PICMG: Year in review

enjoyed a busy year with a number of technical subcommittees working on and releasing updates to existing specifications. Most of the work has been related to new revisions of popular technologies. 2016 will see a continuation of these efforts, and a few other specs will be opened up for a refresh.

, originally developed specifically for the central office telco environment, has continued to evolve over the years, increasing board power capability from 200 to 400 watts and speeding up the Ethernet fabric from 10 to 40 Gbps. 2015 saw the release of a major enhancement to the standard in the form of PICMG 3.7, known as Extensions, which increases ATCA’s capability further and also defines versions of ATCA that are optimized for enterprise, or datacenter, applications. Key new features include:

  • A complete definition of double-wide boards that can use full-size, low-cost DIMM memory and dissipate up to 800 watts per slot
  • Dual-sided shelves that can support up to 32 single-wide or 16 double-wide boards (Figure 1)
  • Enhanced Hardware Platform Management
  • New temperature profiles and a datacenter climatic class for 45 ºC maximum ambient operation, different than ATCA’s original central office requirement of 55 ºC operation
  • Elimination of the now-obsolete requirement for -60V main supply voltage
  • Much larger Rear Transition Modules (RTMs), called Extended Transition Modules (ETMs)

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Figure 1: Courtesy of Pentair Electronics Protection

Realizing that the world is running out of 32-bit IPv4 IP addresses, ATCA and its variants now support IPv6 addressing. Updated specs include the PICMG 3.0 Base Specification, PICMG 3.7, and HPM.2, one of the Hardware Platform Management specs. HPM.3 will follow with an update in 2016.

Adapting the old adage that says you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth, committees are working hard on upping the speed of ATCA again (which now accommodates 40G Ethernet) to 100G Ethernet. An important part of any open standard like ATCA is the interoperability of system elements – boards, backplanes, connectors, etc. – between vendors. This requires that sophisticated modeling and simulations be done. The PICMG 3.1 Revision 3 committee is well along the way to completing that work, and 100G capability is expected to be released early in 2016.

In another area, Serial revision 2 was released, with increased rear panel I/O capability and more flexible internal Ethernet networking. A new CompactPCI Serial committee is being formed to extend that specification’s applicability to space and satellite applications, where traditional CompactPCI is widely used.

, which has always been somewhat of a niche technology, is now enjoying wide acceptance and applicability in physics research and a global group of scientists is upgrading MicroTCA in a variety of ways. First, networking speed is increasing to 40G. This is also being specified for the AMC.2 standard. Second, a newer version of the .4 RTM spec is near completion. It adds new functionality and tightens up some of the electrical and mechanical requirements for building RTMs. Operating concurrently, a software effort is underway to define APIs for what the physics community is calling the Standard Device Model for developing MicroTCA and processing software for physics.

A Call for Participation has just gone out inviting PICMG members to join a new subcommittee that will update and refresh the specification. The updates include providing for 10 gigabit Ethernet and facilitating the transition from LPC to eSPI. A new Type 7 pinout will also be defined. Miscellaneous fixes and updates will also be addressed.

More on M&As and a farewell

2015 was a busy year on the business side of things, with a number of acquisitions, mergers, consolidations, and divestitures within the embedded computing world. Eletronics packaging giant Pentair Electronics Protection, best known for their Schroff line of chassis and enclosures, acquired long-time partner Pigeon Point Systems, best known for their platform management products that are an important part of a variety of PICMG technologies, including ATCA, MicroTCA, and CompactPCI.

There was other consolidation in the packaging area. Ableconn, CBT Technology, Photo Etch, and SIE Computing solutions joined together to form Atrenne Integrated Solutions. Atrenne then acquired part of the Curtiss-Wright packaging business, formerly known to most of us as Hybricon.

Also, private equity firm Veritas Capital is acquiring the embedded computing business of General Electric Co., which has been part of the GE Intelligent Platforms business unit based in Huntsville, AL.

We would be remiss if we did not note that 2015 saw the full retirement of long-time engineering contributor Eike Waltz, who has played a vital role in the mechanical design of virtually everything PICMG and VITA have done for over 20 years, including CompactPCI, ATCA, MicroTCA, VME, and a host of other standards too numerous to mention. In addition to his major contributions to our industry, Eike is an accomplished artist who has exhibited his work in galleries and exhibitions in both the US and Europe. He will now focus his time and talent on his art, and we all wish him the best.

, President

Jessica Isquith, Vice President of Marketing

PICMG