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AdvancedTCA Blades with Expansion Capabilities

By Jeff Munch, ADLINK Technology

The AdvancedTCA specification was created by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) in December 2002 to eliminate existing proprietary platforms, cut development time and reduce development costs. This new specification was expected to revolutionize the telecom infrastructure with its high-performance yet cost-effective standards and be available from many vendors. But telecom equipment providers were slow to implement this new technology. Surprisingly, other markets adopted AdvancedTCA and have moved quickly to develop and use this platform. It has been increasingly used in network security applications.

One of the keys to rapid hardware deployment in applications - while keeping costs competitive - is the flexibility to customize this hardware. AdvancedTCA serves as a basic building block with high-performance processing blades, durable chassis and a fast Ethernet-based transport which can then be customized for specific applications.

There are several plug-in options for compute blades including a new Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC) standard as well as the time-tested PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC) specification. The PMC specification offers some very important advantages - including that it is widely available, low-cost and well-accepted - even though it lacks the market recognition like the AMC.

The PMC standard is combination of two IEEE standards: IEEE P1386 Standard Mechanics for a Common Mezzanine Card Family (CMC) and IEEE P1386.1 Standard Physical and Environmental Layers for PMC. The P1386 defines form factor, connector and electrical interconnects while the P1386.1 maps PCI bus signals onto the P1386 cards. Typical PMC cards have I/O connections on the front bezel. In many applications, there is no need for an I/O connection, just a PCI bus to connect to a piece of silicon. This silicon might contain an encryption engine, a co-processor or storage controller. In such applications, the PMC card provides the necessary interconnects.

Board size can be reduced to accommodate the silicon piece allowing system architects to introduce new functionality while still working within the standard building block. This smaller board is a new "mini" PMC. For example, the ADLINK miniPMC-5825 features a Broadcom high-performance 1Gbps security processor. When installed, this multifaceted card can perform 12,000 SSL sessions per second, 12,000 RSA transactions per second, 900 IKE negotiations per second and 1Gbps of bulk AES and IPSec performance. All this can be achieved on standard off-the-shelf blades for a wide variety of applications.

Another example is the ADLINK minPMC-SAS1064 which features a Serial Attached SCSII (SAS) interface and drive connection for systems that require SAS mass storage. With support for up to PCI-X 64-bit/133MHz, the PMC and miniPMC variant exist today and meets the throughput requirements of the most demanding applications. PMC-based mezzanines offer a versatile platform that can be highly customized and optimized.

AdvancedTCA blades are already very flexible with superior features, yet can still offer more functionalities by adding PMC modules. PMC-based mezzanines still provide a versatile platform that can be customized and optimized based on application need. Utilization of the PMC open standards on blades also ensures the high-performance bus will be the same, regardless of the processor. Developing ATCA platforms that support such PMC expansion capabilities can provide scalability and upgradeability choices highly sought in the telecommunications and network security markets, as well as facilitating customers in improving the time-to-market of their products.

Jeff Munch is the Chief Technology Officer at ADLINK Technology. He also serves as the Chair of the AdvancedTCA subcommittee. He has more than twenty years experience in hardware design, software development and engineering resource management.