AdvancedTCA: Living large

AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA, and AdvancedMCs are coming into their own.

1The annual NXTcomm telecom trade show was held June 17-19 this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The show will alternate between Las Vegas and its regular Chicago venue every other year going forward. Attendance topped 13,000, down a bit from last year. Folks I talked to weren’t all that happy with Las Vegas as a trade show location, in part due to its distance from East Coast cities and its triple-digit temperatures, but there was a lot of excitement about the products being shown. Several of the keynotes from industry heavies drew large crowds, too.

Of course this observer was interested in seeing AdvancedTCA equipment, and NXTcomm did not disappoint. Indeed, AdvancedTCA was almost impossible to miss, especially given the "sizable" interest in it, as evidenced at the Spirent Communications booth (Figure 1). Spirent created a 3D billboard presentation of its flagship product Spirent TestCenter featuring an AdvancedTCA board. "Tradeshow exposure and visibility always present a challenge, so we took a page from the outdoor advertising playbook," said Scott Gregory, Corporate Communications Manager at Spirent Communications.

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Figure 1

Interestingly, many of the systems I saw were not from AdvancedTCA vendors but from applications providers that in some cases did not even know that their product was running on an AdvancedTCA platform or even what AdvancedTCA was. That's a very important step in the maturation and wide-spread acceptance of AdvancedTCA as a platform that is the basis for many new products and applications. Most, as is the nature of things these days, are IP based and are pieces of the emerging All-IP network.

As in prior years, PICMG sponsored a pavilion-style booth with 35 member companies displaying their products and technologies (Figure 2). Booth traffic was fairly good, although a number of companies that were farthest from the main aisle did not see as many prospective customers as those nearer the main aisle. A redesign for next year might be in order. In addition to AdvancedTCA products, including racks, shelves, boards, and fully functioning systems, many Advanced Mezzanine Card and MicroTCA products were on display.

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Figure 2

CompactPCI and AdvancedTCA Systems team members Rosemary Kristoff, Ernest Godsey, Pat Hopper, and Anne Fisher were on hand to conduct interviews with PICMG members. The interviews will be included in a series of CompactPCI and AdvancedTCA Systems E-letters (www.compactpci-systems.com/eletter). A drawing for a Chumby (yes, I checked www.chumby.com, too) encouraged both attendeees already familiar with PICMG, as well as those just becoming familiar with the AdvancedTCA/MicroTCA/CompactPCI ecosystem, to visit the PICMG Pavilion. A brochure that included a map locating booths within the Pavilion and featuring product news was popular with Pavilion visitors.

Versatile MicroTCA

Having noticed the impressive number of MicroTCA products displayed at NXTcomm, it was interesting to return from the show and preview Tony Romero's article on MicroTCA, "Small is beautiful." The article is in this issue and Tony, Senior Product Manager at Performance Technologies, says, as others have, that the military is very interested in the MicroTCA platform for a wide range of applications. It is worth noting that several prime military suppliers are actively participating in the two PICMG technical committees developing standards for rugged aircooled and conduction-cooled MicroTCA systems.

A related topic is the Advanced Mezzanine Cards that are the basis of MicroTCA. Venkataraman Prasannan, Senior Director AdvancedTCA Product Line Management from RadiSys, digs into when and how to use AdvancedMCs, the thermal issues associated with their use, connectivity and I/O constraints, and usage models. As the AdvancedMC market continues to grow and products proliferate, designers need to understand the many variables when making cost/performance tradeoffs.

In his Global Technology column, Hermann Strass updates us on activities and shows in Europe. Meanwhile, in the Software Corner Curt Schwaderer tells about a new optical switching interconnect technology designed to help large storage arrays and data warehouses manage information flow. Using lasers and lenses, this unique technology is a departure from traditional fiber optic point-to-point systems, and requires some very sophisticated software to make it all work.

Joe Pavlat, Editorial Director