Volker Haag, Vice President Product Development, Pentair Technical Products/Schroff in EMEA

Volker explains how with so many key components homegrown, Schroff offers chassis with maximum flexibility, under one roof.

1Volker began his career in software engineering and later began working in product management. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe, Germany.

How has the participation in the PICMG working groups and interoperability workshops benefitted your customers?

AdvancedTCA interoperability workshops are a key part of PICMG 3.0 history, and during the past nine years Schroff participated in 19 of the 20 workshops, hosting four of them. The big advantage for the customer is that their combination of chassis and boards from different vendors works together without any issues right from the start.

Our membership in standardization committees assures our customers that whatever we develop is according to the latest revision of the spec, and that no issues will arise due to implementing new features. Also we have the opportunity to integrate features anticipated for the spec into our product range, so we are ready to meet customer needs.

In addition, during the initial PICMG standardization and interoperability workshops we maintain close contacts with our customers, many of whom are also participating. This contact ensures that whatever we develop is very closely tied into customers’ road maps. For example, the mechanical stability of the chassis was at the beginning a pretty tough issue, and our implementation is based on actual customer requirements and testing done early on.

How do you ensure that the physical construction, cooling, power supplies, data distribution, and system management that Schroff offers adds to a solution that is more than just the sum of its parts?

We have all these different areas of development in house. We do the mechanical design; we develop all the electronic boards; and (one of the biggest challenges right now) we do the high-speed backplane design. We developed the 40G backplane in house, and we are also participating in the 100G IEEE working group (IEEE 802.3 100 Gb/s Backplane and Copper Study Group). Also in house is the complete cooling design and thermal simulation and testing. Part of the software development is done in house, and on that portion we are partnering with Pigeon Point Systems on the shelf management side.

Our broad and deep range of AdvancedTCA chassis were all developed in house, thus avoiding the complexities of working with different suppliers.

We produce all mechanical and electronic components in house and integrate mechanics, backplane, cooling, power, and shelf management into a complete chassis.

What are the customers telling you about the benefits of working with Schroff?

They appreciate the broad technical know-how on both the engineering and production sides. Another equally important aspect for customers is the capability we have to customize. Customers want their chassis to reflect their corporate identity by means of color, silk screening, and labeling. On the software side they want to see their chassis identified by the management system with their own company name, part numbers and serial numbers. We can accommodate that very quickly.

What goes into making forward-looking telecommunications installations with high data processing rates possible?

First, it is connected with having a broad range of standard products combined with a fast and easy way to tailor those products to the customers’ needs.

Second, as we go to high data processing rates, we have the technology in house to do a 40G backplane up to 16 slots, which is the largest one in AdvancedTCA, so tailoring that to a different customized solution is not a big deal.

Third, we have an extensive range of experience in different cooling solutions, so we can easily tailor the cooling solution to the customer’s requirements with regard to space available, height of the chassis, fan solutions, different levels of redundancy, and so on.

What are the current market trends for xTCA?

One trend is that higher-power boards are producing up to 400 W, which leads to the second trend, the need for adequate power to the chassis and boards and adequate cooling for those high-power blades. The third critical part in AdvancedTCA is the high-speed backplane design. High power, high cooling, and high data transfer rate are clearly tied to telecom providers’ need for dramatically increased bandwidth.

Customers are moving away from proprietary systems to standardized platforms. Although the big telecoms had been accustomed to doing things in proprietary fashion, AdvancedTCA offers better cost positioning because they can buy standard platforms and shorten time to market.

Have you seen things ramp up pretty dramatically in the past year?

Yes. There has been a strong recovery in the AdvancedTCA ecosystem. A significant number of projects that have long been in development, review, and prototyping are now headed into mass production.

How did experience with customers inform the introduction of the Schroff Front Panel Express Service?

Being able to ship customized front panels with a short lead-time suits the market’s needs. Customers are coming back and saying, ‘That is exactly what I need because I can build my board in 10 days, and this is the timeframe in which I need the front panel in house, so I can assemble it to my board and have it ready to ship.’

Pentair has production capabilities in Europe as well as the U.S. When customers are ready to have the products go to mass production in large volumes, we have the capability of moving production to our China facility.