CompactPCI PlusIO versus MicroTCA

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    Author: Manfred Schmitz, CTO MEN Mikro Elektronik GmbH


    Most discussions on the advantages of a certain technology are dominated by pure theory. In contrast, ELMA has a practical solution for every field in industrial computer applications and can therefore approach such system comparisons without partiality.


    Neither CompactPCI PlusIO nor MicroTCA score points in all fields and so we cannot speak of an industry favourite. Both technical standards feature a high level of modularity and a wide range of cards and applications. We recommend consulting a competent supplier at an early stage in order to ensure the optimal configuration of every new project. In addition, it is also helpful to take a look at the history of the two systems.


    CompactPCI PlusIO
    is the result of the continuous development of a standard that has existed for years. The technology uses tried-and-tested 19-inch rack engineering including reliable male-female connector systems. These systems guarantee a high level of contact reliability, even after frequent connecting and disconnecting. Serial point-to-point connections on the backplane have been added to the parallel bus architecture for high-speed data transfer. Protocols such as PCI Express, SATA, USB or Ethernet can be transferred via these connections.

    Plugging a computer module into the CompactPCI system slot bridges the gap between the parallel and serial world. However, it does not perform any additional monitoring or management functions and there are no particular requirements as regards the power supply. CompactPCI PlusIO is ideal for users who have not dispensed with the standard parallel world, existing system cards and established system architecture, but would also like to use additional high-speed protocols for special applications.


    MicroTCA (MTCA)
    is a more recent standard that arose from the requirements of the telecommunications industry and uses AMC modules, which are hot-swappable. Although originally developed for the modular construction of blades for AdvancedTCA, AMCs were soon used to develop stand-alone systems. Contact is made via the pads on the plug-in card and a female connector on the backplane. Serial bus architecture allows for very high data rates (10 Gb Ethernet, PCIe, SAS/SATA, Serial RapidIO). A carrier hub performs all central management, switching and extensive controller tasks. Intelligent power supplies (power modules) monitor every individual card. For many applications, this results in an overload of functions so that either lean specialised versions or, on the other hand, sophisticated highly-ruggedized or redundant systems emerge. MTCA may be a good choice for “beginners” who wish to rely on a promising standard for the future – for telecommunications and high-speed industrial applications, when the highest level of system availability as well as redundancy and scalability are required.