Computers on Module in the Fast Lane

By Henk van Bremen, ADLINK Technology

For many years Computers on Module (COM) have trailed in performance and technology to standard form factors. While most of these standard form factors - ATX, SBC and Compact PCI - closely follow the latest chipset technology, x86-based COMs have not been able to follow into areas such as 64-bit PCI and high performance CPUs. For high-end solutions, OEMs must either rely on bulky standard form factors or expensive and time-consuming proprietary designs. With the introduction of ETXexpress, based on PCI Express the new high speed differential signaling bus, COMs are now closing the technology gap and going center stage for high-end OEM applications. In addition, ETXexpress will be an unbeatable value option. Since most of the new COMs are based on processors and chipsets that will be used in mass markets, the price/performance level will soon outpace all other high-end solutions in the market today.

What is ETXexpress?

ETXexpress is the convergence of the latest technology standards based on serial differential signaling - such as PCI Express, USB 2.0, Serial ATA, LVDS and Serial DVO - implemented on an extremely compact COM. Moving from parallel busses such as PCI and IDE to serial busses such as PCI Express is a change the scale of which has not been seen since PCI replaced ISA. ETXexpress is the common name under which Kontron, ADLINK and Advantech will co-market this new form factor. Technically, ETXexpress is identical to the new COM Express specification currently being published by PICMG. The PICMG COM Express Subcommittee represents a broad cross section of the embedded market industry. This joint effort from leading vendors and component manufacturers coupled with the fact that this is the first time COMs will be standardized by PICMG assures its swift and broad acceptance in the market. ETXexpress (COM Express) modules are well-suited to become the fastest growing segment in the COM market.

ETXexpress modules are offered in a 90mm x 125mm form factor. Signals are brought out through two 220-pin SMT connectors that permit data transmission rates of up to 5GHz. Six mounting holes connect it with custom-made, application-specific carrier boards which provide protection from shock and vibration. The thermal coupling system incorporates a standardized heat spreader widely used on other COMs.

When reviewing systems requirements, the general concerns about the COMs layout and other critical functions on the ETXexpress module vanish. With the COM approach all generic PC functions are readily available on an off-the-shelf compact module, allowing system developers to focus on core competence and the unique functions of the system. The end result is a compact, high-performance system designed with a shortened development time. This approach greatly enhances productivity and reduces time to market.

Product Roadmap

ADLINK Technology is currently designing its first ETXexpress module, the ETXp-IA533. This innovative module is based on a 1.8GHz Intel® Pentium® M Dothan processor and Intel’s new 915GM PCI Express chipset code-named Alviso. The ETXp-IA533 supports the new DDR2 533Mhz memory and comes with a single onboard Gigabit Ethernet port. In addition to a Graphic PCI Express x16 slot, the board connects up to four additional PCI Express x1 devices. This initial product will have legacy support for 32-bit PCI, ISA through LPC and IDE. In future models, the PCI and IDE may disappear to allow for an additional two onboard Gigabit Ethernet devices and up to 10 additional PCI Express x1 lanes. The new generation modules target industrial markets such as data communication, medical, gaming, retail and test & measurement. ADLINK’s ETXp-IA533 ETXexpress module will be available in spring of 2005.

Henk van Bremen is Senior Product Manager of Embedded Computing for ADLINK Technology Inc. He has extensive experience in product management and marketing in IPC and embedded computing in Asia. He holds degrees in Computer Sciences and Engineering. ADLINK Technology is an Associate Member of the Intel® Communications Alliance and an active member of the PICMG COM Express Subcommittee.

Contact Information

ADLINK Technology Inc.
8900 Research Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
866.4.ADLINK Telephone
949.727.2099 Fax