High performance military and aerospace projects such as radar and image processing call for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components that meet extreme multi-tasking and floating point processing requirements.  Even as embedded designers struggle to deal with these soaring data rates, increased processing requirements, and application complexity they are often forced to make tradeoffs to meet Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) requirements in many rugged and mobile applications. To keep up with the latest requirements, COTS vendors must constantly search for new technology and update their board-level products to match the needs of multiple military and aerospace projects.

 

The Intel® 2nd Generation Core™ processors include a number of new or expanded technologies to enhance embedded designs destined for the military and aerospace COTS marketplace. In addition to the promise of long term availability, the processors feature increased performance and lower power while integrating the graphics processor to simplify and enhance the user interface. For example, all of the CPU cores (including the integrated graphics core) feature Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, allowing clock frequencies to scale up temporarily to handle intense workloads. The processors also include a new 256-bit instruction set called Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), which is backward compatible with previous x86 ISA extensions and is optimized for vector and scalar data sets such as those found in military and aerospace signal processing applications. With this extended floating point processing power, board designers can boost performance and possibly replace external dedicated DSPs or FPGAs with AVX code to reduce the component count and lower overall power requirements. Supporting the new Intel® Core™ processors, several COTS vendors have already announced board level products with greatly improved performance per watt in both air and conduction-cooled configurations.

 

Targeting the high performance military and aerospace market, Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) recently introduced the XPedite 7470, a conduction- or air-cooled VPX Single Board Computer (SBC) based on the 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor. VPX is an extension of the venerable VMEbus form factor that replaces traditional parallel bus architectures with high-speed serial streaming communications. The new COTS module features the quad-core Intel® Core™ i7-2715QE processor with Hyper-Threading (HT) Technology to optimize parallel computations and up to 8 GB of DDR3 SDRAM. For I/O, the XPedite 7470 offers two x4 lane PCI Express backplane interconnects, two optional 1000Base-T Ethernet ports, two optional USB 2.0 ports, two optional SATA 3.0 or 6.0 Gb/s ports, and two DVI graphics ports. The 3U VPX module also includes a math and signal processing software library that takes advantage of the single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) architecture of Intel® AVX.

 

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GE Intelligent Platforms also integrated the Intel® 2nd Generation Core™ technology into a COTS module serving demanding embedded computing applications. Their new SBC624, a 6U OpenVPX single board computer, features the quad-core Intel® Core™ i7 processor running at up to 2.1 GHz to tackle extreme signal processing tasks in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, radar, and sonar applications. OpenVPX defines a subset of the overall VPX specification to enhance interoperability among COTS vendor products.  The SBC624 features two PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC) sites and two switched Mezzanine Card (XMC) sites, while I/O includes two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, four RS-232 ports, VGA, two DVI/HDMI ports, seven USB 2.0 ports and two SATA interfaces.  The module is supported by a broad range of software including the AXIS Advanced Multiprocessor Integrated Software environment from GE Intelligent Platforms that shortens development times, reduces project cost and accelerates time to market.  Operating system support is provided for Microsoft Windows®, Linux® and Wind River VxWorks®. The SBC624 is available in five build versions from benign to fully rugged, and can operate in environments ranging from air-cooled to extremely harsh.

 

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These modules from GE Intelligent Platforms and X-ES are part of the recent product introductions based on 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processor architecture that gives military and aerospace COTS board designers higher performance, lower power requirements, and improved I/O flexibility. Regardless of the board standard selected, an ample catalog of readily-available COTS modules are vital to the high-performance, embedded development process.  If you think that these or similar COTS modules fits your next military or aerospace project or if you have already started a project please share your experiences or questions with others in the Intel® Embedded Community. Also, stay tuned as I take a look at high-performance, remotely-operated embedded devices with graphical elements such as point-of-sale terminals, digital signage, medical appliances, and gaming machines.

 

Warren Webb
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Embedded Alliance

 

GE Intelligent Platforms, Microsoft, and Wind River Systems are Associate members of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance. Extreme Engineering Solutions is a General member of the Alliance.