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First microATX board with HPC-COM interface to tackle supply chain issues

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By Nick Flaherty

congatec in Germany has launched the first modular MicroATX compliant carrier board with a COM-HPC interface to avoid supply chain issues with mainstream motherboards.

The microATX board can be equipped with any high-end Computer-on-Module available in COM-HPC Client Size A, B or C, making designs even more flexible and sustainable.

The conga-HPC/uATX board is designed for embedded long-term availability of at least seven years, which eliminates the design risks, revision requirements and supply chain uncertainties of standard or semi-industrial-grade motherboards that are usually only deliverable for three to five years.

Congatec has 14 versions of the modules using the 12th generation Intel processors codenamed Alder Lake S, which introduced a mix of high performance and high efficiency cores for lower power operation as well as dedicated accelerators for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

The modules range from the conga-HPC/cALS COM-HPC Client Size C modules, offering the currently highest embedded client performance with 16-core Intel Core i9 processor, to the conga-HPC/cALP COM-HPC Client Size A modules with Intel Celeron 7305E processor.

The combination of application-ready industrial-grade COMs & carrier boards with tailored cooling solutions and comprehensive board support packages (BSPs) for all leading real time operating systems and the real-time hypervisor from congatec subsidiary Real-Time Systems. This allows developers to create a full product portfolio based on one single carrier concept.

In times of supply chain uncertainties, the option to pick any available COM-HPC module is a particular advantage. OEMs benefit from not being tied to one specific BGA or LGA processor from a single silicon or Computer-on-Modules vendor, which reduces the supply shortage risk significantly. At the same time, the mechanics and application-specific peripherals can stay as they are without needing any hardware changes.

“The new industrial-grade COM-HPC carrier board in microATX form factor ports all benefits of Computer-on-Modules to the high-end industrial and semi-industrial motherboard market,” said Martin Danzer, Director Product Management at congatec. “It will progress conventional motherboard based system designs, which are tailored to a certain processor generation, to far more flexibly and sustainably scalable motherboard layouts that utilize Computer-on-Modules. Industrial applications need longer life cycles than three to five years to reduce the NRE costs and to maximize the return on investment of dedicated systems. Being able to switch the processor performance to any future option without the need to re-build the entire system is thus a huge advantage for many industries.”

The carrier board also boosts prototyping of high-performance embedded and edge computing systems for fastest time to market. Application areas of microATX system designs are system solutions that support multiple displays and can be found in various markets. Typical applications range from industrial and medical HMIs, real-time edge controllers, industrial PCs and control room systems to infotainment and digital signage applications all the way up to professional casino gaming systems.

The carrier board offers PCIe Gen4 and USB 4 interfaces for the Alder Lake S Intel Core i9/7/5/3 desktop processors which provide up to 8 optimized Performance-cores (P-cores) plus up to 8 low power Efficient-cores (E-cores) and DDR5 memory support.

The graphics of the LGA processor based modules delivers now up to 94% faster performance and its image classification inference performance has nearly tripled with up to 181% higher throughput. In addition, the modules offer massive bandwidth to connect discrete GPUs for maximum graphics and GPGPU based AI performance.

The COM-HPC Client modules also include dedicated AI engines supporting Windows ML, Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit and Chrome Cross ML. The different AI workloads can seamlessly be delegated to the P-cores, E-cores, as well as the GPU execution units to process even the most intensive edge AI workloads.

The built-in Intel Deep Learning boost technology uses different cores via Vector Neural Network Instructions (VNNI), and the integrated graphics supports AI accelerated DP4a GPU instructions that can even be scaled to dedicated GPUs. Furthermore, Intel’s lowest power built-in AI accelerator, the Intel Gaussian & Neural Accelerator 3.0 (Intel GNA 3.0), enables dynamic noise suppression and speech recognition and can even run while the processor is in low power states for wake-up voice commands.

The conga-HPC/cALS COM-HPC Client Size C modules with 12th Gen Intel Core desktop processors will be available in four configurations:

 

Processor

 

Cores/
(P + E)

 

P-cores
Freq. [GHz]

 

E-cores
Freq. [GHz]

 

GPU Compute Units

 

CPU Base Power [W]

conga-HPC/cALS-i9-12900E

 

16 (8+8)

 

2.3 / 5.0

 

1.7 / 3.8

 

32

 

65

conga-HPC/cALS-i7-12700E

 

12 (8+4)

 

2.1 / 4.8

 

1.6 / 3.6

 

32

 

65

conga-HPC/cALS-i5-12500E

 

6 (6+0)

 

2.9 / 4.5

 

– / –

 

32

 

65

conga-HPC/cALS-i3-12100E

 

4 (4+0)

 

3.2 / 4.2

 

– / –

 

24

 

60

 

For the lower end of high-end desktop clients, 10 more variants with soldered processors are available on conga-HPC/cALP COM-HPC Client Size A modules (95x120mm).

The carrier board design can be adapted to OEM demands and carrier board schematics are available upon request. Engineers who want to learn how to design carrier boards with COM-HPC Computer-on-Modules are welcome to participate in COM-HPC trainings offered by congatec.

www.congatec.com/en/products/accessories/conga-HPC-uATX

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