VITA Perspective 2017



As more firms join VITA, manufacturing tide reversals, security, and the new U.S. president’s cabinet bear close watching.

President-elect Donald Trump is such a wildcard that all bets are off for 2017! Trying to understand Trump’s impact and that of individuals proposed for the key cabinet positions bound to influence our industry is mind-numbing. We could see anything from significant investment in our infrastructure and defense spending to never-ending negotiations to rewrite budgets and contracts.
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The author sees intelligence systems, drones, and autonomous weapon systems as the focus of critical embedded and intelligent technology.

In one breath, Trump wants to “drain the swamp,” but in the next he is nominating the same lobbyists, Wall Streeters, and professional politicians that he promised to remove. He is already conducting meetings with the heads of Boeing and Lockheed to discuss program cost reductions. He is talking tough on terrorism and asking other nations to step up to contribute their fair share to the war on terror. Every day is bringing more news on what we can expect.

More Companies Join VITA

For the second year in a row, there has been a significant number of companies joining VITA. Nineteen companies entered our ranks, driven primarily by activities within the VPX, FMC+, and VITA 49 (VITA Radio Transport) working groups. Each of these teams were busy adding new elements to the body of standards already in existence for each.

The VITA Standards Organization is collecting inputs for updates to its technology roadmap to ensure that the needs of the next generation of critical and intelligent embedded computing platforms will have the best possible open architectures supported by open standards.

On the technology front, VITA efforts are likely to be influenced by several trends. Let’s recap the largest influences.

Global Defense Spending Up

U.S. military spending during the past two-to-three years has been relatively stable. While I don’t foresee any major shift in strategies or spending, it is difficult to predict what the new Trump administration might do to the defense budget. The Trump business acumen could say,” Let’s renegotiate the budget,” while the Trump “Build a Wall” persona may throw additional funds into the defense budgets.

Global spending on defense is where the action is right now. The unrest in the Middle East paired with global power positioning by China, Russia, and the United States are keeping the cash flowing for defense spending around the world.

Critical embedded and intelligent technology will be focused on intelligence systems, drones, and autonomous weapon systems.

VITA Technologies

On the VITA standards front, the most active working groups are those working on FMC+, VPX, VITA Radio Transport (VRT), Electromagnetic Spectrum: Signals and Applications, and the Hardware Open Systems Technologies (HOST) study group (VITA 84).

The standard for FMC+ is taking a bit longer to complete than expected; however, the work done has added substantially to the quality of the standard. The list of participating companies has grown significantly with major FPGA and user companies stepping up to join the effort. The performance improvements are pushing advancements in other areas, such as VPX. The FMC+ standard should be published early in 2017.

The VITA Radio Transport (VITA 49.2) working group is headed to ANSI level balloting and is expected to be approved in January. This work rounds out the VRT family of standards. The group has been fast tracking this effort because the demand is very high to get this completed and ready for development projects.

The scope of VPX continues to expand, incorporating new cooling standards and configuration profiles that are targeted at new applications for VPX. The OpenVPX standard for the VPX architectural framework is scheduled for its next update in 2017. This working group is diligently going through all the new inputs and comments in preparation to put the standard up for ballot this spring.

Security

With military applications driving so much of the market for VITA technology, addressing the security issue is more urgent. Security touches the entire supply chain, forcing new supplier decisions and manufacturing strategies, and even shaping the way products are developed.

While it may not be as easy to take down the power grid of a country as it is portrayed on TV, it does make you start to wonder. With everything being connected through the IoT, you can never assume that a device will be 100 percent secure. The VITA community has a growing concern for security, with the potential to start a study group in the near future.

Local Manufacturing

Ten to 15 years ago it was trendy to move manufacturing to Asia as board suppliers looked for ways to reduce costs. Before the last pick-and-place machine was even positioned, this strategy started to fall apart. Labor costs in Asia started creeping up. Product development times doubled and even tripled in many cases. Product quality suffered. In the meantime, we were losing U.S. expertise in manufacturing, while the labor pool realigned to the reduced demand for manufacturing expertise.

Now we are in a situation where many companies are looking to bring back local manufacturing. Cost is much less of a factor, and security concerns have moved to the forefront. This is going to take a long time to sort out despite what Trump suggests, but it does look like the tide has reversed.

Fortunately, many smaller board suppliers kept their manufacturing home-based, making them well positioned for the reverse in the outsourcing trend.

Summary

I am going to stick my neck out and speculate that a president with a business background and no political experience is just what we need right now. Having a supportive Republican Congress may get some beneficial legislation passed in the coming years. If a few successes can be knocked out early, the ball might get rolling quickly. A stronger international presence could get some of the lingering issues off our plate. On the other hand, we could be searching for a new president as soon as 2018. Someone just needs to disable Trump’s Twitter account! Meanwhile, I’m shopping for property in Australia!
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Jerry-Gipper-headshotJerry Gipper is the executive director of VITA, a leading developer of open standards for the critical and intelligent embedded computing industry, where he is responsible for the management of the organization. He is also the editorial director of VITA Technologies, a publication that covers the latest VITA standards, industry-leading products, and the technologies that drive today’s market. With over 30 years of experience in the marketing of VITA technologies such as VMEbus, VPX, PMC, and more, he is recognized as an industry authority in embedded board, system, and software technology.

Jerry spent 23 years at the Motorola Computer Group where he was involved with product marketing, sales, business development, and strategic planning. Jerry earned his BS in Computer Engineering at Iowa State University and his MS in Computer Engineering at San Jose State University.

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