IHS Embedded Ranks VME/VPX Suppliers

With vendor-supplied data, analyst firm IHS ranks the largest embedded suppliers in the VME/VPX market.

[Update 22 Jan 14: Replaced figure with the original slide from IHS; added a link to the entire IHS presentation here.  C. Ciufo ]

At today’s Embedded Tech Trends insider conference in Phoenix, IHS senior analyst Toby Colquhoun revealed the top suppliers in the VME and VPX market space for the year ended 2012 (the latest data available). The conference is sponsored by the standards organization VITA that’s responsible for these open standards.  It’s always a challenge to get quantitative data on this niche market which primarily services the world’s rugged military and aerospace markets with harsh environment modules, connectors and systems.

GE Intelligent Platforms is the largest supplier when VME, VPX and systems are combined, followed by: Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Systems, Mercury Computer, Kontron, and Emerson Network Power (Figure 1, with apologies for the quality).

IHS ranking of VME and VPX suppliers for 2013, as presented at Embedded Tech Trends conference. (Courtesy: IHS, VITA, ETT.)

IHS ranking of VME and VPX suppliers for 2013, as presented at Embedded Tech Trends conference. (Courtesy: IHS, VITA, ETT.)

Toby also indicated that the VME market is shrinking, as legacy designs migrate to VPX modules and systems. In the VPX-only market for modules and systems, the ranking changes to:

1. Curtiss-Wright at 38 percent

2. GE Intelligent Platforms at 19 percent

3. Mercury Computer at 16 percent.

This ranking is consistent with my own expectations (and CW’s recent press releases proclaiming themselves as number one). Interestingly, when I asked the question about small form factor systems like those from these same suppliers, plus ADLINK, Advantech, MEN Mikro and others, Toby responded that IHS doesn’t see that these kinds of rugged systems are encroaching on the VME/VPX market. I disagree, but can’t quantify that just yet.

We’ll update this data once we receive the actual presentation later today.

 

Confused about all the different PC/104 and SUMIT-ISM specs? Then read this.

This is a short story of how ISA split apart the PC/104 industry. Here, all the hyperbole is distilled into a “Read this” primer that sorts out the various embedded board form factors.

I’ve written about the embedded boards industry for decades. At one point I even did some consulting for the PC/104 Consortium by recommending a focus on rugged and long-life applications and systems. But I can’t say I’m thoroughly familiar with all of the PC/104 specifications. There are just too darned many variations; who can keep them all straight?

Rest easy. Herein is a quick-and-dirty primer on all the specs, and how they compare. I’ve compiled this info courtesy of the PC/104 Consortium, the SFF-SIG, and friends from companies like WinSystems and Kontron.

PC/104 Consortium’s Specifications

I’m going to focus exclusively on PC/104-sized boards and ignore the related flavors like EPIC and EBX, but here’s how they look size-wise, compared to the original 90 x 96 mm (3.6 x 3.8 in) PC/104 board on the left:

A comparison of PC/104 board size to EPIC and EBX embedded boards.

A comparison of PC/104 board size to EPIC and EBX embedded boards.

PC/104 exclusively uses the ISA bus for stack-up and stack-down, whereas the other versions add or subtract PCI and PCI Express busses:

On a PC/104 board there are low-speed connections, all the way up to ISA, PCI, and PCI Express. This shows how the PC/104 Consortium's line up adds I/O and stacks.

On a PC/104 board there are low-speed connections, all the way up to ISA, PCI, and PCI Express. This shows how the PC/104 Consortium’s line up adds I/O and stacks.

In February 2013, the PC/104 Consortium ratified and made public the PC/104-Express and PCIe/104 versions shown on the right. PCIe/104 is their board-of-the-future and comes in Type 1 and Type 2 versions, depending upon the peripherals and feature set needed in the system. The brand new PCIe/104 has provisions to support PCI Express Gen 2 and Gen 3. The primary differences are shown in green. Type 2 would be used for the highest speed peripherals such as USB 3.0 or SATA; however, connector pin limitations forced PCIe x16 onto Type 1 instead of Type 2:

The new PCIe/104 comes in Type 1 and Type 2 versions, depending upon I/O requirements.

The new PCIe/104 comes in Type 1 and Type 2 versions, depending upon I/O requirements.

Note that the legacy ISA bus, and eventually the PCI bus (in PCIe/104) are dropped as the industry moves to PCI Express. These older ISA and PCI busses are supported by adding bridge cards to the middle of a PC104xxx stack as shown:

Adding ISA or PCI to the newer PC/104 stacks requires a bridge module in the sandwich.

Adding ISA or PCI to the newer PC/104 stacks requires a bridge module in the sandwich.

More information on stack-ups and how the PCI Express bus gets “lane shifted” as the stack grows can be found in the specifications for PCI/104-Express and PCIe/104.

Small-Form Factor SIG’s Specifications (SFF-SIG)

The industry fragmented over how to support the legacy ISA bus, and vendors that believed ISA I/O boards would remain popular for many years formed the SFF-SIG around 2008. Their PC/104-sized board is the same 90 x 96 mm (3.6 x 3.8 in) size but is called “Industry Standard Module” (ISM) to avoid copyright and trademark infringement issues. Instead, their specifications define Standard Unified Modular Interconnect Technology ISM boards (SUMIT-ISM) and the specification can be found here. An example of a larger EBX baseboard with SUMIT and PC/104 ISA connectors is shown below:

Caption: This is an EBX-sized baseboard that allows a SUMIT-ISM card to be stacked on it. The SUMIT-AB connectors are in the middle and the legacy PC/104 ISA bus connector is along the top edge. (Courtesy: WinSystems and TechBriefs.com .)

This is an EBX-sized baseboard that allows a SUMIT-ISM card to be stacked on it. The SUMIT-AB connectors are in the middle and the legacy PC/104 ISA bus connector is along the top edge. (Courtesy: WinSystems and TechBriefs.com .)

As for connectors and I/O on SUMIT-ISM boards, it uses the same Samtec Q2 double row, high speed 15.24 mm Q-strip connector system as does the PC/104 Consortium. The following table compares many of the common SUMIT-ISM I/O types (Column 1) to the PC/104 Consortium’s flavors, including the new Type 1 and Type 2 PCIe/104 just announced:

How PCI Express is implemented on SUMIT-ISM board and PCIe104 boards Type 1 and Type 2.

How PCI Express is implemented on SUMIT-ISM board and PCIe104 boards Type 1 and Type 2.

For additional explanation of how the ISA bus split the industry, read WinSystems’ article at TechBriefs.com .

Conclusions

It all comes down to a philosophical choice. If your design needs ISA and newer, contemporary processors, your choices are the original versions of PC/104 and SUMIT-ISM. When your system starts needing variations of PCI and PCI Express, you’ll need to examine how best to implement those busses in the stack-up: with or without bridge modules.  If you just want PCIe, then both SUMIT-ISM and the new PCIe/104 modules have you covered.