Bandwidth demands of radar and signals intelligence create pressure to refresh XMC and FMC mezzanine board standards

PRODUCT INTELLIGENCE, 26 March 2012. Embedded computing designers for demanding digital signal processing (DSP) subsystems in military embedded systems like radar, electronic warfare (EW), and signals intelligence (SIGINT), are making broad use of I/O mezzanine boards in the XMC and FMC form factors, yet engineers are worrying that tomorrow's applications -- and even some of today's -- are finding modern mezzanine modules inadequate for the task.

"We are running out of SerDes and LVDS connections down to the board," explains Marc Couture, director of product management at the Mercury Computer Systems microwaves and digital solutions segment in Salem, N.H. "We're starting to run out of pins." SerDes stands for serializer/deserializer, while LVDS stands for Low-voltage differential signaling.

XMC is short for Express Mezzanine Card, while FMC is short for FPGA Mezzanine Card. FPGA refers to programmable processor chips called field-programmable gate arrays. The XMC and FMC are decedents of the once-popular PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC), which has become inadequate for high-throughput DSP applications.

The PMC was designed to provide PCI I/O throughput in a small add-on board that enhanced economy and flexibility by providing standard I/O functionality. VME and PCI board manufacturers have been attracted to implementing I/O with mezzanine boards so they are not forced to redesign their products simply to change out the I/O. Systems designers can evolve their systems to meet growing throughput demands simply by adding different kinds of mezzanine boards.

The XMC version of the PMC adds high-speed switch fabric interconnects for today's VPX, CompactPCI, and other high-throughput single-board computers. The FMC, meanwhile, enables systems architectures to design-in FPGA-based I/O by providing direct links to the FPGA on the mezzanine card.

Until recently, XMC and FMC modules have been adequate for even some of the most demanding DSP applications, but some experts in the embedded computing industry are starting to wish for even more capability than the modern XMC and FMC mezzanine boards can offer.

"In the future there will be a need to refresh the XMC and FMC standards," explains Steve Edwards, chief technology officer for COTS solutions at the Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions segment in Ashburn, Va. "Applications these are fitting into today, like radar, EW, and SIGINT, are really driving data requirements and bandwidth."

Edwards uses an example of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program, which is under development at the BAE Systems Electronic Systems segment in Nashua, N.H. For this and other new persistent-surveillance systems, "there are huge amounts of I/O coming into the card."

Other factors in the embedded computing industry also are converging to drive the need for increased bandwidth in XMC and FMC modules. Edwards says the latest generations of analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) converters require fast serial interconnects.

"We are starting to run out of connectivity," Edwards says. "We have a need for a mezzanine card associated with FPGAs, but which has even more serial connections."

In addition, an anticipated transition to optical computing, which moves data throughout the system with optical fiber or free-space lasers instead of electrical cabling, is expected to ratchet-up the pressure on mezzanine board throughput.

"We keep trying to move more data," says David Pepper, product manager and technologist at GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va. I'm surprised we haven't had to adopt optics yet, but it will happen. You just won't be able to push the data over copper," says Pepper, who works out of the GE office in Huntsville, Ala.

It isn't only throughput needs that are driving needs to refresh XMC and FMC standards. Some designers worry about the reliability of the standard XMC connector when subjected to heavy levels of shock and vibration found in many aerospace and defense applications, explains Aaron Lindner, engineering manager at Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis.

Adds Mercury's Couture, "the XMC connector doesn't fare well with multiple re-insertions. You run down the MTBF [mean time between failures] every time you remove one of those things."

