Advances Mean New Areas for ATCA

While ‘newer’ form factors, like COM Express and CompactPCI Serial, are hogging the limelight, there are still innovations to be found in AdvancedTCA, writes Caroline Hayes.

At Embedded World 2018, there were 24 members of the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) exhibiting around the halls of the show in Nuremberg, Germany last month.

The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA or ATCA) boards are still predominantly used in telecoms, but we are seeing it moving to open compute and cloud-based systems, says Justin Moll, Vice President of Marketing at PICMG, the industry consortium that promotes open standards in telecoms and industrial computing across a range of industries. The AdvancedTCA format is also moving into new areas, such as mil-aero, although this is still niche, says Moll, and still mainly the preserve of the smaller form factor MicroTCA (µTCA) boards.

AdvancedTCA’s open, bladed architecture is being adopted by military programs to address the High Performance Embedded Computing (HPEC) demands of military, as well as aerospace and security systems.

The consortium’s booth at Embedded World 2018 had examples of the larger form factors available in AdvancedTCA, with examples of 8U x 280mm chassis affording more board space.

Embedded World welcomed over 32,000 visitors to Nuremberg Messe between February 27 and March 1 2018.

What stood out was Comtel Electronics’ selection of large AdvancedTCA units. The latest is a 6U AdvancedTCA shelf, the CO7-6U (Figure 1). This seven-slot shelf uses Air-/-Plane backplane technology to support up to 100Gbps for increased data rates to fulfil multicore processing and graphics processing for High Definition (HD) video on demand and data services increasingly used in industrial automation. It is optimized, adds the company, for even cooling for all slots.

Figure 1: The CO7-6U supports up to 100Gbps data transfers.

The flexible, modular design has a shelf that can be converted between AC and DC input sources and side cooling with two redundant fan trays. There are three Power Entry Modules (PEMs) and support for 100Gbps data transfer via the Air-/-Plane backplane.

This joins even larger systems, available from the company, such as the 14U, 14-slot AdvancedTCA CO14G4, and the AdvancedTCA CO14G4 Field Replaceable Units (FRUs) with hot swappable fan tray and high pressure Air Mover and a choice of interfaces, including RS-232 and Ethernet.

It is modular in design and designed to meet Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) specifications which cover fire suppression, vibration resistance, acoustics, and RF emissions and tolerance.

There is a DC input option with four redundant PEMs to support up to 515W per slot, or a max power PEM version supports up to 80W per slot.

The 19-inch, 14U rackmount chassis accommodates 14 AdvancedTCA front boards and Rear Transmission Modules (RTMs). Four hot-swappable redundant fan trays provide even airflow distribution. There is a choice of Dual Star, Dual-Dual Star topologies, if availability is required, and Full Mesh backplane topology for a scalable configuration.

Increasing Data Transfer Rates
Comtel’s AdvancedTCA Air-/-Plane Backplane technology achieves 100Gbps for HPEC and Cloud computing applications. The proprietary design techniques increase performance speed, says the company, while minimizing costs. For example, it is possible to continue to use original ZD connectors and comply with IEE 802.3bj 100Gbps Ethernet specifications, and PICMG 3.1R3.0 100Gbps Ethernet specifications.

The technology increases blade power dissipation with low insertion loss. High-speed materials have been selected, which improve fitted attenuation compared with alternative backplane technologies, enabling each Air-/-Plane module to exceed every 40GBASE-KR4 specification, says the company, and make it ready for future 100Gbps applications, such as video on demand, and on-demand video streaming via Internet Protocol Television (IPTV).

The company also offers a 14-slot Dual-Dual Star Air-/-Plane backplane, which can be converted for use with different fabrics. It is available in Dual Star, Dual-Dual Star and Full Mesh topologies. The company’s manufacturing service can also accommodate custom versions.

Other features of the technology are Low Insertion Loss Deviation (LILD) for signal integrity and controlled Insertion Loss to Crosstalk Ratio (ICR).

Backplane Assembly
Backplane assembly and system integration, offered by Amphenol-BSI, was also showcased at Embedded World. Its AdvancedTCA technology ranges from 1000BASE-KX to 100GBASE-KR4. It uses automated test and assembly to design and test backplanes. For AdvancedTCA it minimizes handling during the process and uses 3D x-ray inspection to preserve the integrity of the nano-compliant pins used in backplane design.

It can also customize backplanes and offers them in a range of heights and slot configurations. For AdvancedTCA in particular, it offers NEBS and ETSI-compliant backplanes and can support multiple switching fabric interfaces according to PICMG 3.1 for Ethernet and Fiber Channel, to PICMG 2.5 to meet Serial RapidIO.

At Nuremberg, the company was highlighting its 5U, 14-slot Dual-Dual Star topology 40Gbps backplane, designed in accordance to PICMG 3.1 Revision 3.0, for Ethernet and Fiber Channel systems.

The ATCA 5U is 5U high and has four ATCA switch slots and 10 ATCA node slots. The IEEE 40GBASE-KR4 backplane has 200-Watt per slot 48-V DC distribution and is available for 10, 40 and 100Gbps applications.


There were over 1,000 exhibitors at this year’s Embedded World, in Nuremberg, Germany.


At a show where silicon vendors can eclipse the hardware developers, it was refreshing to see that the backplane companies have not stood still and are anticipating and meeting the needs of the next generation of high-performance computing needs across many industries.

Caroline Hayes has been a journalist covering the electronics sector for more than 20 years. She has worked on several European titles, reporting on a variety of industries, including communications, broadcast and automotive.


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