Collaboration equals innovation

What continues to make successful as a standards body is our community of members and your collaboration in pursuit of innovation. As officers of PICMG, our mission is to shepherd and encourage that collaboration, making sure that the process moves along and that member voices are heard. The standard development process within PICMG is flexible – members can prepare pre-work of a potential standard before coming to PICMG ( was introduced this way) or develop them within open committees under the aegis of PICMG. It’s all about collaboration. The value of open standards adoption is that it helps the industry by enabling interoperability, multivendor solutions, flexibility, and reduced time to market for end users.

My column reviews the great progress we have made in 2017 and some of the exciting new initiatives underway.

Distinguished Service Awards Program

Over the last 23 years, PICMG members have spent hundreds of thousands of hours collaborating on open standards, leading to nine standards families that have generated billions of dollars of products. The PICMG officers felt we should celebrate some exceptional members, both past and present, who have been instrumental to the success of PICMG. This admirable group contains founding members and leaders of previous and current efforts. We will continue to highlight the Distinguished Service honorees with articles in our newsletter, and on our website, about their valuable contributions and accomplishments.

Doug Sandy’s reelection

Doug Sandy has been re-elected the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of PICMG, a post he has held since 2009. Doug recently retired from his role at Artesyn Embedded Technologies and has taken a position in academia, becoming even more of an evangelist for PICMG and open standards overall. As CTO, he is responsible for the definition and administration of the specification development process. With his 24-plus years of industry experience and over 20 years at PICMG, Doug’s expertise in driving the formation and successful adoption of open specifications is unprecedented. PICMG will greatly benefit from Doug’s reelection.

Specifications ratified in 2017

COM Express Rev.3

Revision 3.0 of was ratified this spring, a drive led by Jeff Munch. This high-performance revision adds server-grade functionality to the COM Express standard. COM Express is widely used in industrial automation, military/aerospace, gaming, medical, transportation, Internet of Things (IoT), and other applications. Revision 3.0 of COM Express provides for a new Type 7 connector and the addition of up to four 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) interfaces on the board. Previous revisions of the specification (connector types 3 and 5) supported up to three Gigabit Ethernet ports. The higher-speed ports open up new markets such as data centers, where the high compute density of COM Express can result in increased rack utilization. The 10GbE ports are also ideal for high-bandwidth video applications like surveillance. Another change to the specification includes increasing the number of PCI Express lanes to 32 across the Type 7 connector. This move provides increased connectivity and interface options including the ability to use general-purpose graphics processing units (GPGPUs). COM Express Type 7 pinout also supports up to four 10GbE-KR interfaces, making it ideally suited for the new edge-node servers required by IoT and Industry 4.0 applications.

cPCI Serial Space

A derivative of CompactPCI Serial, the Serial Space specification was ratified in August 2017. cPCI Serial Space is intended to be used in space, for example on board satellites as the platform system and the payload controller as well as on Earth for the control systems and ground stations. CompactPCI Serial products can also be combined with cPCI Serial Space products to develop test and simulation systems. As led by Manfred Schmitz, the two main changes in the CompactPCI Serial specification are the definition of a dual star architecture for increased availability and the ability to integrate different communication protocols common in space applications.

We are proud that cPCI Serial Space has been selected for the OneWeb program, where over 900 satellites will utilize the technology. The technology is being further evaluated for a wide range of other programs.

MicroTCA Design Guidelines for Physics Community

Throughout 2017, the .4 committee, led by Ray Larsen, developed and ratified four new design guides to aid engineers. They cover topics including hot-plug capabilities for advanced mezzanine card/rear transition module (AMCs/RTM), functions, and APIs for standard device model (SDM) and standard process model (SPM). It is recommended, but not required, that applications developed for use with .4 or MTCA.4.1 systems make use of these guidelines to the greatest reasonable extent. All the design guidelines are available for download at picmg.org.

PICMG Industrial IoT initiatives

We have held a number of open calls with members and additional industry experts to discuss Industrial IoT requirements, and have found quite keen interest in creating a specification in that area. However, there are many challenges that must be first be addressed, from discovery, security, monitoring, and management of nodes to reliability and rugged packaging.

Today, many leaders in IIoT have selected COM Express as their preferred platform due to its size, performance, flexible I/O, and ability to address many of the challenges listed above. With the addition of COM Express Type 7, we expect even greater adoption because COM Express can meet new, high-bandwidth, data-intensive edge-node server application requirements.

To position COM Express as the standard for Industrial IoT platforms, we are developing application guides, short-form specs, promotional campaigns, and other tools. The goal is to make COM Express easier to adopt and also to reduce the time it takes for companies to deploy industrial grade solutions. We hope that increased adoption will lead to greater participation in PICMG and industry-specific standards development to meet emerging IIoT requirements.

In the coming year, we will continue reaching out to industry leaders and other consortia (including the TCG, IIC, and FOG) with complementary sets of expertise to collaboratively address rapidly developing requirements.

Where to see PICMG in 2018

Currently, we have approximately one-third of our members in North America, one-third in Asia, and one-third in Europe. We have started to invest more PICMG resources to support international efforts. We are determining the interest level in setting up regional groups and will attend a number of events in 2018 to further support international and regional efforts.

The event with the greatest number of members exhibiting is this winter in (February 27 – March 1, 2018). In addition, DESY will be holding its 6th MicroTCA Workshop in December. PICMG will also have a presence at a few events in Japan, including IT Week; the officers will also be walking and attending various IoT, industrial, and military events throughout the coming year.

PICMG next steps: #1 – Increase member participation

Much of my work in 2017 has in been streamlining operations: reworking the expenses to enable greater investment in value-added offerings for our members, modernizing specification distribution, and responding to member questions. In the coming year, I will focus even more time on our members.

The officers are exploring the possibility of providing a second path for engagement with PICMG that would enable members to bring forward more pre-work on specifications into an expedited path. This investigation may lead to PICMG-endorsed specifications that have not been fully vetted to a true PICMG Standard level.

In 2018, we will continue to prepare PICMG to meet the next decades of embedded computing challenges through working closely with industry leaders to enable companies’ use of PICMG processes. We will further educate and evangelize about the value of open standards to both current and upcoming generations of engineers. University and student involvement will be important to recruit the next generation of engineers by making them aware of PICMG standards and embracing the value of open standards. Our long-term goal: getting new engineers to actively participate in defining new standards.

There is an opportunity to expand our membership among hundreds of companies who have purchased COM Express and CompactPCI Serial specifications, but who have not yet joined PICMG. We will encourage them to join so that they can participate in the specification development process; we will also continue to encourage engineers and marketers from our member companies to participate in the development and promotion of open standards and PICMG specifications.

I am confident that increased participation will lead to the innovations which will meet our industry’s evolving needs. Whether you are currently a member or planning to become one, I encourage you to contact us at officers@picmg.org and let us know how we can work together.