Those VPX surprises just keep a'coming

I recently heard someone say, "Every day is a surprise." Never before is this as true as it is now in the VPX world, considering Mercury's formation of its own outside-VITA OpenVPX Industry Working Group and VPX purveyor Elma Electronic's acquisition of ACT/Technico.

I recently heard someone say, “Every day is a surprise.” I thought within myself defiantly, “Well, my life isn’t a surprise.” And that’s exactly how I prefer it. Like many Americans, my schedule – whether recorded in a day planner or on a PDA – is booked almost to the minute, packed to the brim with a flurry of activities involving family, work, social, and community obligations for weeks in advance. Everything is predictable and planned.

However, I have realized in the past month or so that maybe the self-appointed sage’s proclamation of daily unknowns was actually right. Though I have my world completely scheduled and predictable, others are taking action, unbeknownst to me, yielding what? Surprise. And the embedded electronics industry – specifically the VPX world – is no exception. I was certainly surprised by the following two recent happenings.

Mercury attends to VPX – outside VSO

A couple weeks ago, Mercury Computer Systems sent out its email relaying an industry first: It had initiated its own working group – outside VITA/VSO – to further development of VITAís VPX specifications. In what could be perceived by some as irreverence for following Standards Development Organization (SDO) protocol, Mercuryís new OpenVPX Industry Working Group aims to solve VPX system-level interoperability issues and what Mercury calls ambiguity in areas such as VPX pinouts, where present specifications could be interpreted differently by various manufacturers, among other issues.

The two questions most embedded industry players have are the same things Group Editorial Director Chris Ciufo and I were wondering when we chatted with a Mercury representative shortly after the groundbreaking announcement: Why go outside VITA? What was the reaction of the VSO on the formation of an external, independent working group? How will the OpenVPX Industry Working Group submit its conclusions to VSO, or will it? And how will this affect the industry in the long run – will this set a precedent for other companies to follow in developing outside-of-VITA working groups focused on VITA technologies?

While we donít want to ruin the surprise behind Mercuryís answer to these questions and more (see the April print edition of VME and Critical Systems for in-depth coverage including an interview with Mercury), what we can say for now is this: Mercury developed its own working group to fast-track VPX, choosing key industry players (as of yet, unannounced primes and vendors) deemed as having high relevance and impact on VPX, to streamline the development process and cut to the chase.

The Mercury representative indicated, as did Mercuryís PR, that Ray Alderman and VITA/VSO have voiced no objections to the OpenVPX Industry Working Group. Further, Mercury has no intention of competing with VITA, it says, and will submit all its VPX recommendations in what it calls ìa comprehensive System Design Guideî to be submitted to the VSO and considered for draft specification. Mercuryís hope is to complete the effort by this June. Once the task is accomplished, the OpenVPX Industry Working Group will disappear. So, what effect will all this have on VITA/VSO and VPX in the long run, and will it set a precedent for other break-out working groups? Well Ö those will constitute yet more surprises as events unfold.

VPX supplier Elma takes on new dimension

Though acquisitions are frequent in the embedded electronics industry, another item that recently took me by surprise was the announcement that VPX purveyor Elma Electronic had acquired ACT/Technico. Admit it, youíre still surprised by specific acquisitions too, when they occur – unless youíre one of the few whose ears receive advance ìrumblingsî that a particular acquisition is afoot. Nevertheless, while some thought Elma had the whole package (pardon the pun), apparently its execs wanted to add ACT/Technicoís subsystem integration expertise to Elmaís own bevy of electronic packaging products in the VPX, VME, and VXS form factors, in addition to its AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA, and other wares.

ACT/Technicoís acquisition also gives Elma access to ACT/Technicoís array of standards-based offerings, including SBCs, PMCs, I/O solutions, networking and carrier products, and software – including that of Wind River Systems and Sysgo, among others. Of course, Elma also, ironically, acquires ACT/Technicoís enclosures and chassis. What effect will this merger have on the embedded market? Look for our interview with Elmaís president in the upcoming June Resource Guide (print) edition. No telling what heíll say. Ah yes, yet another surprise.

In this edition Ö

Meanwhile, in this edition, the main surprise is that weíre delivering this all-new material, special electronic edition of our magazine (not our typical ìE-letterî) in digital format, as opposed to our usual (now environmentally friendly) ink. Highlights include a Q&A with Green Hills Softwareís CTO David Kleidermacher on GHís revolutionary EAL 6+ certification. We also share the latest from VITAís executive director, Ray Alderman, who compares some board segmentsí tread in todayís economy to his youthful, agrarian observations of pigs on ice. Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing also makes a bid for VITA 47 ruggedization, while Kontron presents a counterbalance case for another path: a ruggedized coupling agent.

In addition, Robert Normoyle from DRS-Signal Solutions takes readers inside the emerging VITA 46.14 RF backplane interconnect standard, and John Rynearson, VITA technical director, provides the latest status update roundup and VITA activity chart. Weíre also including a white paper on reverse engineering by Randy Torrance and Dick James of Chipworks Inc., who provide a scientific look at the often-controversial practice.

We hope you enjoy this full, all-new electronic edition of VME and Critical Systems, and that you enjoy lifeís wonderful surprises when they come – and make lemonade of lifeís more lemony surprises when they happen.


Sharon Schnakenburg