the embedded world. Desktops are movPower Input ing away from numerous slots in their Figure 1 computer enclosures. These few slots USB/104 and USB/Pico board comparison. are mostly being reserved for more highperformance applications. Different CPU chipsets are being developed for each niche of server, desktop and laptop. Most of the decreases the costs to the manufacturer. mundane I/O requirements of desktop and Meanwhile, the embedded world still relaptop computers are being brought out- quires numerous I/O boards. Embedded Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article. side the computer through USB ports so applications are getting smaller as OEM www.rtcmagazine.com/getconnected that the service issues of adding I/O cards equipment manufacturers are designing 60mm
End of Article
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article.
High Retention Type B
USB Micro B
Figure 2 USB/104 and USB/Pico compared from the connector side.
more mobile and space-restrictive systems for their markets. Trying to get a computer with a card cage with the right number of slots is becoming a difficult process when trying to use off- the-shelf I/O products. USB appears to be the obvious solution because of its popularity and ease of use. Unlike a bus, USB can be used in a star configuration where each I/O board does not have to be together or share the same bandwidth. Also, all USB products can interface with all CPU form factors, Figure 3 Pico-ITXe CPU with USB/Pico I/O module.
single board computers and even microcontrollers that support the USB standard. USB is also the best I/O product interface that is easiest to use with both the PC and the MAC. Most early USB embedded I/O chose to follow the desktop world and create external boxed USB I/O. However, since USB can now be considered a high-performance bus (Acces has models currently available that achieve sustained streaming speeds up to 16 Mbytes/s), the decision was made to design versatile OEM USB form factors that could be used inside and outside enclosures. Since
reducing space is a primary goal in embedded applications, the widely used PC/104 form factor was chosen first as a starting reference point in the design of this new USB I/O concept. The small size of
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
PC/104, the rugged design, hundreds of boards and dozens of manufacturers made this an easy choice. The next new smaller form factor to appear is Pico-I/O, being fostered by the Small Form Factor Special Interest Group or SFF-SIG. This consortium is creating a stacking form factor using the SUMIT interface. This form factor provides four USB ports on the SUMIT A connector. The new tiny form factor is 72 mm by 60 mm, designed to be one half the area of the current PC/104 standard. This size board was also chosen by Acces to create another line of small embedded USB I/O modules (Figure 1).
The first USB OEM board line features the same PCB size and predrilled mounting holes of PC/104, which allows easy stacking and resistance to shock and vibration. Additionally, this ensures easy installation using standard standoffs inside other enclosures or systems. The Pico-I/O-sized USB OEM board follows the same concept for mounting compatibility. The next feature consideration was the ability to power the board through the PC USB connection or optionally use an onboard regulator and external power connector if required. The Pico-I/O-sized module would only be powered from the USB connections due to its smaller size. Finally, multiple USB connections were provided. For standard USB cabling, a Type B connector is provided. The concern associated with a loose USB connection in an industrial environment is alleviated by using a USB connector that features a high retention design that complies with the class 1, Div II minimum withdrawal requirement of over 3 pounds of force. This also alleviates the extra cost of special custom cabling with custom screw locking connections, which require a solid housing to interface to. For other embedded OEM-type applications, a micro USB header is provided in parallel with
the type B connector. This second, small, low-mass friction lock “micro-fit” connector is useful for connecting internally from the I/O board to an embedded CPU with its own headers for USB. Also, connecting to an externally mounted, sealed military connector with its cabling routed to a militarized computer mounted elsewhere becomes trivial. The Pico-I/O-sized board follows the same connectivity as the PC/104-sized USB module except the new Micro B connector is used on this tiny I/O module. One of the requirements for the Micro B connector, created to become the cell phone interface standard, was to make a more rugged USB connector for these smaller devices. The metal spring-latched Micro B connector is designed for 10,000 insertions. The availability of cabling for this connector is expected to increase with its future heavy use on PDA and cell phone standardization (Figure 2).
