Multi-Fabric Switching Enables New Architectures for Military Systems

With multiple switched interconnects gaining momentum in the embedded space, selecting just one to address a wide range of military systems requirements is not easy.

Individually, switched fabrics such as Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), Serial RapidIO (SRIO), and PCI Express (PCIe) have their own particular technical merits, and each is poised to carve out a piece of the interconnect market. However, when combined in nextgeneration Serial Switched Backplanes (SSB) like VPX (VITA 46/48), multi-fabric switching can enable powerful new military architectures by leveraging 'best of breed' interconnect technology to address specific application requirements ( Figure 1).

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Embedded software, Switches, Military vehicles and equipment

Multicores Affect Algorithm Choices

Design engineers soon will need to bridge the growing gap between hardware reality and software capabilities in the highperformance computing (HPC) realm as the use of multicore microprocessors grows. If your software development or sourcing plans haven't anticipated these development situations, your applications may have a shorter life than you had planned.

The 2006 version of technical computing "reality" is an inexpensive dual-core processor from AMD or Intel on a desktop system, or a dual- or quad-core RISC processor from Sun or IBM running on a server. In 2007, we should expect to see inexpensive quad-core processors from AMD and Intel, and processors with up to eight or more cores in 2008. These small symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems will be a far cry from the proprietary $500,000+ SMP systems of a few years ago. This technology transition has big implications for the "democratization" of computing power. On the horizon are four- to eightcore systems that cost only a few thousand dollars and sit on the desk of every design engineer.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Application Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Mathematical models, Computer software / hardware, Systems engineering

Embedded Databases: Data Management for Real-Time and Embedded Systems

The term embedded database was coined in the 1980s to mean a database management system (DBMS) that is embedded into an application, in contrast to large central databases (nowadays, usually client/server DMBSs a la Oracle). The first embedded databases had little or nothing to do with embedded systems, which were largely 8-bit, or possibly 16-bit, devices that performed a very specific function. Any data processing requirements were promoted to a higher layer in the system architecture. Embedded systems, like all other facets of computing, have matured and gained faster (32-bit) processors, memory, and more complexity. This has further confused conversations about embedded systems and embedded databases. Today, the term embedded database encompasses databases embedded into software applications, as well as the more modern client/server database design (although embedded client/several varieties are much smaller than their enterprise-level DBMS cousins such as Oracle or DB2). In fact, while embedded databases comprise a sizeable chunk of the overall database market, they show remarkable diversity in important respects such as programming interfaces, storage modes, and system architecture. This article examines some of these differences to help in choosing the right embedded database system for a given project.

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Embedded Technology, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Software, Architecture, Embedded software, Data management

MILS: An Architecture for Security, Safety, and Real Time

The unrelenting growth and integration of embedded controls, information processing, and communications has created a need for systems that provide robust protection for resources and services in the face of serious threats. Formerly diverse requirements for different kinds of systems are now being merged into combined requirements to be met by a single system. To address this trend, a partnership of government, industry, and research institutions are developing the MILS (Multiple Independent Levels of Security/ Safety) architecture. Although being pursued initially for defense applications, MILS provides a foundation for critical systems of all kinds. Its security, safety, and real-time properties make it suitable for such diverse applications as financial, medical, and critical infrastructures. Based on a new breed of commercially available high-assurance products, MILS provides a modular, flexible, component- based approach to high-assurance systems.

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Cyber security, Collaboration and partnering

Liquid Cooling Takes Aim at Gamer PC Applications

Recent technical advances in graphics processing units have accelerated the proliferation of high-power graphics processing units (GPUs) and multiple GPUs in high-end gamer PC applications. Characterized by very high heat loads, this application is causing increasing numbers of OEMs to investigate alternative methods, such as liquid cooling, to achieve the level of thermal management needed for dramatically higher system-power levels. Traditional GPU cooling strategies, such as those combining a heat pipe, heat sink, and fan, provide diminishing thermal performance at 120W per chip. Alternatively, the aggressive cooling requirements of gamer PCs and other high heat-flux processor applications are proving to be fertile ground for “non-traditional” approaches that offer at least 25% better thermal performance, as typified by advanced liquid-cooling systems (LCS) (see figure 1).

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Electronics & Computers, Thermal Management, Computer software / hardware, Displays, Cooling

A Software Development Process for Small-Scale Embedded Systems

Developing software for small-scale embedded applications is different from developing large-scale software applications. Large-scale applications use commercially available ‘one fits all’ software development solutions that are difficult to scale downward and usually miss the desired process goals. In many cases, developing a small-scale software application development process within an existing corporate environment is quicker, less expensive, and results in superior developer productivity and product quality.

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Embedded Technology, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Software, Embedded software, Product development

Choosing Among ZigBee RF Power Options for Your Wireless Application

While often associated with home automation, the new ZigBee wireless data standard is making fast inroads into industrial, military, and aerospace applications. By supplying highly reliable, wireless mesh networking at very low cost, ZigBee enables improvements to traditional sensing and monitoring applications, and enables new applications that would otherwise be impractical.

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Electronics & Computers, Power electronics, Wireless communication systems