XMC and FMC mezzanine card manufacturers

4DSP Inc.
Reno, Nev.
800-816-1751
www.4dsp.com

AcQ InduCom
Oss, The Netherlands
+31 (0)412 641922
www.acqinducom.com

Acromag Inc.
Wixom, Mich.
248-624-1541
www.acromag.com

Acquitek
Massy, France
+33 1 60 13 52 73
www.acquitek.com

ADLINK Technology Inc.
New Taipei City, Taiwan
+886-2-8226-5877
www.adlinktech.com

AdvancedIO Systems Inc.
Burnaby, British Columbia
604-331-1600
www.advancedio.com

Aitech Defense Systems Inc.
Chatsworth, Calif.
818-700-2000
www.rugged.com

Alacron Inc.
Nashua, N.H.
603-891-2750
www.alacron.com

Alpha Data
Edinburgh, Scotland
+44 131 558 2600
www.alpha-data.com

ALPHI Technology Corp.
Tempe, Ariz.
480-838-2428
www.alphitech.com

APC Technology
Stepney, Australia
+61 (8) 8363 0400
www.apctechnology.com.au

Astek Corp.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
719-260-1625
www.astekcorp.com

Ballard Technology Inc.
Everett, Wash.
425-339-0281
www.ballardtech.com

BittWare Inc.
Concord, N.H.
603-226-0404
www.bittware.com

BVM Ltd.
Southampton, England
44 (0)1489 780144
www.bvm-store.com

Concurrent Technologies Inc.
Woburn, Mass.
1 781 933 5900
www.gocct.com

Connect Tech Inc.
Guelph, Ontario
519-836-1291
www.connecttech.com

CSP Inc.
Billerica, Mass.
978-663-7598
www.cspi.com

Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions
Ashburn, Va.
703-779-7800
www.cwcembedded.com

Cyclone Microsystems
New Haven, Conn.
203-786-5536
www.cyclone.com

Dallas Logic Corp.
Plano, Texas
972-924-8575
www.dallaslogic.com

Data Device Corp. (DDC)
Bohemia, N.Y.
631-567-5700
www.ddc-web.com

Data Patterns Pvt. Ltd.
Chennai, India
+91 44 2483 7460
www.datapatternsindia.com

Delphi Engineering Group Inc.
Costa Mesa, Calif.
949-515-1490
www.delphieng.com

DSS Networks Inc.
Lake Forest, Calif.
949-716-9051
www.dssnetworks.com

Dynamic Engineering
Santa Cruz, Calif.
831-457-8891
www.dyneng.com

Dynatem Inc.
Mission Viejo, Calif.
949-855-3235
www.dynatem.com

EKF Elektronik GmbH
Hamm, Germany
+49 (0)2381/6890-0
www.ekf.de

Elma Electronic Inc.
Fremont, Calif.
510 656-3400
www.elma.com

Embedded Planet
Warrensville Heights, Ohio
216-245-4180
www.embeddedplanet.com

Emerson Network Power Embedded Computing
Tempe, Ariz.
602-438-5720
www.emersonnetworkpower.com/en-US/Brands/EmbeddedComputing

Engineering Design Team (EDT Inc.)
Beaverton, Ore.
503-690-1234
www.edt.com

Epiq Solutions
Schaumburg, Ill.
847-598-0218
http://epiqsolutions.com

Excalibur Systems Inc.
Elmont, N.Y.
800-645-1553
www.mil-1553.com

Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES)
Middleton, Wis.
608-833-1155
www.xes-inc.com

Faster Technology LLC
Katy, Texas
281-391-5482
www.fastertechnology.com

Gateworks Corp.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
805-781-2000
www.gateworks.com

GE Intelligent Platforms
Charlottesville, Va.
434-978-5000
www.ge-ip.com

General Dynamics Canada
Ottawa
613 596-7000
www.gdcanada.com

General Standards Corp.
Huntsville, Ala.
256-704-8341
www.generalstandards.com

GET Engineering Corp.
El Cajon, Calif.
619-443-8295
www.getntds.com

Hilscher Gesellschaft für Systemautomation mbH
Hattersheim, Germany
+49 (0)6190 9907-0
www.hilscher.com

Industrial Computers Inc.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
800-992-4007
www.eindustrialcomputers.com

