MicroTCA Workshop Report at DESY

In early December 2017, I had the honor of delivering one of the keynote speeches at the DESY Workshop in Hamburg, Germany. The workshop was well-attended, as 183 participants from 25 institutes and 23 companies gathered to share the latest developments in MicroTCA hardware, software, and applications. The pre-workshops, held December 4 and 5, included a tutorial for MTCA.4 beginners, interoperability testing opportunities, and an introduction to ChimeraTK, a popular software suite for managing MicroTCA (and other) components. The industrial exhibition was also well attended, with 14 companies present.

[Editor’s note: The Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (or German Electron Synchrotron) – commonly referred to by the abbreviation DESY – is a national research center in Germany that operates particle accelerators used to investigate the structure of matter. It conducts a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary scientific research in three main areas: particle and high-energy physics; photon science; and the development, construction, and operation of particle accelerators. Its name refers to its first project, an electron synchrotron.]

I was very pleased to learn of the wealth of diversity of MicroTCA systems in the field. I had asked members to send me notes on their MicroTCA-based applications and the response was impressive. The applications included examples such as banknote inspection, industrial automation, semiconductor lithography, NASA satellite systems, Navy towed arrays and radar systems, and – not surprisingly – several telecom-based systems.

MicroTCA has some unique advantages: size, weight, and power (SWaP) superiority because of its smaller form factor, a minimum of “five nines” uptime (99.999 percent availability), hot-swappability and remote management, and advanced clocking provisions. MicroTCA also has several “cool to haves,” such as JTAG switch modules options under which a user can debug/upgrade their software remotely for any/all slots in the chassis, or chassis locators that signal the location of the specific chassis. The remote capabilities and chassis locators can be helpful in data centers where many other systems are present and in large defense or physics installations where it may be dark or difficult to locate equipment quickly.

As DESY is focused on the high-energy physics market, there were dozens of presentations at the MicroTCA Workshop from labs worldwide, all of them showing how MicroTCA.4 was used in their designs. The main program comprised 39 talks, including another keynote speech by Peter Jänker on the opportunities of piezoelectronics. One major focus of the workshop was the inauguration of the European XFEL (the European X-ray free-electron laser, an X-ray research laser facility located at the DESY research center in Hamburg.) The European XFEL – the largest MicroTCA installation worldwide – has made the transition to successful user operation in 2017. It is the first free-electron laser that relies on MTCA.4 for LLRF [low-level radio frequency] control systems, timing, interlocks, and special diagnostics.

MicroTCA has a growing user base in the accelerator community around the world, and a lot of talks during the workshop reflected on their latest experiences. There were also several talks exploring the potential of MicroTCA for photon science experiments. All presentations are available on the workshop website (http://mtcaws.desy.de/).

The guided tours of DESY were quite popular with workshop attendees, as visitors had the chance to visit FLASH (the soft free-electron laser facility), AMTF (the accelerator module test facility), and the European XFEL. For the first time, this year’s social program included a conference dinner combined with a cruise around Hamburg harbor on the MS Fantasia.

Figure 1: The MicroTCA Workshop featured dozens of presentations from labs worldwide.

DESY looks forward to welcoming you in Hamburg next year at the 7th MicroTCA Workshop, to be held December 5 and 6, 2018. Please save the date!

Justin Moll is , the leading open specification development organization for embedded computing. He is also the vice president of U.S. market development at Pixus Technologies, a provider of PICMG and VITA-based system platform solutions. Justin has been a sales and marketing management consultant and senior-level manager for embedded computing companies for more than 20 years. He has also led various committees in the open standards community and is a regular guest speaker at several industry events. Justin holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from University of California, Riverside.

PICMG Distinguished Service Awards

To celebrate some exceptional members, both past and present, who have been instrumental to the success of PICMG, the officers inaugurated a Distinguished Service Award program.

Over the last 23 years, PICMG members have spent hundreds of thousands of hours collaborating on open standards, leading to nine families of standards which have generated billions of dollars of products.

This admirable group contains founding members and leaders of previous and current efforts. If you would like to nominate someone for a PICMG Distinguished Service award, please contact jess@picmg.org.

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