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VPX Dominates Current Crop of Board-Level Ethernet Switches

Used for both military networking and as an interconnect fabric in compute-intensive applications, rugged Ethernet switch boards enable have become entrenched as solutions.


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For military embedded applications, Ethernet has secured its status as the preferred fabric interconnect choice in compute-intensive military applications like sonar, radar-or any application that networks sensor arrays together. A 10 Gbit Ethernet system handles real-time bandwidth in excess of GHz on a continuous and sustained basis. Ethernet offers nearly limitless synchronized scalability by simply adding fibers for additional 10 Gbit Ethernet links. And Ethernet allows simplified acquisition devices to be placed near the antenna that pipes the data to processing platforms in a sheltered location.

Ethernet is also attractive because it provides a standards-based server solution that takes advantage of processing power gain and market pressures for driving down processing costs. A 10 Gbit Ethernet network simplifies system architecture and provides easy partitioning of data acquisition and data processing, by separating the sensitive analog mixed signal front end from the digital back end.

On top of all that, Ethernet meanwhile is also the standard in the defense realm for connecting the IP-based components of autonomous vehicles, robots, and other military and harsh mobile applications. Ethernet switch boards are the linchpin needed to connect those systems. The large bandwidth and exceptional scalability of the 10 Gbit Ethernet network enables systems developers to seamlessly scale up with increasing channel count and bandwidth.

As the round up on the next four pages show, VPX remains the most common form factor for board-level rugged Ethernet switches among recent products (recent meaning in the last 12 to 18 months). A couple of CompactPCI Serial boards along with COM Express and PCIe/104 offerings round out the mix. These solutions serve as communications backbones for moving massive amounts of data around tightly coupled processing or I/O data concentrators, typically found in military, aerospace and spacecraft applications. Many operating at full wire speed, these non-blocking switches provide high-speed connectivity and traffic management for streaming video, audio and data. Note that this roundup is specifically on board-level Ethernet switch products. The topic of new products in the box-level Ethernet switches is rich category but falls outside the scope of this roundup.

As an example of rugged Ethernet switching technology in action, Curtiss-Wright's Defense Solutions division announced last Spring that it was selected by TORC Robotics to provide its small form factor (SFF) rugged Gbit Ethernet switch subsystem for use in autonomous tele-operated unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). Curtiss-Wright provided TORC with its rugged, SFF Parvus DuraNET 20-10 Ethernet switch, a fully managed 20-port network switch. The unit provides a solution for connecting a large number of IP-enabled embedded devices at the network edge, including computers, cameras, sensors, and command-and-control equipment onboard aircraft and vehicles deployed with digital networked architectures. Units ordered by TORC were delivered in 2015 and successfully integrated into TORC UGV platforms (Figure 1).

Figure 1
TORC Robotics integrates the SFF Parvus DuraNET 20-10 Ethernet switch into its UGV platforms.

The Ethernet Switch Boards 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.