PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers' Group (PICMG) Consortium Info

PICMG is a nonprofit consortium of companies and organizations that collaboratively develop open standards for high-performance telecommunications, military, industrial, and general-purpose embedded computing applications.

Founded in 1994, the group has more than 250 member companies that specialize in a wide range of technical disciplines, including mechanical and thermal design, single-board computer design, very-high-speed signaling design and analysis, networking expertise, backplane and packaging design, power management, high-availability software, and comprehensive system management.

Key standards families developed by PICMG include CompactPCI, AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA, AdvancedMC, CompactPCI Serial, COM Express, SHB Express, and HPM (Hardware Platform Management). In its more than two decades of operation, PICMG has published over 50 specifications developed by participants from hundreds of companies. Work on standards across a wide range of markets, applications, and technologies continues as the boundaries of datacom, telecom, military and aerospace, industrial, man/machine interface applications, and deeply embedded computing continue to blur.

Equipment built to PICMG standards is used worldwide, with any company allowed to build or use equipment without restriction (although certain technologies used for some military applications may be subject to U.S. export restrictions governed by ITAR rules).

A rigorous intellectual property (IP) policy ensures early discovery of any member-owned IP; moreover, all members must agree to “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (RAND) licensing of any IP written into a standard. To date, no PICMG standard requires any license or royalty to build or operate.

PICMG adheres to a formal, multistep development process. Development work can be periodically be reviewed by all member companies, although work inside of a technical subcommittee is confidential to the members of that committee until that work is ready for broader review by other members. Until a specification or standards-related document is ratified by the entire membership, it is confidential to PICMG. After ratification, all documents are available to the general public.

Why use PICMG standards?

PICMG standards – because the organization has such a large number of contributing companies – reflect the extremely wide and deep technical capabilities of its members. By using well-understood and proven open standards, vendors can bring products to market quickly. Customers gain from the price and performance competition that results from many vendors operating in an open marketplace.

Thousands of PICMG standards-compliant products – ranging from components and subsystems to complete application-ready systems – are commercially available, representing more than $5 billion per year in global revenue.

To Learn More

To learn more about the PICMG organization and membership, please visit www.picmg.org/membership/ or email info@picmg.org.

There are nine distinct “families” of PICMG standards. Many have subsidiary specifications that are designed to add additional capability.

Please visit www.picmg.org/openstandards/ to learn more about each one.

  • Advanced TCA: This high-performance modular standard, also called ATCA, was developed for critical central-office telecommunications applications and is also used for a wide range of commercial and military applications. It offers a complete management infrastructure so that high-availability systems with “six nines” reliability can be deployed.
  • CompactPCI: A modular general-purpose computing system based on 3U and 6U Eurocard mechanical standards, it features hot-swap capability and can be either convection- or conduction-cooled. With hundreds of thousands of installations worldwide, this popular architecture is one of the most successful and popular standards in use today.
  • COM Express: This small-form-factor (SFF) standard is designed for deeply embedded applications where space is at a premium but high performance is required. COM Express boards can be used as standalones or plugged onto an application-specific baseboard with I/O expansion.
  • MicroTCA: Often called “AdvancedTCA’s little brother,” MicroTCA  is a modular platform for building smaller and less-expensive systems that AdvancedTCA while retaining the high-availability architecture of AdvancedTCAMicroTCA systems use AMC modules as their basic computing and I/O building blocks.
  • Advanced MC: This standard defines a family of small, hot-swappable, and fully managed mezzanine cards that can be used to tailor I/O for large AdvancedTCA systems or used as the basis for building MicroTCA systems. They are commonly called “AMCs.”
  • CompactPCI Serial: This relatively new standard uses CompactPCI’s  mechanical structure but updates the system interconnects to include PCI Express, Ethernet, SATA, and USB. It offers 20 to 40 times the backplane bandwidth of CompactPCI and is ideal for new applications or upgrades to older systems.
  • SHB Express: This upgrade to the PCI-ISA standard replaces parallel PCI interconnects with serial PCI Express lanes, improving performance and increasing compute power. A passive backplane is used, and standard desktop PCI Express cards can be used for I/O customization.
  • Hardware Platform Management: Also known as “HPM,” this software standard defines how to build fully managed, high-availability AdvancedTCA or  MicroTCA systems. It is the first, and currently the only, open standard for system management.
  • PCI-ISA: PICMG’s first open standard, PCI-ISA is used to build rugged, reliable, and maintainable computers that are designed to replace desktop PCs in industrial-control communications or data-acquisition applications. The PCI-ISA standard moves all of the active circuitry normally found on a motherboard to an easily replaceable and upgradable plug-in card. While standard PC cards plug into other slots to customize a system, a PCI-ISA system uses a passive backplane consisting of connectors with no active components.
  • Under Development: New standards arise when members identify the need to create a new embedded computing standard for a particular market or application. This is a structured process, but is relatively simple to initiate. All it takes to begin the development process is an initial “Statement of Work,” sponsored by three or more Executive members, that describes the market need and a rough proposal of what a standard addressing that might look like.

