Carriers Provide Versatile Design Options for VITA-based Systems

Specialty carriers offer design versatility for a broad range of I/O requirements, and support the use of VITA-based designs in PICMG-based architectures such as MicroTCA and AdvancedTCA with FPGA mezzanine cards (FMCs).

The VITA community continues to develop new and exciting embedded computing products. But it is not very often that we see the tangential tools that provide more versatility for your designs. This includes specialty carriers for PMCs, XMCs, COM Express and more. These tools expand a designer’s options, often preventing the need for expensive customization while reducing design risk.

Figure 1: Various I/O configurations are easily adapted to the COM Express carrier in the VME64x/VXS form factor, which helps reduce lead-time, risk and costs.

Advantages of Mezzanines
COM Express and PMCs/XMCs/FMCs are advantageous because there is a wide range of standard modules available in the marketplace. The I/O options are readily available in many configurations. Allowing for these mezzanine modules in a standard VITA-based form factor provides versatility for legacy systems.

Design Versatility

When choosing an architecture, it is usually the strongest business case to move to a higher-performance embedded form factor such as VPX or MicroTCA. The latter offers more flexibility, inherent interoperability and a much lower cost with economies of scale in the communications, mil/aero and physics communities. But if the requirement is to utilize a legacy solution such as VME64x or VXS, there are still simple ways to harness the versatility of COM Express and PMCs. Utilizing a carrier can be advantageous as they can be easily designed around an application’s I/O requirements. Since CPU technology is such a dynamic and rapidly changing area, a carrier allows designers to easily upgrade the CPU while keeping their I/O structure intact and to safeguard the customer’s investment. Figure 1 shows how various I/O can be tied to the COM Express board on the carrier. This includes GbE ports (that connect via the P0 connector), serial, VGA, USB or even PMC or CompactFlash boards. If PCIe lanes are included (in this example, x16), there is a simple connection to other boards that can facilitate other I/O, PMC slots, high-end graphics and much more.

Another carrier concept is to allow the use of PMCs. As they are widely used with a wealth of performance options, PMCs are an attractive mezzanine solution. Figure 2 shows a carrier that allows two PMCs in a VME/VME64x/VXS format. One design trick is to utilize distinct PCI/PCI-x/PCIe buses. The bus isolation allows a mix of PMCs running a different clock speeds.

VITA-based Technologies in PICMG Carriers
There are also ways to incorporate VITA-based designs into PICMG-based architectures such as MicroTCA and AdvancedTCA. FPGAs for MicroTCA utilize standard VITA-57 FPGA mezzanine cards (FMCs). The 69mm (single size) x 76.5mm deep sized FMCs can fit in the mid-size (4HP) single-width (75mm) or in the full-size (6HP). The FMC is a popular module because it provides the interface to the field programmability of an FPGA in a small size. FMCs support up to 10 Gbit/s transmissions with adaptively equalized I/O. The number of I/O choices makes FMCs attractive. One can easily, for example, have an FMC with dual QSFP+ interconnects for 10GbE/40GbE/SRIO/PCIe/Aurora. This could be placed on an AMC carrier with Stratix-V or Virtex-7 chip with multiple ports for egress of the fabric signals via the backplane interface. There are also AMC carriers for XMCs, which can be done in the single-width size. Finally, as AdvancedTCA has a large form factor (8U x 280mm), it is not uncommon for carriers and adapters to all types of form factors, including 6U VME64x (See Figure 3) and 6U CompactPCI boards.

Figure 2: PMC carriers offer a convenient way to incorporate standard modules, and can be developed in various architectures such as VME64x/VXS as shown.
Figure 3: With its large form factor, ATCA carriers allow even larger form factors such as 6U VME64x to be adapted into the system.

More Choices
Even if a designer is limited in the choice of architecture, there are a wide range of standard mezzanine options in the marketplace which provide versatility of performance. These carriers are based on proven technologies, reducing lead-times, costs and risks utilizing standard open architectures.

mollJustin Moll is director of marketing for VadaTech, Inc. He has a BS in business administration from the University of California, Riverside. Justin is active in the PICMG and VITA communities and has chaired various marketing groups. He can be reached at More information can be found at

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