AdvancedMC Insider, October 2006

GE Fanuc Embedded Systems - AdvancedMC Insider GE Fanuc Embedded Systems
Volume 1, Number 9 - quarterly October 2006

New Company. New Web Site

GE Fanuc Embedded Systems is the name for our new company. It was formed when GE Fanuc acquired Condor Engineering and SBS with the goal of creating a different and better kind of embedded company. We’ve already put a lot of work into melding the three companies into one unified new entity, and one of the most visible results is our new website, and the new look of this newsletter.

The new website -- -- pulls together the products of the three companies into a single unified database. It also provides enhanced access to product information, a wide variety of white papers, datasheets, case studies and corporate information. So, whether your primary affiliation has been with GE Fanuc, Condor, or SBS, we hope our new site reflect the excitement we feel about this new company.

The outward look of the site has changed, however our core values have not. You can still expect superior quality of design and the added value of a partnership with GE. You can still depend on a strong global infrastructure of development, service and support; advanced supply chain management and a history of manufacturing leadership; plus our long-standing commitment to Six Sigma quality in all we do. We will continue to offer the experience, stability, resources, and strength you have come to rely on.

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Mezzanine Cards bring Modularity to Telecom Systems

By Herbert Erd - GE Fanuc Embedded Systems

Modularity has always been popular in computing. The notion of discrete, interchangeable units that can be connected, disconnected and reused has wide appeal. The appeal of modularity is now being felt in telecommunications because of the blurring boundaries between computer networks and telecom networks, a phenomenon known as “convergence.”

However, within telecommunications (unlike most other industries) a more advanced product is not necessarily a better one. In the telecom industry, the chief virtue of hardware is interoperability. So, despite competitive pressure to be distinct from rivals, telecom equipment manufacturers (TEMs) have begun to campaign actively for the acceptance of open standards. There simply is not enough engineering talent or resources to invest in proprietary platforms, and the modular approach based on open standards is the only way forward.

Open, Modular AdvancedTCA®
Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA) is an open standard specifically designed to meet the needs of the telecommunications industry. It incorporates the latest trends in high speed interconnect technologies, next generation processors and improved reliability. It is the largest specification effort to date from PICMG®, the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturer Group, a consortium of more than 450 companies.

AdvancedTCA is a standard plug and play platform which provides TEMs with standard chassis, blades and software at competitive prices. Key features include rugged mechanical construction, higher performance (10Gbit/s) switched fabric interface and multi-protocol support for Ethernet, PCI Express®, Rapid I/O® and InfiniBand®. AdvancedTCA also features hot swappability, a larger form factor (8U), high power capability (up to 200W per blade) and integrated Intelligent Platform Management Interface.

AdvancedMC Modules Bring Flexibility
However, AdvancedTCA struggles with the need to balance size and flexibility. Because each blade is so large, a slightly finer grain of modularity is desirable, and this is where Advanced Mezzanine Cards (AdvancedMCs) come into play. AdvancedMCs give ATCA designers more flexibility and add a wider range of interfaces to each design, meaning that identical base systems can be customized with different processing and I/O capabilities for specific applications.

The original goal for AdvancedMCs was to define an ATCA mezzanine card that would meet the modularity and scalability requirements of the telecom industry. Its focus is therefore high availability, manageability, hot-swappability and a serial switched fabric backplane. Ultimately, ATCA blades equipped with hot swappable AdvancedMCs provide the greatest modularity of any open telecom platform. Further, AdvancedMCs extend ATCA’s high performance switched fabric by providing data rates up to 200 Gbit/s.

The benefits of modular computing are driving a general trend towards modularity, particularly within industries where major system development continues under pressure to cut costs and increase performance. While ATCA’s multi protocol support, hot swappability and increased system management provide a solid baseline telecom fabric, AdvancedMC extends the benefits of that fabric to individual modules, enabling designers to customize, scale, upgrade and service their systems with a finer degree of granularity. And the increased modularity that AdvancedMC brings to ATCA systems reduces time to market, development and production costs, thereby reducing total cost of ownership.

AdvancedMCs Adopted by Other Industries
AdvancedMCs were originally designed for AdvancedTCA, but they offer so many benefits that they have been adopted by IBM® for the BladeCenter™ architecture and have spawned an entirely new architecture known as MicroTCA™. A blade built out of AdvancedMCs on an ATCA carrier can operate within the new MicroTCA environment or the IBM BladeCenter environment running the same software and offering the same performance. This makes it relevant to several key markets, including telecom, military and commercial applications.

ATCA is well positioned for core network applications where the size and cost of the architecture is acceptable, but for telecom and datacom applications requiring a smaller form factor and lower cost, MicroTCA is much better suited. The MicroTCA system architecture consists of multiple AdvancedMC modules connected by a common backplane. AdvancedMC micro-blades provide I/O and processing power to a standalone MicroTCA system. These systems meet the cost, size and modularity requirements of applications ranging from wireless base stations and router/gateways to enterprise network applications.

GE Fanuc has also designed an AdvancedMC carrier blade for the increasingly popular IBM BladeCenter and BladeCenter T systems which allows access to off the shelf processor, LAN/WAN and storage I/O AdvancedMC modules. As a result, BladeCenter systems can be optimized for next generation IP centric applications such as IP Multimedia Servers and Fixed Mobile Convergence. Similarly, AdvancedMCs can provide a route to the telecommunication space for server manufacturers.

For systems manufacturers in any industry, AdvancedMC modularity saves time and money. Individual modules can be combined into reusable generic components which then form the core of a range of products, eliminating the process of developing application specific ATCA blades for each new system. When supplied by vendors such as GE Fanuc, the components represent a low cost off the shelf solution to system designers.

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Creating a flexible µTCA platform

By Rubin Dhillon

The idea of MicroTCA™ was to expand the role of AdvancedMC® cards from mere mezzanines on ATCA blades to “mini-blades” within their own new system architecture. MicroTCA connects AdvancedMCs directly to a passive backplane, and creates communication links between cards through a "carrier" known as the MCH (MicroTCA Carrier Hub).

This is a very elegant and simple concept. However it soon became apparent from discussions with potential users that there was a vast increase in the number of possible chassis varieties for µTCA compared with ATCA. In addition to the actual chassis size and shape (cube, pico, shelf, etc) variations in the backplane design include multiple protocol options (PCIe, GbE or SRIO) and backplane topologies (point-to-point, star, dual star, etc.).

This degree of variability virtually eliminates the concept of a “plug-and-play” MicroTCA chassis. However, as the following paragraphs illustrate, it is possible to design a MicroTCA chassis that can provide engineers with a basic system that can be tested and used in practical applications.

Market requirements
It appears that the MicroTCA market is dividing into two major camps with two different cost points. The first camp—telecom—likely will pick Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit backplane protocols and in some cases SRIO. The other camp consists of users who have traditionally belonged to the server sector, and it appears that they will be relying on PCI Express®. It is a testament to the MicroTCA specification that it can support a wide array of applications and cost points.

For the server sector, simple backplane designs with a star network, an MCH and a set of AdvancedMC slots (plus a fan unit and power module) are adequate. A PCI Express system has only one root complex, so a redundant system is not relevant. In the future, these types of systems will make it possible to build modular MicroTCA servers. (Note: for server applications in the telecom sector, redundancy requirements can be met with middleware; backup and standby servers.)

Traditional telecom applications, with fully-redundant systems, are an entirely different story. A MicroTCA backplane designed to support 2-4 power modules, 2 MCHs, 12 AdvancedMCs plus 2 fan units will not be cheap. It’s fairly easy to imagine the cost of a complex MCH that supports Gigabit Ethernet on the Common Option Ports and in the Fat Pipe region as well as Shelf Manager functions, intelligent power modules and a NEBS-compliant chassis with dual fan units. Users who require this level of redundancy will find that their systems will cost significantly more than the non-redundant systems.

A Compromise Chassis Concept
Theoretically, even with all the variables we’ve just mentioned, it should be possible to design a chassis that would serve a wide range of application needs. The key would be to make a series of informed decisions based on the current market situation, available products and trends in the market.

The “single Mid-Size” and “single Full-Size” form factors, which are used for the vast majority of AMC cards, are currently the standard for AdvancedMCs. However, dual dual-core processor boards and network processor boards require double full size AdvancedMCs. Therefore, the chassis should be able to accommodate all these styles of cards.

Moreover, market analysis shows that most AdvancedMCs currently available on the market support GbE in the Common Options region and/or PCIe in the Fat Pipe region. Since the MicroTCA specification states that up to 12 AdvancedMCs can be supported, a chassis also needs to be able to meet this requirement, and support is required for SAS/SATA.

Maximum power consumption, the 19‑inch rack, air requirements for cooling and system redundancy are other decisive factors influencing the design concept. Redundancy can be achieved by combining 2 cubes into a standard 19-inch rack as a chassis, but in electrical terms allowing them to function as autonomous systems. This configuration also would solve the power issues and create an optimized cooling concept. In short, here are the elements of this theoretical chassis:

  • Support of up to 12 AdvancedMCs
  • Flexible support of Mid-Size, Full-Size and double Full-Size AdvancedMCs
  • Support of 1 MCH (AMC.2 E2 and/or AMC.1 Type 4)
  • Support of up to 2 power modules (300 W each)
  • SATA support (point-to-point port-2-port mapping) (AMC.3)
  • Design with 1 or 2 fan tray units
  • JTAG support
  • Combination of 2 chassis in a 19-inch rack
  • Overall height <= 7U
  • Cooling concept that supports a variety of backplanes (MCH, PM positioning and 40 W per slot)
The most recent proposed changes to the AdvancedMC specification (AMC.0 AMC.2), in particular the "mid size" form factor for AdvancedMCs, will affect the different ventilation concepts for MicroTCA systems and necessitate adaptation of the backplane (MicroTCA connector clearance). Furthermore, this new AdvancedMC form factor will bring with it changes in respect to mechanical layout.

The new AMC.2 port mapping of GbE lanes planned in the Fat Pipe region (from ports 4-7 to ports 8-11) will also make different backplanes necessary in accordance with the protocol used. In addition to the actual functionality of the boards, IPMI and the interoperability of the various versions will also require more work from major players in the industry before it will be possible to speak of "plug and play" for MicroTCA components.

Requirements with respect to shock and vibration may also mean further changes for MicroTCA and it's backplane connectors. Another issue that will need to be dealt with in the very near future is the effect of 10GbE/XAUI. These high-speed protocols will raise the bar still higher in respect of the requirements to be met by backplanes and connectors. They may also affect how components on the various AdvancedMCs are structured and laid out.

When all is said and done, these are teething problems typical of any new technology, but are in no way insurmountable. MicroTCA will win the day as the technology of choice both for professional servers and for many telecom applications. In addition to this, many users outside the world of telecommunications are already eager to see the experiences gained here transferred to their sectors as quickly as possible in order that they too can switch to MicroTCA.



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Showcase: GE Fanuc Embedded Systems

Although the major telecommunications manufacturers (Alcatel, Lucent, Nortel, Siemens, etc.) have adopted AdvancedTCA and AdvancedMC, the market is still fairly young. Nevertheless, GE Fanuc Embedded Systems has taken a leadership position, and offers a very wide range of different AdvancedMC and ATCA products supporting PCI Express® (AMC.1), Gigabit Ethernet (AMC.2), and Storage (AMC.3). GE Fanuc Embedded Systems currently offers more than 20 different AdvancedMC & ATCA products including the following:

AdvancedMC Modules
Telum 1001-O3 series
These OC3 cards are available in 4 variants with support for an STM1/OC3 port on the front panel. They offer single-mode (S) or multi-mode (M) fiber, with and without Automatic Protection Switching (APS). The cards are compatible with ATM Forum UNI 3.1 and TM 4.0 and communicate via a single-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 1) with the host processor on an ATCA blade or in a µTCA system.

Telum 1001-O12 series

These OC12 cards are available in 4 variants, and support an STM3/OC12 port on the front panel. The I/O cards are available for single-mode (S) or multi-mode (M) fiber connection as well as in variants with and without APS. The cards are compatible with ATM Forum UNI 3.1 and TM 4.0 and communicate via a four-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 4) with the host processor on an ATCA blade or in a µTCA system.

Telum 1004-O3 series

These OC3 cards are available in 4 different variants and support four STM1/OC3 ports on the front panel. The I/O cards are available for single- or multi-mode fiber connection as well as in variants with and without APS. The cards are compatible with ATM Forum UNI 3.1 and TM 4.0 and communicate via a four-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 4) with the host processor on an ATCA blade or in a µTCA system.

Telum 1001-DE

This ATM adapter supports full-duplex DS3/E3 lines. It complies with ATM Forum UNI 3.1 and TM 4.0 and communicates via a single-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 1) with the host processor on an ATCA blade or in a µTCA system.

Telum 1204-O3

This AdvancedMC module, which is fitted with a network processor (WINPATH 787), can manage up to four OC3/STM1 channels and communicates, via a GbE interface (AMC.2 Type E2) or a PCI-Express interface (AMC.1 Type 1), with the host processor on an ATCA blade or in a µTCA system. Primary applications are VoIP (Voice over IP), media gateways, 3G wireless and other ATM-to-IP interworking applications. The built-in packet processing function can process up to 750,000 packets per second in real time. An external processor is not required.

Telum 200-SATA

Designed for use with AdvancedTCA® and MicroTCA™ systems, this Serial ATA hard disk drive module is RoHS compliant and conforms to AMC.0, AMC.3 and mTCA.0. It offers IPMI and hot swap capabilities and is available with standard or continuous operation (extended duty cycle) hard drives. The Telum 200-SATA is available with Carrier Grade Linux® and VxWorks® support. The Telum 200-SATA’s multiplexer allows the hard drive to switch between common ports 2 and 3, thus providing design options for redundancy and failover. Applications where the Telum 200-SATA can be used are media gateways, central office servers, medical and video imaging equipment, embedded storage systems, and host-attached mass storage subsystems.

Telum 2001-VGA

This graphics card supports a resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels (24 bpp) at a refresh rate of 60 Hz. 8 MB of SGRAM are available on the card for display purposes. The graphics card communicates via a single-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 1) with the host processor on an ATCA blade or in a µTCA system. Its primary application is to provide graphics support for developers in the context of system debugging.

Telum 624/628-TEJ

Four (624) or eight (628) full-duplex ports complying with the E1/T1/J1 specification are available on this AdvancedMC card. The I-TDM version also supports the PICMG specification for the System Fabric Plane (SFP.0 and SFP.1). Protocols are available for HDLC and others. On the I-TDM version, a PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 1) and 2 GbE ports (AMC.2 Type E2) connect the card to an ATCA carrier or the µTCA system.

Telum ASLP10

This AdvancedMC processor module is available with various INTEL x86 processors and is currently supplied with up to 2 GB of memory (DDR2-400 with ECC). It has an eight-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 8). Other features include two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (AMC.2 Type E2) and two SATA ports (AMC.3 Type S2).

Telum FC2312-CC or -FF

This Fibre Channel AdvancedMC card features two optical (FF) or copper (CC) Fiber Channel interfaces (2 Gb/s) with automatic data rate switching as well as a variety of FC and SCSI protocols. A four-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 4) connects the card to an ATCA carrier or other modules in a µTCA system.

Telum GE-QT

This Ethernet module supports 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports on the front panel and up to 4096 VLANs are supported. A four-lane PCI Express interface (AMC.1 Type 4) connects the card with an ATCA carrier or with other modules in a µTCA system.


The GPS (Global Positioning System) clock is responsible for synchronization in networks. The temperature‑compensated and voltage-controlled master clock on the Module is synchronized to the GPS, and has been designed for precise Stratum 3 stability (0.37 PPM) at 30.72 MHz. It can be used to synchronize WIMAX base stations and other network components, for example, which do not have direct access to a Stratum clocking signal.

Telum TSPE01

This is the first processor AMC module with a G4 PowerPC® processor (MPC7447A). The card has up to 1 GB DDR2-400 SDRAM and 4 programmable GPIO interfaces. Two GbE ports (AMC.2 Type E2) connect the card with an ATCA carrier or with other modules in a µTCA system.

ATCA Blades
The AT-AMC series of ATCA blades can support AdvancedMC modules in single and double-wide, as well as Mid-Size and Full-Size form factors. Up to four bays (slots) can be used per blade. Depending on the model (currently AT-AMC1 & 2), dual-star or full-mesh systems can be configured with up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) channels. All blades in the AT-AMC series feature two GbE channels between the carrier card and AMC modules for control and monitoring functions (AMC.2 Type E2).


This blade for the IBM BladeCenter platform features up to four bays (slots) which can be used for AdvancedMC cards. Two of these bays can be accessed from the front panel. The blade also supports hot swapping. It can generate and distribute a master clock for the platform. The BCT4-AMC1 has been developed for use in IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) systems.

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Upcoming Events
October 17, 2006
Light Reading Advanced TCA
Boston, MA

October 17 , 2006
Patuxent River, MD

October 17-19, 2006
AdvancedTCA Summit
Santa Clara, CA -- Booth 204

October 19, 2006r
Tysons Corner, VA

October 25-26, 2006
China PICMG Tech-Forum
Shanghai, China

EDITOR: Anne-Marie Charest
(805) 965-8000 x118

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