I recently spoke to Jerry Gipper the Executive Director of VITA to learn about how ARM embedded computing boards and modules are beginning to appear in this standards driven market. My timing was extremely fortuitous because Jerry was just putting the finishing touches to an in depth article on exactly this topic called "ARMed and ready" which you can read here (sometimes you just get lucky!). Jerry is one of the most knowledgeable people about the history and evolution of the embedded computing board market so it was an honor and education talking with him. The first real embedded computing boards came from Motorola in the early 1980’s based on the Motorola 68000 processor and the VMEbus (Versa Module Europa Bus) which became an IEEE/ANSI standard in 1987. The standard has evolved over the years and has a fascinating story which you can read all about on Wikipedia. VME boards are used extensively in military and aerospace applications where ruggedization is critical but there are now many ECB form factors for different markets such as xTCA, CompactPCI, mini-ITX, PC/104 etc. Jerry was Director of Marketing for the Motorola Computer Group for 16 years so was steeped in the business and a natural leader for VITA which drives the VME standard and its recent extensions such as VPX and the newly announced smaller form factor VNX standard.
In Jerry’s article and during our conversation he told me that a major driver for interest in ARM processors in ECBs is “SWaP” the acronym for size weight and power. As more electronics is introduced into mil/aero applications, designers face the same challenges as those in the mobile and server sectors where the low power advantages of the ARM architecture come into play. Jerry told me that ARM processors have been used in the VITA world previously but mainly to control peripherals then about 18 months ago he saw ARM appearing for the first time as a host processor. Early designs were based on the Freescale i.MX 6 processor with board vendor Curtiss-Wright bringing a 3U board (VPX3-1701 pictured below) as the first to market in May 2014.
Check out Jerry Gipper’s article on ARM in the VITA world and you can search for ECBs using VPX and other form factors in the Single Board Computers. Are there other industries out there which you think are ready to switch to ARM?