many applications is outweighed by the flexibility of interfacing to any lower cost non-proprietary embedded computer. The Pico-I/O form factor is designed to be the younger, smaller brother of PC/104. The USB/PICO OEM module will also have similar advantages to USB/104. Although less I/O can be packed in the given PCB space, it has the added advan-
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USB/104 and USB/PICO Introduction
Traditionally, USB I/O vendors have simply pulled an existing USB PCB board out of its enclosure and voila, called it OEM. However, these new preconceived USB OEM designs have been named USB/104 and USB/PICO. The USB/104 form factor has proven to be one of the most versatile I/O form factors currently available. It can be configured in a single stackable, multistackable or unstacked system approach. The tiered star architecture and PC/104 mounting style has provided many diverse uses and applications not commonly thought of for USB. For example, in an existing PC/104 system, the USB/104 board can be mounted at either end of the stack in existing PC/104 enclosures. Although mechanically exact to the PC/104 specification in size and mounting holes, the lack of bus pins makes the USB/104 “Bus connector neutral.” No matter what bus is used, or CPU chosen, almost all computers have onboard USB connections. Since PC/104 boards must have cabling for I/O header connectors anyway, the argument for a dedicated stacking connector in
tage of fitting in a smaller system space and using less power than a PC/104-sized module (Figure 3). Another example of USB/104 and USB/PICO versatility is the capability to design a high-density I/O solution for low height clearance applications. The boards can be mounted unstacked flat on standoffs in any low height enclosure and then
TC2D64™ (Intel Core 2 Duo-based VME SBC) • 1.5 GHz and 2.16 GHz Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processors • Up to 4 GB ECC SDRAM Memory • CompactFlash • Two Gigabit Ethernet ports • Two SATA ports When your mission-critical • Up to four PMC slots • On-board graphics controller applications require high • Four USB and four serial ports performance, turn to Themis SBCs. • Solaris 10, Linux and Windows support • Up to 30G shock
In mission critical applications, there’s no substitute for high performance. The Themis family of single board computers includes Quad-Core Intel Xeon with the Intel 5100 MCH San Clemente chipset, also Penryn compatible, in addition to our leading UltraSPARC® products on VME and CompactPCI. So we can support applications in Solaris, Windows, Linux and UNIX®. All Themis products offer maximum conﬁguration ﬂexibility and life cycle support for your technology refresh cycle process, reducing your Total Cost of Ownership. So when mission success depends on higher performance, you can rely on Themis. Across the board. www.themis.com (510) 252-0870
Transformational. © 2008. Themis Computer, Themis, Themis logo, TC2D64 and XV1 are trademarks or registered trademarks of Themis Computer. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.
2:13:33 PM RTC MAGAZINE 5/12/09 MAY 2009
wired to a small, embedded, single board computer (SBC)â€”all without the need for an expensive backplane and by using a commonly available embedded SBC with USB ports. Only a small 5 VDC power supply is required to power the whole system. This design also has the additional advantage of fanless cooling and high
natural resistance to shock and vibration. Twice the number of different modules could be used if the smaller USB/PICO I/O boards are used. The great thing about this is a system designer can use USB/104 and USB/PICO modules together in the same application with any computer (Figure 4).
Pico-I/O Stack with Pico-ITXe CPU
Figure 4 Mixed multiple I/O stack system assembly.
MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE
Two USB/104 I/O Stacks
Since new CPU chipsets now provide from 8 up to 16 USB 2.0 root ports, an embedded system can be designed combining multiple USB/104 or USB/PICO board stacks side-by-side inside a NEMA enclosure. This design concept allows a more dense I/O solution than a single tall I/O module stack. Even an embedded PC/104 CPU with four USB ports could have an adjacent USB/104 stack connected to its crowded PC/104 stack in order to easily increase the number of boards in the system. USB/PICO would also have this increased flexibility but inside an even smaller space. Both USB/104 and USB/ PICO finally have the additional advantage of being able to use shorter stand-offs, depending on the board, because the spacing in the stack is not controlled by the stacking connector of either PC/104 or SUMIT. This leads to the ability of squeezing an extra board into a larger stack within a shorter height enclosure. For other non-stacking form factor systems, both the USB/104 and USB/ PICO I/O boards are flexible enough to be mounted in spare, unused drive bays with a simple wired connection to a motherboard or plug-in backplane type SBC. This is a very cost-effective solution for a system that possibly needs an additional I/O board, but where all the current plugin slots are used up.
5/7/09 10:29:46 AM
The USB/104 and USB/PICO form factors have a number of common advantages over existing bus-based I/O products. One of the most noteworthy is the ability to have the I/O module mounted near where the data acquisition or control is taking place. This proximity to sensors results in a high degree of integration flexibility and is significantly cost-effective. Instead of the computer and I/O close together, a USB cable can easily be run 10-15 feet within the enclosure for such varied applications as kiosks and computerized OEM equipment. Because the USB/104 or USB/PICO modules do not need to be close to the CPU, the modules are less susceptible to noise. Combined with protective circuitry, and close proximity to the signal source of the I/O board, the result is virtually interference-free data acquisition. In cases of high point count control or acquisition applications, the wiring is greatly simplified by the shorter bulk wiring distance. A single USB cable can be more economically protected and then routed the longer distance back to the host computer. Simple flat panel touch-screen computers such as Human Machine Interface (HMI) with small, embedded SBCs will no longer require space to hold I/O boards. OEM system designers also can now pack I/O boards into smaller available spaces within their system housings, rather than painfully trying to find a home for a big card cage that must route the large mass of I/O cabling to one central location. The stand-alone nature of USB/104 and USB/PICO allows easy system servicing, fault isolation and board replacement. The typical desktop consumer has already found out how much easier it is to plug in a USB device rather than aligning and installing a PCI slot card. The convenient installation and serviceability of these USB modules compared to the more challenging task of connecting (or disconnecting) bus connectors makes USB I/O an easy and natural fit for numerous embedded applications.
