Continuous innovation harnessed via VPX ecosystem

2I am often approached by individuals and companies that are new to the world of VPX. One of the first questions they ask is, “What does the business ecosystem look like for VPX technology?” My first response is that it is a collection of suppliers and users with VPX as a common interest. But usually the question begs more detail; who the players are and what role they fulfill are foremost among the critical points. VITA has recently formed a study group to develop a map of the VPX ecosystem. This article takes a closer look at the VPX ecosystem and its benefits.

A business ecosystem is a strategic planning concept originated by James F. Moore. In his book, Leadership & Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems, Moore defined this concept:

An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals – the organisms of the business world. This economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organizations also include suppliers, lead producers (users), competitors, and other stakeholders. Over time, they co-evolve their capabilities and roles, and tend to align themselves with the directions set by one or more central companies. Those companies holding leadership roles may change over time, but the function of ecosystem leader is valued by the community because it enables members to move toward shared visions to align their investments and to find mutually supportive roles.

An ecosystem can harness innovation across a large number of diverse organizations, allowing progress to be made in a situation that is very difficult to manage except for the largest of organizations. Participants find it easier to develop solutions for which customers are willing to pay, have shorter time to cash, and have lower development cost.

The energy within an ecosystem leads to continuous innovation that is extremely important to technology leadership. Members with varying areas of specialization can work together to create well-developed solutions.

Ecosystem types

Ecosystems are usually anchored around one of these types:

  • Single company: A single company drives the spectrum of activity.
  • Consortia: A trade association or consortia with suppliers and users share a common goal to develop a .

Variations are developed depending on the goals and needs of the initiative. In the case of the VPX ecosystem, it is primarily driven by a trade association, in this case, VITA. While membership is not a rigid requirement to participate in the ecosystem, there are many advantages as highlighted in the sidebar “Working together to create mutual benefits.” Members can help create and obtain access to an ecosystem of companies focused on a common goal of developing, promoting, and aiding adoption of VPX technology. They can benefit from VITA’s liaison with other organizations currently working on and promoting complimentary technology. Members can reduce development and technical support costs for new product developments by participating in the ecosystem with other members. Members often can network and partner with other members to create platforms that demonstrate comprehensive industry-leading solutions.

VITA plays multiple roles in the VPX ecosystem. First and foremost, VITA is a standards development organization (SDO) concentrating on establishing well-defined and structured standards that are properly vetted and administered. Accreditation through ANSI adds an additional level of credibility to the quality of the standards development process.

Second, VITA provides a venue for the VPX Marketing Alliance that is primarily focused on marketing activities for the VPX ecosystem. The marketing activities are separate from the VITA membership so that non-VITA members may participate in specific activities.

Burning issues for the VPX ecosystem

Interoperability

Interoperability is considered crucial because it constitutes a basic benefit of having a standard in the first place. This is one of the most common for VPX and has even led to the development of the VITA 80 working group dedicated to developing methods for testing interoperability among VPX modules.

Awareness

Awareness is a primary goal of the VPX Marketing Alliance. Educating the target audience to make them aware of the VPX technology is an ongoing process. Trade shows, conferences, seminars, webcasts, publications such as , and grassroots efforts are the most common tools for creating awareness. Events like Embedded Tech Trends provide a forum for networking among sponsors, industry media, and key players in the VPX ecosystem.

Innovation

Innovation drives new growth, pulls in new members, and helps create awareness. Coming up with innovation is a challenge. Innovation that is relevant and useful to the VPX industry is difficult but critical to success.

VPX ecosystem map

A visual representation of how an ecosystem works to create value can be helpful in understanding the operation and fabric of that ecosystem. The view you have of the ecosystem depends on your position within the ecosystem. A business ecosystem map can be drawn to reflect your vantage point. The key elements remain the same but can be termed and positioned differently based on your vantage point. Many types of maps exist, each with its own unique perspective of the ecosystem.

Figure 1 illustrates a value-add view of the VPX ecosystem. It starts with the suppliers at the base. Suppliers can be roughly broken into connectors, modules, and systems. Connectors seem to be the root of all VPX technology so the map starts there. The list of module and systems suppliers is long and growing. Modules are the basic building blocks of a VPX product. They include: backplanes, chassis, power supplies, processing modules, I/O modules, memory subsystems, and more. System suppliers build operational systems from the modules. A single company often provides both modules and systems. Others focus on very specific module technology and supply those up the value-add chain.

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Figure 1: Value-add view of the VPX ecosystem.

Integrators

Level 1 integrators are distinguished from system suppliers by the fact that they can also add software and other technology outside of the scope of VPX. These are fully functional systems that can be delivered to users.

Users/Integrators

Level 2 comprises the end user or a super integrator that takes products from the lower levels and adds application software for the end user. Prime contractors like Boeing and Lockheed are great examples of super or Level 2 integrators.

The extended ecosystem encompasses the value add from trade associations, think tanks, and other key contributors to the VPX ecosystem. The value provided here is very diverse but key to the success of the ecosystem. Their contributions have added immensely to the standards development and promotional activities of the VPX ecosystem.

Measuring success

VITA has recently formed a study group to develop a series of maps and charts of the VPX ecosystem. Inputs are being gathered from members and the industry to support the VPX ecosystem. Be sure to visit www.vita.com/VPX for additional information on the VPX ecosystem.

An ecosystem can declare itself successful when companies can produce outcomes and attract more resources with the ecosystem than without it. The VPX ecosystem is a clear winner by that statement.

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