After 3-4 years of modest success, the MicroTCA* (µTCA*) market looks to be set for significant growth. In addition to establishing itself as an important technology for telecom, MicroTCA is receiving growing attention for other applications including military and industrial applications. With this context in mind, I thought it was a good time to look at some of the latest MicroTCA products.

 

Let’s start with the Kontron OM6060 (Figure 1). This entry-level system illustrates the affordability and flexibility of the MicroTCA platform. It supports six mid-size AdvancedMC (AMC) cards and can be configured without Ethernet; with an unmanaged Ethernet switch; or with a managed switch. Configuring the system is a simple matter of choosing the right MicroTCA Carrier Management Controller (MCMC) or MicroTCA Carrier Hub (MCH):

 

  • For testing or industrial applications that don't require Ethernet, the Kontron AM2901 MCMC offers the lowest-cost solution. This configuration can be used with the Intel® Core™2 Duo-based AM4010 AMC as well as various SATA, PCIe, and SRIO AMCs.

 

  • For applications that need low-cost networking, you can upgrade to the Kontron AM4901 MCH, which incorporates an unmanaged Broadcom BCM5396 Ethernet switch. This configuration also adds a Cavium Octeon-based Kontron AM4210 packet processing AMC as well as support for DSP and GbE telecom boards.

 

  • Finally, the high-end Kontron AM4904 MCH adds enterprise-class managed GbE and 10 GbE switching capabilities, including support for Quality of Service (QoS) features like traffic prioritization, access control, and multi-cast.

This configurability demonstrates MicroTCA’s ability to address a wide range of applications and cost points—a key selling point for the technology.  (For more on the configuration options, I recommend the Windows for Devices writeup.)

 

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Figure 1. The Kontron OM6060 is a compact, low-cost MicroTCA system. 

 

On the other end of the price/performance spectrum, Kontron offers the rugged OM6090D/OM7090D platform (Figure 2). These 6U systems accept full-size AMCs at 80W per slot, enabling impressive levels of performance density. In their maximum configuration, both systems can be fitted with up to 36 Intel® Xeon® processor cores and 216 GB of RAM. The key to this density is the new Kontron AM5030, which is the first quad-core AMC on the market. The AM5030 leverages the Intel® Xeon® Processor LC5518, which offers major improvements in power and area over its predecessors.

 

The OM6090D/OM7090D targets the usual list of telecom applications, but it is also suitable for medical and military applications, including radar, sonar, and video processing. As we’ve already noted, this movement into non-telecom markets is an important trend for MicroTCA.

 

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Figure 2. The rugged Kontron OM6090D/OM7090D can support an impressive 36 processor cores and 216 GB of RAM. 

 

The Advantech UTCA-6302 is another groundbreaking system. This new system manages to squeeze 26 processor cores and two switches in a 3U MicroTCA platform. That is an amazing level of density—how did Advantech pull it off? For starters, the UTCA-6302 extends the depth of the chassis and moves the power modules to the rear. This leaves all front-side slots available for AMCs, and the entire system fits in a 3U height envelope for bottom-to-top cooling. For front-to-rear cooling, the system comes with unique top and bottom angled air-duct designs allowing 4U lossless stacking between adjacent systems in a rack (Figure 3).

 

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Figure 3. The UTCA-6302 features a unique ducting system for front-to-rear cooling. 

 

The UTCA-6302 platform also incorporates the new UTCA-5504 MCH. This MCH is based on the Intel® EP80579 Integrated Processor, making it the world’s first MCH to incorporate the Intel® Architecture. Bringing the Intel® Architecture onto the MCH eliminates the need for a control-plane module, leaving space for the system’s 12 full-size payload slots—and filling these slots with Intel Core 2 Duo LV-based MIC-5602Rev2 AMCs brings the core count up to 26.

 

On a side note, the UTCA-6302 platform was a winner of the Advanced TCA Summit 2009 Best of ShowAward. It’s worth checking out the full list of winners for more cutting-edge designs.

 

The last MicroTCA product I’ll cover here is the Advantech MicroTCA StarterKit (Figure 4). This kit is designed to let developers start evaluation and development as quickly and easily as possible. The system boots Linux out of the box and comes with the MIC-5602 Intel Core 2 Duo processor AMC, the MIC-5401 80GB HDD storage AMC, and the UTCA-5503 MCH pre-integrated and tested in an Elma Electronics blu!eco 6-slot MicroTCA system. One mid-size AMC slot and two full-size AMC slots are available for further expansion. The whole thing costs just €1999 (about $2500 USD) and ships from stock.

 

I’m rather impressed with the StarterKit. Getting a MicroTCA system up and running is a non-trivial task, particularly if you are not familiar with the technology. It’s great that Advantech has taken care of this messy and time-consuming process, and has put together such a complete package for an altogether reasonable price.

 

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Figure 4. The Advantech MicroTCA StarterKit makes it easy to get started with MicroTCA.

 

Of course, these are only a few of the MicroTCA solutions available today. For more solutions, you can search the Intel® Embedded Alliance Solutions showcase for MicroTCA solutions and for AMC offerings. Let me know what you think of the showcase—I’d love know if it meets your needs or not.

 

 

Advantech and Kontron are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.

 

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)

Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief

Embedded Innovator magazine