Industrial PC Inc.
Indianapolis, Ind.
888-255-5508
www.industrialpc.com

Innovative Integration
Simi Valley, Calif.
805-578-4260
www.innovative-dsp.com

Interface Concept
Quimper, France
+33 (0)2 98 57 30 30
www.interfaceconcept.com

Interphase Corp.
Plano, Texas
214) 654-5000
www.iphase.com

IOxOS Technologies
Gland, Switzerland
+41 (0)22 364 76 90
www.ioxos.ch

Kontron USA
Poway, Calif.
888-294-4558
http://us.kontron.com

LeCroy Corp.
Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.
845-425-2000
www.lecroy.com

Lyrtech RD
Quebec City, Quebec
418-877-7710
http://lyrtechrd.com

Mango DSP
Norwalk, Conn.
203-857-4008
www.mangodsp.com

MEN Mikro Elektronik GmbH
Nürnberg, Germany
+49-911-99 33 5-0
www.men.de

Mercury Computer Systems Inc.
Chelmsford, Mass.
978-256-9713
www.mc.com

N.A.T. GmbH
Bonn, Germany
+49-228 965 864 0
www.nateurope.com

Nallatech
Camarillo, Calif.
805-383-8997
www.nallatech.com

Nexus Technology Inc.
Nashua, N.H.
877-595-8116
www.nexustechnology.com

Nolam Embedded Systems Inc.
Haifa, Israel
972 54 54 22 803
www.nolam.com

North Atlantic Industries Inc.
Bohemia, N.Y.
631-567-1100
www.naii.com

One Stop Systems Inc.
Escondido, Calif.
760-745-9883
www.onestopsystems.com

PCI-Systems Inc.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
408-625-1090
http://pcisystems.squarespace.com

Pentek Inc.
Upper Saddle River, N.J.
201-818-5900
www.pentek.com

Performance Technologies Inc. (PT)
Rochester, N.Y.
585-256-0200
www.pt.com

Pinnacle Data Systems Inc.
Groveport, Ohio
614-748-1150
www.pinnacle.com

RadiSys Corp.
Hillsboro, Ore.
503-615-1100
www.radisys.com

Rastergraf Inc.
Redmond, Ore.
510-849-4803
www.rastergraf.com

Red Rock Technologies Inc.
Tempe, Ariz.
480-483-3777
www.redrocktech.com

Robotic Systems Integration
Chicago
312-541-2600
www.roboticsys.com

RTD Embedded Technologies Inc.
State College, Pa.
814-234-8087
www.rtd.com

Sabtech Industries Inc.
Yorba Linda, Calif.
714-692-3800
www.sabtech.com

SANBlaze Technology Inc.
Littleton, Mass.
978-679-1400
www.sanblaze.com

Signalogic
Dallas
214-349-5551
www.signalogic.com

Spectracom
Rochester, N.Y.
585-321-5800
www.spectracomcorp.com

Sterling Electronic Design
Valencia, Calif.
661-295-7145
www.sterlingelectronicdesign.com

Sundance Digital Signal Processing Inc.
Reno, Nev.
775-827-3103
www.sundancedsp.com

Symmetricom Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
888-367-7966
www.symmetricom.com

Systerra Computer
Hannover, Germany
+49 (0)511 9666-737
www.systerra.de

Technobox Inc.
Lumberton, N.J.
609-267-8988
www.technobox.com

TechSAT GmbH
Poing, Germany
+49 (8121) 703-0
www.techsat.com

Techway S.A.S
Courtaboeuf France
+33 (0)1 64 53 37 90
www.techway.eu

TEK Microsystems Inc.
Chelmsford, Mass.
978-244-9200
www.tekmicro.com

TEWS Technologies GmbH
Halstenbek, Germany
+49 (0) 4101 4058 0
www.tews.com

Themis Computer
Fremont, Calif.
510-252-0870
www.themis.com

Vigilant Products
Stuart, Fla.
772-419-0503
www.vigproducts.com

Unitronix Pty Ltd
Cooranbong, Australia
+61-2-4977-3511
www.unitronix.com.au

Vadatech Inc.
Henderson, Nev.
702-896-0332
www.vadatech.com

Xembedded
Ann Arbor, Mich.
877-944-1942
www.xembedded.com

XycomVME
Hornsby, Australia
+61 2 9482 4000
www.xycom.com.au

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