VITA Standards Organization Chair Dean Holman talks VITA strengths and areas of improvement

Editor’s note: VSO meetings are held bi-monthly. Visit the VITA website ( for details on upcoming VSO meetings.

VSO ANSI accreditation

Accredited as an Standards Development Organization (SDO) by ANSI, the VITA Standards Organization (VSO) meets every two months to address embedded bus and board industry standards development and issues.

VSO study and working group activities

Standards within the VSO may be initiated by a study group and developed by a working group. A study group requires the sponsorship of one VITA member, and a working group requires sponsorship of at least three VITA members.

VSO Chair Interview

We took some time this issue to talk with Dean Holman, Director of Global Support Services and Sustaining Engineering at Mercury Systems, Inc. Dean is also the current elected chair of the VITA Standards Organization where he is responsible for providing leadership and guidance to working groups in the development of standards.

VITA Technologies:    How well does VITA serve your technology needs, and what could be improved?

HOLMAN: VITA actually does a very good job in helping Mercury Systems meet the needs of our customers. These days, what we’re seeing from our customers are requirements for standard-based systems and boards, open architectures, interoperability with other providers, and, to a great degree, speed for implementation and deployment, as well as ease of maintenance in the field.

VITA does a good job satisfying pretty much all of those requirements. The organization codifies ideas into standards. That’s the whole function of the organization. We take the best ideas from various companies, vendors, primes, government reps, and we vet those to a wide audience. Then, through a process of working group meetings, we refine and focus those ideas to develop a standard that I believe has a greater likelihood of being implemented, and implemented in such a way that products designed to it work as expected.

VITA Technologies:    Are there any areas that could be improved?

HOLMAN: Certainly. Like a lot of organizations, 25 percent of the people in a working group do 75 percent of the work. We have a core group of representatives from various member organizations – developers, primes, venders, government, or government labs – who get actively involved in many of the standards and do a lion’s share of the work. They provide original material and comment on and improve on ideas that are presented to the group by other members, sometimes their own, a lot of times from other members.

It would be really nice if we could increase that 25 percent to 40 percent, or dare I say 50 percent, for more active participation. Though I do have to say, when we have different working groups – one might be doing power supplies, another a new form factor, or a new cooling method – we get different segments of the whole population involved in those different areas. So it’s not always the same 25 percent of the members on every single working group, though there is a fair amount of overlap.

VITA Technologies:    So the likelihood of getting more involvement speaks to, shall we say, a heterogeneous type of membership, where you have lots of different types of vendors involved, some that might be experts in power supplies and others in chassis or backplane design, for example.

HOLMAN: Absolutely. VITA membership has diverse strengths in electrical engineering, system architecture, mechanical design, power systems, signal interconnects, cooling, and other disciplines.

Dean's primary role at Mercury Systems is to maintain the high level of customer intimacy of the Global Support Services department as Mercury increases the pace in which we field subsystems. As director of Sustaining Engineering, he brings to bear almost 30 years of board and system-level debug experience to help best enable the Sustaining organization to rapidly solve critical customer issues and provide resolution to the issues.

Dean has been involved with the VITA Standards Organization for almost a decade, beginning as the technical editor of the VITA 46 VPX base specification, eventually becoming Chairman of VSO as well as sitting on the VSO board of directors.

Copies of all specifications reaching ANSI recognition are available from the VITA website. For a list of current VITA specs and their status, go to