Product Design & Development recently spoke to Michel Têtu, senior business development advisor for Reflex Photonics, about the importance of VITA standards for the backplane interconnects market, as well as trends in the sector.
How do VITA standards support flexibility in terms of backplane interconnects?
VITA is a non-profit organization developing standards for critical aspects of embedded computing systems like communication link, board mounting, mating connector, module assembly, system specifications, and so on. These standards are developed following an open-minded approach. For each proposed standard, the specifications are established by a working group made of at least three independent sponsors. These specifications are such that they can be met by many different vendors.
Embedded computing systems are composed of electronics boards with different functionalities, plugged into a backplane allowing for power supply and interconnection between boards. This assembly is fixed into a chassis enclosure and gives access to communication width the surrounding. The VITA Standard Organization (VSO) defines the mechanical dimensions and slot profiles for both the plug-in module connector and the backplane connectors.
The VITA standards for the interconnection between board and backplane and between boards through backplane offers great flexibility because a standard is generally composed of a base standard, identified as “.0,” and different associated standards, identified as “.x,” to support different variants of the specifications often imposed by the dimensions, the environment, the volume and data rate of the signal, etc.
What trends do you see lately in terms of companies which use optical interconnects in embedded systems?
Most of the companies developing high-performance embedded computing systems are already using optical interconnects or have this technology on their roadmap. Obviously the HPEC systems find applications for military systems where a large number of sensors, sometimes of different technologies, are generating a huge amount of data that have to be carried to a central processing unit to dig out the information and command actions. These systems are part of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) processes. Another interesting market for optical interconnect is related to civilian transportation. Commercial avionics is using a lot of optical communication links for in-flight entertainment and cabin communication. Train transportation is also using HPEC with optical communication links for management of secure traffic.
Another growing field to look at for HPEC systems is the automated/robotized manufacturing plant.
Board-level optical interconnects are being used in the Internet of Things to deal with increasing data traffic. Have you seen the use of board-level optics proliferating in your work?
High-speed ADC/DAC, very fast multicore microprocessor, large-size memory, require high bandwidth low latency I/O communication links. The use of copper link at these high frequencies is limited by size, losses, latency, and sensitivity to electromagnetic interference. So the use of optical transceivers located close to the high-speed, large-volume data processors is becoming a must. Today, discrete optical transceivers are still appropriate, but solutions where the active optical element will be integrated within the high-speed electronic package are under development. Probably the silicon photonics technology will be dominant in the near future.
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping