AMC Expands Telecom Data Options

Using AMC modules to customize AdvancedTCA Systems

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

Telecom systems based on existing PCI, CompactPCI® and VME architectures are quickly losing their capacity to satisfy the performance-hungry requirements of the latest telecom applications. As data traffic consumes more of a telecom’s bandwidth-data was recently estimated to be about 80 percent of total telecom traffic-the requirements for higher performance equipment in the central office to direct and process telephone calls and data traffic are ever increasing.

To answer this need for speed, the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA®) was created by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG®). AdvancedTCA is defined in the PICMG 3 specification as an open board, backplane, 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, with support for carrier-grade features such as the Network Equipment Building System criteria, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute telecommunications standards, and 99.999% availability.

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.

AdvancedTCA boards, or blades, are larger than the typical VME or CompactPCI boards in use today. For example, AdvancedTCA boards are 8U high or about 13 inches (332.25 mm) and about 11 inches (280 mm) deep, providing about 2.5 times more board area than a 6U VME or CompactPCI board. This larger board area offers support for the latest higher performance microprocessors which require large heat sinks.

To help applications take advantage of the higher performance the AdvancedTCA architecture offers, the specification provides for separate switched fabric specifications. For example, PICMG 3.2 defines how to build systems using InfiniBand switch fabrics and PICMG 3.4 does the same for PCI Express and Advanced Switching Fabric interface.

In addition to the PICMG 3.0 switched fabric specifications, the AdvancedTCA Mezzanine Card (AMC) specification-the module specification for AdvancedTCA-allows telecom equipment vendors to enable higher system speeds, greater flexibility and better reliability for the new AdvancedTCA-based telecom systems coming onto the market.

AMC.0 is the base specification for AMC, defining parameters such as module outline, connector mechanicals and available power. There are a number of subsidiary specifications that address specific applications, including PCI Express interconnect (AMC.1), Ethernet links (AMC.2), and storage devices (AMC.3). AMC.0 and AMC.1 will likely come up for ratification at the PICMG Executive Board meeting scheduled for September. AMC.2 ratification is expected to follow sometime in January, 2005.

The AdvancedTCA specification permits deployment of existing PMC modules, giving a significant advantage to companies such as SBS Technologies that already have a large selection of PMC modules for the telecom sector. For example, SBS supplies the IB4X-PMC-2 InfiniBand Host Channel Adapter and the Maxim 921-DS PMC for full-duplex channelized DS3 connectivity, among others allowing telecom embedded developers to start customizing existing AdvancedTCA systems right away.

Although PMC modules extend existing telecom equipment and can work with today’s AdvancedTCA systems, the increased capabilities of application-specific AMC modules offer a solid groundwork for AdvancedTCA systems. AMC modules give embedded developers the flexibility to upgrade and customize telecom systems with more options than ever before with advantages over PMC modules such as larger board area, hot swap capability, system management interoperability and increased power capacity.

SBS Technologies Telum 1001-O3M AMC module is well-suited for networking applications demanding high performance

AMC modules provide an expansion interface for AdvancedTCA blades that increases telecom system flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency, and can fulfill just about any telecom application including 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.

One aid to increasing system uptime is the AdvancedTCA specification’s support for system management. The system management interface of an AdvancedTCA blade is also extended to the AMC module allowing the system operator to easily monitor the AdvancedTCA blade and AMC module either onsite or remotely, thus helping to maintain system uptime.

The AdvancedTCA specification defines a shelf, or chassis, management approach to system architecture that helps ensure the blades, backplanes and chassis from different vendors can work together as a complete system. By incorporating the Intelligent Platform Management Interface specification developed by Dell®, Inc., Hewlett-Packard® Co., Intel Corp. and NEC® Corp., the AdvancedTCA specification defines interfaces for use in monitoring and controlling voltage, temperature, fan operation and other system components for a constant check on system operations. In addition, the management system can retrieve inventory information, event reports and failure notifications from boards and modules.

The PICMG 3.0 specification for AMC defines a variety of module formats ranging from half-height, single-wide modules to full-height, double-wide modules, with power requirements ranging from 20 watts to 60 watts per module. AMC modules also make it easy for system developers to take full advantage of AdvancedTCA-based systems’ higher power capacity-up to 200 watts per blade.

A standard AdvancedTCA backplane architecture is full mes interlinked, where every slot has a dedicated link to every other slot has a dedicated link to every other slot. When taken in total, this full mesh capability provides the potential for terabits per second data transfers within a single shelf or chassis. Obviously, very high performace systems will use full mesh interlinking for maximum throughput of data.

The flexibility that AMC modules bring to the AdvancedTCA architecture lets developers build a blade with only the capability required at the time while allowing for future requirements. Telecom companies could use this modularity to expand their systems in increments as their subscriber base grows, letting them match system capacity with the level of bandwidth required.

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.

As a leading I/O vendor with a broad line of PMC modules, SBS Technologies is able to provide a varied line of AMC modules allowing telecom OEMs to quickly assemble custom AdvancedTCA systems with reduced development times and lower material costs. The extensive experience of SBS engineers in developing diverse PMC modules, software drivers and source code libraries, combined with their deep knowledge of OEM requirements, ensures that SBS-designed AMC modules, like the Telum 1001-O3M full duplex OC-3 ATM I/O module, will deliver high reliability and performance to an AdvancedTCA system.

To help SBS Technologies remain in the forefront of AMC module development, the company takes advantage of its Associate member position in the Intel® Communications Alliance. The Alliance is a community of communications and embedded developers and solutions providers committed to the development of modular, standards-based building blocks based on Intel technologies.

The AdvancedTCA specification is one of the key components of the Modular Communications Platforms Initiative driven by Intel. Modular communications platforms are standards-based communications infrastructure platforms and building blocks designed to deliver reduced expenditure, solution flexibility, and time-to-market. Through a growing ecosystem of standards-based suppliers, such as SBS Technologies, modular communications platforms provide network equipment providers with reusable development and deployment platforms, and an avenue to cost-effective innovative product design.

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
505.875.0600 Telephone