Realizing the potential of OpenVPX

The rapid acceptance of OpenVPX (VITA 65) is clear evidence of the architecture’s potential for demanding, harsh environment applications. By providing a path for designers to implement current high-bandwidth technologies, VPX (VITA 46) allows companies to leverage their past investment in VITA-based standards. The quick adoption of OpenVPX by the traditional VITA-based ecosystem reduces the potential risks associated with interoperability, time to market, EOL, and cost considerations.

The mil/aero market segment is one of the primary target markets for OpenVPX. Because of its high-bandwidth capabilities, it has attracted much attention in regard to graphical applications that require high bandwidth and high-speed processing capabilities. High-volume data movement from FPGA boards to SBC boards for front- and back-end processing is also of high interest.

The key technology benefit of OpenVPX is the non-“bus” oriented, intraboard bandwidth using serial point-to-point fabric architectures. This allows for hybrid designs that can include VMEbus, thus extending older custom VME designs into the new generation architectures. Also 3U VPX supports the market’s need for deployable, rugged products demanding more CPU processing and higher I/O bandwidth in Small Form Factors (SFFs) for applications like unmanned vehicles and aerospace designs, which all are trying to meet Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) requirements.

Successful implementation of OpenVPX is driven by several key decision factors: profile selection, compliance versus compatibility, and vendor/partner selection. Profile flexibility is at the heart of OpenVPX and is used to define the architecture of a system, through backplane, module, and board selection (backplane, slot, and module profiles). A solution is based on selecting the right combination of these profiles to solve a specific customer requirement. Understanding compliance versus compatibility is necessary when selecting the board payload. A board vendor may indicate which profiles they comply with, but that does not exclude them from being used in some subset of the full profile. Backplane profiles may not have full compliance, yet still provide a subset of capabilities.

Choosing the right vendor/partner is tantamount to the success of any program. More so than past architectures, OpenVPX requires a systems-architecture-level understanding of the application and a spectrum of resources to implement the solution in a low-volume, complex manufacturing environment. Important considerations are:

  • Application- and system-level know-how – A system is not a bag of parts. It is imperative to understand how applications interact with each other to solve the customer’s needs and which limitations a system must meet (thermal, vibration, power, and so on).
  • Modified standard backplane implementation – The heart of the system architecture is the backplane. The use of multiple vendor boards with varying profiles in a tailored way demands a high-performance, reliable communication path be provided by the backplane.
  • Modified standard and custom chassis design – The deployed environment for VPX is wide ranging, and a company with broad experience with packaging will eliminate a major potential point of program risk.
  • The right strategic partners – Often the optimal system requires the integration of SBCs, switch, storage, and I/O boards from multiple vendors. Working with a company that has relationships in place with “best in class” companies insures the performance of the overall solution.
  • The right fit – Many companies understand technology, but effectively implementing “concept to deliverable” requires a business model tailored to the customer’s demands. The relatively low-volume, high-complexity needs of a defense contractor require a different model than that of a contract manufacturer of high-volume telecom equipment.

Companies considering OpenVPX for their next application will be successful because they are able to implement a standards-based solution that is tailored to their application requirements. The overall solution can be supported by multiple vendors that offer the “best” solution, rather than compromise on what is available from a single vendor. Central to the solution is the backplane in moving from the lab to deployment, especially when migrating to ATR solutions, where eliminating cables often requires custom changes to standard backplanes, or a specialized breakout panel.

OpenVPX has a complexity of options at the system level. Taking full advantage of its application potential requires choosing the right partner that understands the application-level solutions, the individual building blocks of chassis, backplane, and payload, and then has the resources in place to make the concept a deliverable reality.

With the industry’s full support of OpenVPX, a wide range of products is available from and is being deployed by nearly all of the traditional VITA vendor base, insuring its growth moving forward.

Elma Electronic Inc. | www.elma.com