The impact of the new COM HPC standard

May 11, 2020 //By Christian Eder and Martin Frederiksen
COM HPC standard
It’s been three years since the latest Computer on Module (COM) specification, COM Express 3.0, was released for industry use. Now, the embedded computer industry is on the verge of a new standard: COM for high-performance computing (COM-HPC), which is due to be ratified this year.

In a joint Q&A session, chairman of the PICMG COM-HPC technical subcommittee and marketing manager at congatec, Christian Eder, and Martin Frederiksen, managing director of embedded computing systems provider Recab UK, explain the impact this new standard will bring to the market.


Christian Eder, chairman of the PICMG COM-HPC
technical subcommittee and marketing manager
at congatec.

What are the main differences between COM-HPC and COM Express?

Christian Eder (CE): “Computer-on-Modules based on the new COM-HPC standard promise considerably higher transmission performance, many more high-speed interfaces and significantly faster network connection, besides other benefits. This is down to a completely redesigned, more powerful new module to carrier board connector. While COM Express establishes this connection with 440 pins, the COM-HPC specification provides 800 pins. This doubles the maximum number of PCIe lanes from 32 for COM Express Type 7 to 64 for COM-HPC/Server.

While COM Express supports a maximum of PCIe Gen 3.0 with 8 Gb/s per lane, a COM-HPC module achieves up to 32 Gb/s per lane via PCIe-5.0 — that’s four times the data rate of COM Express. COM-HPC modules will therefore be used in particularly performance-hungry applications, for instance to embed artificial intelligence with deep learning in embedded systems, or even to implement tactile Internet at the edge server level.”

On the subject of edge servers, what performance enhancements can be expected from COM-HPC modules in terms of Ethernet connectivity?

CE: “The enormous speed increase has an immense effect on the connectivity performance. Current COM Express modules (Type 7) at edge server level offer a maximum of 10 Gb Ethernet per signal pair. COM-HPC, on the other hand, specifies 25 Gb Ethernet, and more.

With up to eight network connections, it then becomes possible to achieve transfer rates of 100 Gbit/s, and theoretically even 200 Gbit/s. Such rates are needed in the first instance for high-performance edge server solutions at the edge of telecom networks. Here, fast up, down and crosslinks in all directions must be established: i.e. north in the direction of the central cloud; east and west in the direction of neighbouring edge fogs; and also south in the direction of industry 4.0 controls at process level.”

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