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OpenVPX Community Churns Out Standards and Solutions

Now entrenched as a critical technology for high-performance military systems, OpenVPX continues to expand in terms of product choices and standards activities. Standards work in the past several months provide new solutions for RF designs and system cooling.


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With its acceptance now past any doubt, OpenVPX has secured its place as the de-facto embedded slot-card open architecture high-bandwidth, data-intensive military applications. Fueled by an every growing ecosystem of vendors, OpenVPX is furthered bolstered by an active standards body in VSO (VITA Standards Organization) that's done a lot of work over the last 12 months. Over the past year there's been a lot of standards and interoperability activity around OpenVPX. Add to all that a continuous wave of new generation OpenVPX products keeping its place as one of the most active product category in our market in terms of new product releases.

In October VITA got a significant new sponsor member: the U.S. Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). CERDEC is developing the U.S. Army's Modular Open RF Architecture (MORA) which will enable the development of true open standards-based RF and microwave modules and small-form factor subsystem designs that address the size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) constraints of today's ground vehicles. MORA is based on OpenVPX. MORA-based hardware and software solutions developed by VITA member companies are expected to enable enhanced C4ISR/EW capabilities to exist within the SWaP constraints of platforms and provide subsystem commonality across the vehicle fleet to reduce life cycle costs.

In other standards activity, in January VITA announced the formation of a working group that is developing an air flow through (AFT) cooling standard, VITA 48.8, for use in size, weight, power and cost (SWAP-C) constrained 3U and 6U VPX module-based systems. VITA 48.8 is expected to achieve weight and cost reduction for AFT cooling by eliminating the use of wedgelocks and ejector/injector handles. The resulting open standard will be the first to bring AFT cooling to 3U form factor VPX modules. It will also help reduce weight and cost for cooling high density, high power dissipation 3U and 6U module based systems.

Because VITA 48.8 does not use module-to-chassis conduction cooling, it also promises to help drive innovative use of new lightweight plastic or composite material based chassis. The VITA 48.8 Working Group is chaired by Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, with Lockheed Martin serving as the standard's editor. The working group has set a goal of submitting the finalized VITA 48.8 draft for ANSI ratification later in this year.

Even though actually formally announced design wins of OpenVPX seem scant, vendors say there are happening with greater frequency. An example was back in January with Abaco Systems announcing it had secured orders with an initial value of £7.5 million (around $11.5 million) from BAE Systems Maritime Services business in the UK. Abaco's 3U VPX Power Architecture and 4th generation Intel Core i7 technology SBCs will be used within the ESCU (Electronic System Computer Unit) that will control the Royal Navy's Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo in deployment, providing advanced real time signal processing of the Spearfish's onboard sonar to enable it to reach its intended destination, and networking to allow communication between the torpedo and the host submarine (Figure 1).

Figure 1
3U VPX Power Architecture Core i7 SBCs will be used within the Electronic System Computer Unit that will control the Royal Navy's Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo.

The OpenVPX SBCs Roundup and Links to the full data sheets for each product are posted on the roundup part of this section. Click here for the roundup.