AMC Format is a Natural Progression for Processor PMCs

By David Greig, President and Chief Operating Officer, SBS Technologies, Inc.

Advances in processor technology have enabled board designers to squeeze a processor and its closely coupled cache, DRAM, and support logic onto a mezzanine card. Dubbed Processor PMCs, or PrPMCs, the configuration enables board-level system integrators to swap in a new host-processor mezzanine as soon as faster processors hit the market. Today, PrPMCs are available in multi-processor and multi-core configurations; high-end compute applications are pushing the boundaries of the PrPMC capabilities.

System designers can benefit greatly by using PrPMCs in the design of their systems. Whether deployed in ASMP or SMP configurations, multiple PrPMC configurations provide unmatched compute modularity and scalability. Designers have the added benefit of being able to upgrade systems incrementally, for example replacing one single-processor PrPMC with a dual-processor model.

If a system designer doubles or triples the amount of processing power in a given amount of space, however, the system will most likely overheat. And more powerful computers tend to malfunction as hot microchips succumb to the rigors of temperature gradients within computer hardware. Continuously running a system hotter than acceptable temperature levels reduces the life expectancy of the system by an order of magnitude. In short, new methods of thermal management are needed to dissipate the heat of increasingly more powerful systems.

As chipmakers move from .18-micron manufacturing processes to .13-micron processes, chips consume less power and require less in the way of heat dissipation. Sophisticated on-chip power management functions also help reduce excessive heat generation by allowing developers to shut-down and wake-up on-chip functions within clock cycles to help reduce power consumption and thereby lessen the need for heat dissipation. Dynamic speed control of a processor allows developers to reduce or increase the speed of the processor within the clock cycles of a program, also making power consumption and heat dissipation easier to manage

The PMC mezzanine standard has served system designers well, but increased bandwidth requirements for Gigabit Ethernet communications and increased performance requirements have pushed the limits of the PMC standard. Designers have moved to serial interconnect architectures, replacing parallel bus architectures such as the PCI bus. New mezzanine cards are emerging to meet these requirements.

A new mezzanine card format, the Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC) architecture, is just now coming onto the market and promises to take up where current PMCs leave off. The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA®) was created by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG®) as an open carrier board, backplane, mezzanine card and software specification designed for the next generation of telecommunications and data center equipment. The principle objective of AdvancedTCA is to provide standardized platform architecture for carrier-grade telecommunication and data center applications.

For a better off-the-shelf alternative to today’s proprietary telecom equipment, AdvancedTCA is a comprehensive specification that includes specifications for a larger form factor, shelf--or chassis--system management functions, hot-swap capability and high-speed interconnections such as InfiniBand™ technology and PCI Express™ among others.

The AdvancedTCA Mezzanine Card specification-the module specification for AdvancedTCA-allows system vendors to enable higher system speeds, greater flexibility and better reliability for the new AdvancedTCA-based telecom systems coming onto the market.

AMC modules provide an expansion interface for AdvancedTCA blades that increases system flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency, important for network processing, increased data throughput, line management and mass storage devices. Because an AMC module is a hot-swappable mezzanine card, the card can be quickly exchanged in the field, allowing a technician to easily replace only the malfunctioning portion of an AdvancedTCA blade, instead of the whole blade, thus reducing system downtime and operating costs.

AMC modules support a number of serial interconnect protocols, including Ethernet, PCI Express and InfiniBand technologies giving application developers full access to AdvancedTCA’s high 10 Gb/sec fabric bandwidth. AMC modules provide 21 channels of I/O capacity, all of which can run at up to 12.5 Gb/sec for exceptional data throughput.

Many of today’s systems architects are looking towards Intel Corporation’s scalable high-performance microprocessors as a means of extending the performance of the ATCA architecture. The idea is to lower the cost and complexity of computer design. The increased thermal and power budgets of the AMC specification, along with hot-swap and manageability are enabling modular computing applications with various processor architectures in a way that no PrPMC can provide.

SBS Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of embedded computing technology, is ideally situated to offer embedded developers a full family of I/O and communication products and complete, integrated systems based on Intel® and Motorola® processors that will take full advantage of the capabilities the AMC specification adds to AdvancedTCA telecom systems.

SBS Technologies expands one of the broadest lines of communication modules in the embedded industry by introducing the TELUM 1001-O3M Advanced Mezzanine Card, a high performance AMC.1 compliant Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) module.

The TELUM 1001-O3M AMC module provides full duplex OC-3 ATM front I/O capabilities to an AdvancedTCA system. As a leading provider of PCI mezzanine cards to the embedded computer market, SBS Technologies builds upon the company’s existing expertise by creating a broad new family of AMC modules for a variety of telecommunication applications.

The TELUM 1001-O3M uses an Intel® bridge to the PCI Express bus to communicate with the host processor on an AdvancedTCA system. The TELUM 1000 complies with ATM Forum UNI 3.1 and TM 4.0 and is based on an advanced ATM Segmentation and Reassembly (SAR) Controller designed to optimize the PCI Express Bus interface.

This new AMC module offers an Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) subsystem used to initialize board level parameters, monitor board voltage and temperature conditions, maintain system status, and manage hot swap operation. A microcontroller is used as the IPMI intelligence and connects to the ATCA System Management bus and the local PCI Express Bridge device. The TELUM 1000 is hot swappable and field-replaceable.

For convenient one-stop shopping, SBS offers embedded developers a full family of I/O and communications products and complete integrated systems based on Intel processors. SBS Technologies’ I/O modules are designed to serve a multitude of applications and include products such as Gigabit Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, WAN interface products, WAN/LAN monitoring products, Voice over ATM blades, serial I/O, Fibre Channel host bus adapters, and many others.

SBS also provides software to help integrate SBS I/O products with single board computers so customers can get their Intel-based systems up and running quickly. Through the company’s Ready Driver™ program (specifically designed for SBS SBCs and I/O hardware), developers can easily integrate systems. When the I/O driver and the Board Support Package (BSP) for a processor lack common routines, engineers must port the I/O driver so it can work with the SBC’s BSP before any useful work can be done. This process can take from weeks to months.

Integration with the SBS Ready Driver program consists of simply booting the SBC and then downloading the driver object. No compiling is needed. That’s because the Ready Driver program defines a common set of routines that are exposed by the BSP and used by the I/O driver, forming the BSP abstraction layer. These routines allow the I/O driver to be written without knowledge of the specific BSP or underlying hardware on which it runs. SBS Ready Driver products work together out of the box, saving customers critical time and resources.

More information on SBS Technologies products is available at www.sbs.com.

Brand or product names are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective holders.

PICMG®, CompactPCI®,and AdvancedTCA® are registered trademarks, and PCI Express™ is a trademark, of the PCI Industrial Computers Manufacturers Group.

Contact Information

GE Fanuc Embedded Systems
7401 Snaproll NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109
800.727.1553 Toll Free
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