Today’s market trends for VITA standards and related technologies

By Brian Arbuckle Reliable market data for critical and embedded computing technology is hard to come by, and even more so when zeroing in on VITA technologies. To better understand the size of the ecosystem for VME, VPX, PMC, and FMC technologies, VITA joined with Brian Arbuckle, analyst with Embedded Market Research, during summer 2021 to conduct research on technologies based on key VITA standards.

The full market report: “World Market for VITA Standards-based Boards and Systems – 2021 Edition,” is now available for purchase from the VITA website at www.vita.com/Market_Research.

Areas covered include:

  • Executive summary
  • Recent mergers and acquisitions
  • Report introduction and method
  • Market-share percentages of major vendors
  • Sales by revenue and units by board and system type
  • Perceived trends affecting business
  • Perceived risks to business operations

Executive summary

Annual sales of VITA standards-based products (VME, VPX, and PMC/XMC) to the merchant market are estimated to have increased, on average, 5.6% from 2019 to 2020. Boards notched the highest revenue number, while systems sales are the fastest-growing aspect. 6U VPX systems were the fastest-growing form factor from 2019 to 2020.

The majority of VME and VPX boards and systems are sold to defense prime contractors that, in turn, sell to governments. The largest customer for defense electronics is the U.S. government, with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) budget having the greatest impact on market growth. U.S. defense spending in total remains relatively steady, but the budget allocation emphasizes compute-heavy technologies and has supported the increase in demand for VME and VPX boards and systems.

Market trends reported by VITA suppliers include the open systems DoD mandate; sensor proliferation using artificial intelligence (AI); and an increased emphasis on security by offering trusted computing solutions. The OpenVPX standard being championed by VITA aligns well with the DoD’s demand for improved implementation of open standards and interoperability. VITA members are also harnessing the latest AI chip technology and developing accelerator boards for intensive data-processing applications. VITA market-leading companies also offer a rigorous approach to supply-chain security.

Business challenges during the reporting period include the supply-chain interruption caused by COVID-19 and in particular the global semiconductor shortage. Continuing challenges include product obsolescence, particularly regarding VMEbus, already in its 40th year of production. The use of COTS [commercial off-the-shelf] servers and virtualization of applications, rather than using dedicated hardware, is an ongoing challenge in some markets.

VITA member companies continue to grow both organically and by acquisition; during the period covered by the report, there has been some merger and acquisition activity that has placed a significant value on the expertise and capabilities of these VITA-standard suppliers.

Under the hood

One of the most common questions received at VITA is “When is it projected that VPX sales will exceed VME?” Early in the life of VPX, it was assumed that the crossover would happen in the first 5 to 10 years. But that did not happen. VME was much more entrenched than anyone could have imagined, plus the complexity of VPX slowed its advancement.

Digging deeper into the most recent data reveals an interesting observation: The unit shipments of VMEbus are declining faster than the research conducted in 2018 shows, but at the same time, the average selling price of the products has nearly doubled, actually leading to 5.6% year-over-year revenue growth. This is driven by two factors:

  • The increasing costs of supporting the growing list of obsolete components
  • The most recent increases in component costs driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These cost increases are helping VME revenue remain relatively steady. VPX, on the other hand, has seen a smaller increase in costs, driven only by the pandemic. VPX is also seeing a slightly greater increase in unit shipments, as it starts to gain traction in more designs. If these dynamics stay in place, we could see VPX merchant sales exceed VME in the next two or three years. We are at the point where any single design win could put VPX in the lead.

Two key aspects that were not captured in the latest research: First, how much custom product is being developed under NRE; and second, how much is developed and built by nonmerchant suppliers (prime contractors, for instance). Discussions within the community think that it could easily be two to three times greater. It should also be noted that the research did not capture ancillary products such as chassis, power supplies, and unique application modules without processors. These factors also add significantly to the total number of both VME and VPX markets. (Figure 1.)

The full report, “World Market for VITA Standards-based Boards and Systems – 2021 Edition,” is available for purchase on the VITA website. Additional market research and quarterly reports can be found at https://www.vita.com/MarketData.

Brian Arbuckle is a market analyst specializing in embedded computing. Brian has an engineering degree from the University of Warwick and an MBA from Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge, UK). His career has spanned marketing management roles in industry for electronic and mechanical components as well as systems and communications networks. He has worked in analyst roles for technical market research organizations IHS Markit and Informa Tech and in recent years authored an annual market research report on the embedded computing industry.