Celebrating VME's strength and endurance

Embedded Tech Trends 2016 is now in the books. We had a record number of sponsors and media representatives at the event, which is a business and technology forum focused on the critical and intelligent embedded systems industry. The theme this year was “Houston – We have a problem!” All of the presentations and associated videos have been posted to the Embedded Tech Trends website at www.embeddedtechtrends.com.

Last year was a very busy time at VITA. Twenty-two new members joined from companies around the world, truly reflecting the international significance of the organization. These memberships were driven primarily by the growing popularity of VPX and FMC. The activity level is high for standards development and design-wins for both of these technologies.

At the same time, we are preparing to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the announcement of VMEbus. Looking back, it is hard to imagine the strength and longevity of VME. I had graduated from college and was just getting my feet wet in the world of embedded computing when it debuted. Please feel free to visit our LinkedIn site to add your own comments to the conversation. I will be pulling comments and stories from the LinkedIn conversation to be published in our 35th anniversary feature in the Fall/Winter issue.

New products based on VMEbus continue to be introduced today, as evidenced by some of my Primetime product selections. News from Curtiss-Wright that they have developed an FPGA-based PCI Express to VME64x bridge chip with a 15-year life-cycle commitment is mind-boggling to me in this age of rapid technology turnover! And they were not even the first to do so; IOxOS also has an FPGA-based bridge chip that is sold as a stand-alone component and is being used by other VMEbus board suppliers.

In 2014 the industry was in a panic that VMEbus as we knew it would end when IBM informed IDT that they would no longer build the Tsi148 VMEbus to PCI-X bridge for them, forcing IDT to announce the end-of-life of that popular part. Strong demand for VME incentivized suppliers to look for alternate solutions, from lifetime purchases to custom FPGA implementations. Many are taking the opportunity to make it a VMEbus to PCI Express bus bridge, which is more popular with today’s designs.

The industry lost a giant in January with the passing of Lym Hevle, the founder of the VMEbus International Trade Association (VITA). I was saddened to hear the news. I had the fortune of knowing Lym in the early days of VITA and VMEbus. My last contact with him was while I was doing research for the 25th anniversary of VMEbus. Read more about Lym’s contributions in the Hall of Fame feature.

I was excited when I got a call from NAVAIR late last year asking if they could attend a VITA Standards Organization (VSO) meeting to discuss some ideas they had on open architecture platforms. They have been following the work of the U.S. Army’s VICTORY program and have been struggling with many of the same development issues. A NAVAIR representative presented the Hardware Open System Technology (HOST) strategy to VSO meeting attendees. NAVAIR has a vision of creating a hardware technical reference framework for developing embedded computing systems through successful development of the HOST strategy to maximize platform and system “openness,” modularity, interoperability, scalability, sustainability, and reuse. The VSO decided to form a study group to continue working on this proposal. Formal release of a document is imminent.

Growing a company in the critical embedded computing industry is extremely challenging. I spent several years of my career at Motorola leading a small strategy team tasked with that goal. I am always on the watch for news on acquisitions in our industry. The recent announcement by Mercury Systems to acquire the embedded security, RF and microwave, and custom microelectronics businesses from Microsemi Corporation was especially of interest. Mercury Systems has been active in acquisitions for many years, primarily at a system level. This acquisition takes a different slant that I am not quite sure I understand yet. While I have observed semiconductor companies purchase board and system companies over the years, I have never seen a computer system company in this space purchase a semiconductor company. This will be a fun acquisition to follow in the coming months. It begs me to ask why someone wouldn’t be interested in purchasing the IDT VME chip business?

I extend an invitation for everyone to join in the conversations at the VITA Technologies LinkedIn group (www.linkedin.com/groups/2565867).

If the rest of 2016 is anything like the first quarter, then this year should be a fun time! I look forward to a great 2016.

Jerry Gipper, jgipper@opensystemsmedia.com