Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, “An army marches on its stomach.” Today that truism could be updated to end “…and fights with its circuit boards.” Indeed, electronics have become essential to every aspect of military operations, whether they involve distributing humanitarian aid, gathering intelligence, or coordinating multi-service and multi-national operations. As the role of electronics has grown, so too have the requirements for these systems. Armed forces around the globe are looking for systems with:
- High performance
- Low size, weight, and power (SWaP)
- Excellent interoperabilty and cost containment
- Strong reliability and security
Let’s briefly review these challenges and look at ways you can address them, starting with performance. Performance requirements have risen dramatically in recent years as processing-intensive applications like image and video analysis and software defined radio (SDR) have become commonplace. Many of these applications involve digital signal processing, a task traditionally relegated to specialize DSPs or FPGAs. Today, multi-core Intel® architecture (IA) processors with Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX) offer a more flexible alternative. These extensions, first introduced in the 2nd generation Intel® Core processors, double the peak floating-point performance of Intel® Streaming SIMD Extensions (Intel® SSE) by widening the data path from 128 bits to 256 bits.
Intel’s Ramu Ramakesavan has a great in-depth article on Intel AVX that details the new capabilities in the instructions set. The article also provides extensive listings of products that support Intel AVX from the Intel® Embedded Alliance, whose 200-plus members collaborate closely with Intel to create optimized hardware, software, tools, and services to help you speed designs to market. For more details on the instruction set, I recommend the presentation How to Optimize Your Software for Intel AVX. To learn more about solutions from the Alliance, check out my recent overview of Intel AVX as well as the blogs on sensing and analytics from my colleague Maury Wright
Intel AVX also plays an important role in meeting SWaP requirements by enabling more efficient processing. I recently wrote an article on SWaP that looks at the power-saving features of the 2nd generation Intel Core processor family. Along with Intel AVX, these features include a low-power 32-nm fabrication process, an integrated graphics engine, and numerous architecture upgrades. This article also touches on the important topics of interoperabilty and cost containment—two subjects that deserve close attention.
With government debt become a major issue in countries around the globe, military budgets are facing inevitable cutbacks in the coming years. These cutbacks will make it more important than ever to contain the costs of developing and maintaining military equipment. One key to achieving these goals is to move away from custom designs towards a greater reliance on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions.
A good place to start on this topic is the Radisys white paper Is COTS On-Track to Meet Mil/Aero Needs? Radisys also has two free books on the subject, ATCA in Defense Applications for Dummies & COM Express* 2.0 for Dummies. One of the key questions to answer when considering a COTS solution is which standard to use—a question I looked at some time ago in my blog VPX vs. ATCA for Mil/Aero. That blog is a bit dated, but you can bring yourself up to date on VPX with Kontron’s whitepaper on its
Next let’s turn our attention to reliability and security. From the hardware perspective, one of the key enablers of reliability is thermal management. ADLINK addresses this topic its white paper on Conduction Cooled CompactPC. I also recommend the Kontron whitepaper on Advanced Thermal Management Solution. On the software side, reliability can be significantly enhanced with the Intel® vPro™ technologies available in Intel Core processors. For an overview, see my recent Intel vPro blog; for details on how to apply this technology to military applications, see the article Minimizing Downtime in High-Reliability Systems as well as my colleague Maury Wright’s recent blog.
Intel vPro also makes important contributions to security. For example, the Intel® Virtualization (Intel® VT) component of Intel VT makes it possible to securely partition a system into multiple virtual machines. Among other benefits, this allows applications with different security levels to run on the same platform. For more details, check out Radisys’ whitepaper on Virtualization in Aerospace & Defense as well as my recent overview of Intel VT. Kontron also has a whitepaper on Building Trusted Embedded Systems that covers the full suite of Intel vPro technologies as well as the related blog from Maury Wright—they are both well worth a read.
The links I’ve listed here only scratch the surface of what the Alliance has to offer. To learn more, see intel.com/go/embeddedalliance
Radisys and Kontron are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. ADLINK is an Associte member of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance
Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston