COTS Suppliers Rally Around New VME Specification VITA 46 Addresses the Needs of Mil/Aero Market

At the Bus & Boards conference today, Radstone Technology, Dy 4, Mercury Computer Systems and VISTA Controls jointly announced support for the latest VME standard to address the needs of deployed military systems. Together, these leading defense VME manufacturers are ensuring the next VME specification meets the I/O, processing and power distribution requirements of the military and aerospace market. The proposed VITA 46 standard enables significant high-speed backplane I/O concurrent with switch fabric communications in addition to VME or PCI connections over the backplane. The specification also addresses the use of high-speed connectors in harsh environments. “The military segment is a key driver of the growth for the VME market,” said Eric Gulliksen, embedded hardware practice director at Venture Development Corporation. “The military/aerospace is projected to constitute nearly 40% of VME single board computer shipments in 2004. VITA 46 addresses the key issues involved in bringing switch fabrics to deployed military systems. This is vital to ensure the growth of the VME architecture over the next several years.” The goal of the VITA 46 standard is to provide high-speed signals for both serial switch fabrics and high-speed I/O, as well as legacy VME or PCI protocols, for the spectrum of commercial and military systems. Support for the legacy parallel busses allows users to upgrade their systems with an evolutionary roadmap that enables hybrid architectures leveraging existing investments in commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) VME or PCI-based modules. By replacing the venerable DIN connectors on a VME board with contemporary high-speed connectors capable of supporting signaling rates to 5 Gbps and beyond, VITA 46 provides 4 switch fabric ports of 10 Gbps each in the initial configuration, and the capacity for more than 20 ports in fabric-only configurations. The specification also greatly expands the high-speed user I/O capacity and provides a broader ability to map high-speed user I/O or fabric connections from the emerging XMC (VITA 42) mezzanine standard to the backplane. In many respects, the VITA 46 standard represents a convergence of many outstanding ideas around the next generation of VME.  For example, some earlier proposals address only commercial environments or only 6U form factors. The VITA 46 standard addresses both the 6U and 3U form factors, the latter of which is becoming more important as integrated components enable system sizes to shrink. No other VITA standard has brought high-speed signaling support to the 3U form factor. By explicitly including deployed military environments in its charter, the VITA 46 working group is addressing up front, important issues such as stress testing, vibration testing, and compatibility with conduction-cooling techniques. The VITA 46 module format will provide defense and aerospace system integrators with a platform capable of leveraging new switch fabric standards, such as Serial RapidIO and PCI Express, ultimately enabling systems with higher performance and lower cost.