Rugged MicroTCA is changing

Stuart Jamieson, editor on the PICMG MicroTCA.2 and the Interconnect Channel Committee, as well as introduction author for MicroTCA.1, updates us on recent PICMG Rugged MicroTCA work.

Rugged MicroTCA (I won't call the specification MicroTCA.1 or MicroTCA.2 for reasons I shall explain later) is going through a period of transformation. This transformation is a direct result of new requirements that have recently been identified by PICMG's Rugged MicroTCA subcommittee. In order to address these newly identified requirements, there has been a slight adjustment in the subcommittee's current focus and direction.

In May 2008, the Rugged MicroTCA specification was split into two parts, the air-cooled specification and the conduction-cooled specification. Recognizing that the conduction-cooled specification had different needs and requirements, PICMG formed a separate subcommittee to address these specific issues. This new subcommittee comprises a different experience base to ensure its members have the necessary expertise to bring the specification forward. The conduction-cooled MicroTCA subcommittee is currently working to gather requirements and investigate solutions to move MicroTCA (with the maximum amount of reuse of MicroTCA.0 and AMC.0) into the conduction-cooled space.

Air-cooled specification split recommended

The newly formed conduction-cooled subcommittee has had an impact on the air-cooled subcommittee. Given the newly identified, developed, and disclosed customer requirements, it's clear that the air-cooled specification must take on both extra functionality and allowance in order to address the diverse markets identified in the statement of work.

The subcommittee is currently identifying and localizing these new requirements. As a direct result of this analysis, a proposal to split the air-cooled specification into two documents has been recommended. The first document was originally proposed as an extension of the MicroTCA.0 environmental requirements, allowing MicroTCA.0 to function within extended temperature and shock/vibration environments. Discussions led to this first document becoming a stand-alone dot spec in its own right. This specification is perceived, at this stage, to apply to telco-centric, industrial, transportation, and low-end military applications.

The second air-cooled specification will focus on more severe operational environments, including higher/lower temperatures, temperature cycling, random vibration, greater g shock requirements for longer periods of time, and the like. This specification may also look at areas such as two-level maintenance, Electrical Static Discharge (ESD), and contamination protection. These requirements are all focused on military and aerospace applications.

The subcommittee also intends to add a short guidance document to the specification and requirement alignments. Such a guide will allow implementers/architects to quickly identify which specification can be used for which application, as well as the environmental conditions that the specification supports. This will aid the understanding of MicroTCA users in general and help organize and explain the final specification-naming conventions.

What's in a name …

A final consideration is what the specifications should be called. The subcommittee proposed and discussed two possibilities. One possibility was that the telco-specific air-cooled specification would become an extension document of MicroTCA.0, while the military-focused air-cooled specification should be called MicroTCA.1. The other suggestion was that the telco- specific air-cooled specification would become MicroTCA.1, and the military- focused specification would become MicroTCA.3.

However, the subcommittee's final decision is that for development purposes, the specifications currently under development will be named MicroTCA.X, MicroTCA.Y, and MicroTCA.Z. The actual numbering of those specifications was considered unimportant at this stage and will be dealt with as the specification reaches the release candidate stage.


As it currently stands, the Rugged MicroTCA subcommittee(s) will be releasing three specifications and one overall application/alignment guide. The three specifications will cover:

  • Air-cooled MicroTCA.0 at extended shock/vibration and temperature, focused on telco-centric, industrial, and transportation applications
  • Air-cooled MicroTCA.0 at more extreme shock/vibration and temperature, including such things as contamination, ESD, and two-level maintenance, focused on more environmentally challenging aerospace and military applications
  • Conduction-cooled MicroTCA.0 applications dealing with shock/vibration and temperature, in addition to such factors as contamination, ESD, and two-level maintenance, focused on military applications and possibly aggressive telco applications

It's important to understand that the subcommittees are working to address the required markets with a strong set of rigorous, qualified specifications. These new specifications are practically focused, built with strong customer input, and backed up with testing strategies and test results.

Stuart Jamieson is Director, Industry Relations/Architect for the Embedded Computing business of Emerson Network Power and the editor on the PICMG MicroTCA.2 and the Interconnect Channel Subcommittee, as well as introduction author for MicroTCA.1.

For more information, contact Stuart at