What makes PICMG a leading standards organization?

PICMG has more than 250 member companies, all of which combine to bring an extremely wide and deep talent base to the table. Unlike some other consortia, PICMG is not controlled by one or a few companies: It is governed by the Executive Members that work together to ratify processes and procedures, elect officers, and approve budgets. PICMG maintains a “one company-one vote” policy, which means that no single company can dominate the standards-development process.

Over the last several decades, open standards have become increasingly important for a wide range of embedded and specialized computer applications, both big and small. While the definition of “open standard” can vary, for the embedded computer world it usually means a succinct definition of everything a vendor needs to know to build equipment and write software that will work with compatible products offered by other vendors.

In an organization like PICMG, all players, whether large or small, can take an important role. Participants have access to thought leaders in areas they or their company may lack expertise. They also can meet experts in a wide range of engineering disciplines.

PICMG also has an outstanding intellectual property (IP) policy that ensures that members must submit IP declarations throughout the standards-development process, where they can be accepted for use or rejected. To date, no PICMG standard or specification has required any user licenses or royalties. Moreover, anyone can build equipment in accordance with or use PICMG standards whether they are members or not. PICMG is truly an open organization. Dues are low: In fact, the cost of a yearly Executive membership has not changed in 20 years.

To Learn More

To learn more about the PICMG organization and membership, please visit www.picmg.org/membership/ or email info@picmg.org.

Why join PICMG?

By joining an organization like PICMG, anyone can play an important role. Participants have access to thought leaders in areas they or their company may lack expertise. They come to know experts in a wide range of engineering disciplines. The groups that develop these open standards do so because they are interested in getting something done in a finite amount of time; whenever possible, bureaucracy and politics are kept to a minimum. Members of these development groups have a common goal: To create standards that are widely used and that each company involved can make money from. Companies can specialize in their areas of expertise without needing to be good at everything. In addition to technical collaboration, business collaborations often evolve in a symbiotic way.

Companies that participate in standards development also have a very important advantage: They are already up to speed when the standard is released and can thus be first to market with compliant and leading-edge products.

In its 20-plus years of operation, PICMG has published almost 50 open industry specifications that encompass nine basic standards families developed by participants from hundreds of companies.

To Learn More

To learn more about the PICMG organization and membership, please visit www.picmg.org/membership/ or email info@picmg.org.

List of PICMG Executive Members

ADLINK Technology Inc. www.adlinktech.com

Advantech Co., LTD www.advantech.com

Airbus Defence & Space airbusdefenceandspace.com

Amphenol FCI (AFCI) www.fci.com

Artesyn Embedded Technologies www.artesyn.com

BAE Systems www.baesystems.com

congatec AG www.congatec.com

Dawn VME Products www.dawnvme.com

DESY www.desy.de

Elma Electronic Inc. www.elma.com

Ennoconn Corporation www.ennoconn.com

Ericsson AB www.ericsson.com

ERNI Electronics GmbH www.erni.com

European Spallation Source ERIC europeanspallationsource.se

Eurotech S.p.A. www.eurotech.com

Extreme Engineering Solutions www.xes-inc.com

Fivetech Technology Inc. www.fivetk.com

Fraunhofer FOKUS www.fokus.fraunhofer.de

Fujitsu Limited www.fujitsu.com

General Micro Systems Inc. www.gms4sbc.com

Harting Inc. www.harting-usa.com

HEITEC AG www.heitec.de

Huawei www.huawei.com/en

IN2P3-CNRS www.in2p3.fr

Institute of High Energy Physics english.ihep.cas.cn

Intel Corporation www.intel.com

Keysight Technologies www.keysight.com

Kontron www.kontron.com

Meinberg Funkuhren GmbH & Co. KG www.meinberg.de

MEN Mikro Elektronik GmbH www.menmicro.com

Mercury Systems, Inc. www.mrcy.com

MSC Technologies GmbH www.msc-technologies.eu

N.A.T. GmbH www.nateurope.com

National Instruments www.ni.com

Parpro Systems parpro.com

Pentair Electronics Protection www.pentairprotect.com

PFU Limited www.pfu.fujitsu.com

PICMG China www.picmg.org/member/picmg-china

Pixus Technologies Inc. www.pixustechnologies.com

Polyrack Electronic-Aufbausysteme GmbH www.polyrack.com

Portwell, Inc. www.portwell.com

Prodrive B.V. prodrive-technologies.com

Radisys Corporation www.radisys.com

RECAB recab.com

RTD Embedded Technologies, Inc. www.rtd.com

Sanritz Automation Co., Ltd. www.sanritz.co/jp

Simonson Technology Services www.simonsontech.net

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory www6.slac.stanford.edu

Southco Inc. www.southco.com

TE Connectivity www.te.com

Trenton Systems, Inc. www.trentonsystems.com

VadaTech Inc. www.vadatech.com

Yamaichi Electronics yamaichi.com

ZTE Corporation www.zte.com