Future of Embedded USB
Originally, the most beneficial feature of USB was its ability to have I/O boards powered by USB ports. This was also a big negative when I/O boards exceeded the power available from the host USB ports. Other big complaints were related to speed limitations and the lack of an interrupt or mechanism to alert the host without constant servicing. Fortunately, the next approved Super Speed USB 3.0 standard increases the speed 10 times over USB 2.0, includes full-duplex transmission, has new interrupt-driven protocol, and provides additional power for the I/O device by using a higher pin count connector. With the recent release of the USB 3.0 standard and its future inclusion on all CPU chipset vendor’s roadmaps, it is clear that USB will be the low-cost I/O solution both for the consumer and the embedded industry for many years to come. USB 3.0 will basically serve equivalent performance to 1x PCI Express tasks over
¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾
wire. USB 3.0, however, will not necessarily eliminate USB 2.0 because USB 2.0 is less expensive to implement and is compatible to USB 3.0. USB 2.0 when plugged into USB 3.0 simply does not access the extra deeper pins in the host USB 3.0 cable connector. The embedded USB space will likely only use USB 3.0 when the speed, interrupt and power requirements of the I/O device need its advanced features, thus justifying its increased cost. Meanwhile, existing USB 2.0 devices with typical data acquisition and control applications will be supported with their smaller inexpensive cabling and interfacing. ACCES I/O Products San Diego, CA. (858) 550-9559. [www.accesio.com].
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10:58:12 AM RTC MAGAZINE5/18/09 MAY 2009
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insight USB IN EMBEDDED
USB and StackableUSB: Enabling Efficiency and Scaling for Embedded Designs Long established in the desktop arena, USB forms the basis for I/O modules in the embedded space that are small, flexible and targeted for specific solutions and also have the ability to span form factors. by Susan Wooley, Inter Stackable Standards Group
oard-level system designers have benefited from Moore’s Law of exponential improvement in size, cost, density and speed over the years as processor boards have packed more horsepower and raw computer power onto their boards. However, with the growing selection of smaller microprocessors and ARM processors running at faster speeds, requiring nies providing solutionsless now power and packing more capabilities into chip solutions, ion into products, technologies and single companies. Whether your goalefis to research the latest ficiency the watchword ation Engineer, or jump toisa becoming company's technical page, the goalofofthe Get Connected is to put you you require for whatever type of for technology, day. The push efficiency is also comCable it to your PC. Stack it up. Stack it out. and productsing you are searching for. from an economy that has become increasingly concerned about speed for Figure 1 speed’s sake, especially as energy costs Stackable USB offers mechanical versatility in that it can be connected with a soar and discarded electronics accumulate standard USB cable or assembles into a stack of up to 10 I/O modules. It can in landfills. Efficiency is in. also be placed on carrier boards of different form factors. Today, smaller, lower-power processor boards can be mated with similarly effect in board-level products. Couple this tions. This is in part a result of USB being smaller I/O boards controlled by equally with the advantages of using USB, a serial the one common serial interface between more integrated I/O chips from the A/D, protocol, as the communication link be- three distinctly different CPU cores: microD/A, communication, mass storage and tween these boards, and system designers controllers whose speeds now reach over 80 sensors areas, thus creating a Moore’s Law have the tools they need to leverage untold MHz, ARM processors that operate comfortably in the 100 MHz to 500 MHz range, efficiencies in their system designs. Get Connected In the embedded world, momentum and x86 processors that reach beyond the with companies mentioned in this article. has been building for USB to be the I/O 1 GHz range. The trend to include USB in www.rtcmagazine.com/getconnected channel of choice in embedded applica- CPU cores and the increasing number of
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MAY 2009 RTC MAGAZINE Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article.
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USB ports included in those cores establishes it as the most prolific I/O channel on the market. Flexibility and scalability are key advantages for achieving efficiency that board-level manufacturers can offer systems designers. With USB as the I/O channel, embedded designers are provided distinct advantages enabling them to maximize efficiencies in their system designs. These advantages are enhanced
for the embedded user with StackableUSB, a stacking protocol that implements USB, I2C and SPI in a compact, rugged format conducive to industrial control and measurement applications.
USB has its roots as a serial protocol made popular on desktop PCs and laptops as multiple protocols such as RS-232 serial ports, floppy drives and printer ports dis-
Connect with the leader in embedded USB software. Micro Digital provides integrated USB solutions that run out of the box with our SMXÂŽ RTOS, ďŹ le system, and TCP/IP stack. These robust, high-performance USB solutions are written in ANSI-C, and can run on any hardware platform, with SMX, another RTOS, or stand-alone. Connect with us today at www.smxrtos.com/usb.
Look like to a PC:
USB disk drives USB serial devices USB keybds, mice, HIDs USB audio devices USB modems USB printers USB-to-Ethernet adapters USB-to-serial adapters USB-to-WiFi w/WEP & WPA USB-to-RFID
USB disk drive USB serial device USB keyboard & mouse Audio with MIDI Ethernet over USB (RNDIS) Composite devices Multi-port serial
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