The VME board architecture has been around since the early 1980s, but it continues to hold a solid position in military markets. Boardmakers and other vendors are pushing performance upward. Their goal was accomplished by increasing digital signal processing capabilities.
Overall VME revenues are shrinking and even its importance in the military market is declining. But the technology is still expected to dominate the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) portion of the military market with 57 percent of revenues in 2006, according to Venture Development Corp. of Natick, MA (www.vdc-corp.com). The total COTS board market is expected to rise to $551 million that year, while systems will climb to $660 million, according to VDC.
Underscoring this continuing role in the strong defense market, Curtiss Wright (http://rbi.ims.ca/3844-535) of Roseland, NJ, has acquired Solectron's Dy 4 Systems Inc. of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and Systran Corp. of Dayton, Ohio. Such acquisitions are not unusual in the VME world, where shrinking has been seen for years. "There's a lot of consolidation," says Ray Alderman, executive director of the VMEbus International Trade Association (www.vita.com) of Fountain Hills, AZ.
In the military, communications, and industrial applications that purchase VME boards, increasing performance demands are being addressed in many different ways. For example, Dy 4 teamed up with Vmetro Inc. of Houston (www.vmetro.com/FrmHasFlash.htm) to create a DSP board, the ChampAV II, that houses four 500 MHz processors. Each processor has dedicated SDRAM and a pair of 528 Mbytes/sec I/O links. The combination of signal processing and an I/O subsystem makes building data acquisition systems a much simpler task, according to Robert Hoyecki, product marketing manager at Dy 4.
Taking a different approach, Pentek Inc. of Upper Saddle River, NJ (http://rbi.ims.ca/3844-534) has included a pair of programmable Xilinx FPGAs, which facilitate real time DSP functions. The 3 million gate devices include software that lets customers program the devices quickly. The 4205 board also has a 1 GHz Motorola PowerPC processor and slots that let users pick a variety of I/O alternatives including Gbit Ethernet and Fibre Channel.
As circuit boards in more complex systems run faster, powering and cooling the modules become bigger issues for design engineers. CG Mupac (www.gavazzi-mupac.com of Brockton, MA has unveiled a VME chassis that optimizes the size and location of heat spreaders and uses wedge lock guides to provide a thermally conductive path for removing heat from the boards and power supply efficiently. It can be configured for VME, VME64X, or CompactPCI backplanes.
This versatility, also being addressed by competing chasis makers, is particularly desirable in another large market for VME boards—telecommunications. In telecommunications, compact PCI is a solid competitor, offering the volumes of the PC bus along with embedded industry attributes such as hot swapping.
The compact PCI camp will benefit far more from an upturn in telecom than the VME industry. Telecom represents about two-thirds of compact PCI shipments, while it's only a fifth of VME volumes, according to VDC.