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Architecture boost for OpenVPX single board systems

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By Nick Flaherty


General Micro Systems (GMS) in the US is launching over 20 3U and 6U OpenVPX computer boards, peripherals and chassis using its new X9 architecture.

The X9 Venom family of 21 products will be available by early 2023, starting with 3U and 6U single-board computers (SBCs) based on Intel and Nvidia processors and GPUs. All products follow ANSI/VITA 65 standards, meet the US Department of Defense (DoD) requirement for modular open standards approach (MOSA) electronic systems and are IEEE 1101.2 conduction cooled.

The X9 Venom boards are also SOSA (Sensor Open Standard Architecture) aligned and ready to meet C4ISR/Electronic Warfare Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS), two standards that increasingly are requirements in U.S. Army programs and platform upgrades. 

OpenVPX modules have limited space for electronics and input/output signals, offering little differentiation between vendors or suppliers of these modules. SO GMS has developed a new architecture it calls X9 with patented I/O, through-board and external connectors, signal conditioning, power management and cooling.

This allows more functions to be integrated into one or two 3U slots by routing high-speed PCI Express 4 signals (16Gbps) between the stacked boards without signal degradation. Traditional PCI Express and Ethernet data is sent to the backplane, but high-speed I/O—including 100Gbit/s fibre optic data and Thunderbolt 4 signals—is sent to the front panel.

“Each of Venom’s 3U and 6U single-board systems have more functionality, more memory, higher-performance processors, and much greater amounts of data I/O bandwidth—up to 455 Gbps—than any competing OpenVPX vendor,” said Ben Sharfi, CEO and chief architect at GMS.

“With all of these unique capabilities, if a customer chooses OpenVPX or SOSA-aligned OpenVPX over more efficient implementations like our small form factor (SFF) X9 Spider modules, it only makes sense to choose one of our X9 Venom OpenVPX single-board systems.”  

“Next-generation platforms like aircraft, vehicles, UAS and sensor systems require next-generation capabilities to maximize computing resources in lean, flexible and cost-effective ways,” he said. “By breaking the outdated and needlessly expensive, centralized ATR-style board-and-chassis paradigm into Thunderbolt technology-connected distributed compute modules, the X9 Spider family gives designers ruggedized, as-needed capabilities to solve any compute problem in any environment—from the smallest enclosure to the largest C5ISR system.”

A smaller X9 Spider module connects directly to next-gen sensors without intermediate electronics, making the sensors themselves equally scalable and modular. This upgradeability gives the prime contractors and system developers more possibilities with very low upgrade costs.

The Achilles heel of a traditional ATR-style box using VME or OpenVPX cards is the lack of flexibility. The box can’t be opened or modified without a requalification; changing the cards requires I/O and backplane rewiring; upgrades can only be done using the box’s same card style (as opposed to choosing the market’s best technology choice); and the box is an expensive single point of failure. As well, with all functions centralized in one box, the whole system’s electrical power and heat is concentrated in one location.

Using the X9 Spider interface modules avoids this issue.

“X9 Spider’s interoperability not only lowers acquisition costs, but it enables modernization and upgrade programs to move past restrictive single-box architectures like VME and OpenVPX and instead uses plug-and-play standards like Thunderbolt™ , 100Gigabit Ethernet and USB4 that are deployable anywhere on the platform,” said Sharfi. “This decentralizes computing, power distribution, and heat dissipation while improving fault tolerance through redundancy or merely by physically separating critical functions. These capabilities required new mechanical and electrical innovations to achieve a truly modular, distributed and scalable system that designers will love.”

The GMS 3U and 6U ATR-PLUS chassis are designed to handle both backplane and front panel copper and fiber data. The 6U-sized X9 Venom boards are all single slot but essentially take the 3-board X9 architecture and place it onto a single 6U board. All boards or chassis use GMS patented “clamshell” heat sinks, wedgelocks, RuggedCool or Diamond RuggedCool hot spot cooling and stiffeners, and have available LightBolt front panel connectors for copper, fibre, or fibre with up to 100W Power Delivery.

The GMS X9 architecture includes 22 patents either filed for or granted.

The X9 Spider-based computing modules will be available in different variations to meet the unique needs of each application. The first module is the X9 Spider Wearable and GMS will introduce other X9 Spider family products by the end of the year.

gms4sbc.com/x9spider; gms4sbc.com/x9venom

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