Rugged MicroTCA poised to take on VPX for aerospace and defense applications

PHOENIX, 21 Jan. 2014. In the early days of MicroTCA, unestablished vendors did not meet the specification, interoperability was not coordinated, and shelf management was expensive—all of which combined to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, admits Justin Moll, director of marketing, VadaTech in Henderson, Nev. Times have changed, however.

PHOENIX, 21 Jan. 2014. In the early days of MicroTCA, unestablished vendors did not meet the specification, interoperability was not coordinated, and shelf management was expensive—all of which combined to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, admits Justin Moll, director of marketing, VadaTech in Henderson, Nev. Times have changed, however.

Today, true commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products are available across multiple industries, low-cost shelf management options are available, and there’s a good deal of testing being done, Moll says. Recently, the first 100G MicroTCA line cards (100G out the front ports) made their debut, 40GbE across the backplane is available (the specification is in draft form), and MicroTCA.2 was ratified.

VPX is essentially a military off-the-shelf (MOTS) architecture, whereas MicroTCA is a true COTS architecture with the primary markets of communications and networking, aerospace and defense, and high-energy physics, Moll explains. COTS benefits include improved economies of scale and volume, resulting in a diverse set of products and solutions at reduced costs. In fact, sequestration in the U.S. has benefitted COTS and MicroTCA, he says.

MicroTCA.3 and MicroTCA.2 are hardened enough for space applications; if it’s rugged enough for space, chances are, it’s rugged enough for your application, Moll mentions.

Hardware platform management (HPM), based on ATCA, is engrained in the MicroTCA spec, Moll adds. Power modules with failover also provide redundancy. The MicroTCA features an multi-vendor, open-source connector, enabling users to acquire a connector at roughly one-twentieth the cost of the proprietary, single-source VPX connector, he explains. Plus, he notes, the cost of MicroTCA is roughly half that of Open VPX.

MicroTCA has been adopted for a variety of aerospace and defense projects, including a radar application in the U.K.

VadaTech alone has over 200 AMCs (processors, graphics, storage, carriers, network interface, serial I/O, FPGAs, specialty products) and dozens of chassis configurations, MCHs, power modules, and application-ready platforms—providing a vast ecosystem for MicroTCA.

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