New PC/104 CPUs smooth upgrades

Embedded system OEMs who have deployed PC/104-based applications during the past 10 to 15 years are periodically faced with a need to upgrade their CPU as processors and chipsets have gone end-of-life. Over the past three years or so, this upgrade has been particularly problematic as OEMs who want to step up to a third-generation PC/104 CPU to ensure the longest possible life are faced with decisions regarding which of the myriad of solutions is the best fit for their application. To make matters worse, OEMs can feel as though they are lost in a maze, as vendors and trade groups all tout new technologies and bus interfaces that might not be relevant to the OEM’s particular implementation anyway.

The need is quite simple: The system OEM wants to replace a CPU card with a PC/104 (ISA) connector with a new CPU card with a PC/104 (ISA) connector – and have the software work transparently. OEMs might not much care whether it is an Atom, a Core2 Duo, a Fusion, a Nano, or a tyrannosaurus. It just needs to be reasonably priced and stay in production for at least five to seven years.

The answer: PC/104 with SUMIT Onboard CPUs (otherwise known as SUMIT-ISM or SUMIT-104 CPUs) first and fore- most provide a PC/104 (ISA) connector right on the CPU card itself. PC/104 with SUMIT Onboard CPUs are the only third-generation stackable CPUs (regardless of type) that offer a PC/104 (ISA) connector right on the CPU board. No bridge cards required. No bridge cards means no increased stack height, added cost, or increased software complexity through BIOS or driver changes.

And if and when OEMs decide to upgrade their stacked I/O cards to new technologies – such as USB, PCI Express, or less expensive LPC, I2C, or SPI interfaces – the onboard SUMIT interface is already there to support this. Additionally, many SUMIT-ISM I/O cards are already on the market, with more introduced each year; or OEMs can simply develop their own custom cards if necessary. And should cost be of more importance than a future I/O upgrade, depopulating the SUMIT connectors might also be possible to reduce cost for high-volume applications.

PC/104 with SUMIT Onboard CPUs serve new designs too

But suppose an OEM is looking to create a new application – not upgrade an existing one. Much of the aforementioned still applies. As the search commences for I/O modules to stack on the CPU to implement system I/O (analog or digital I/O, serial ports, CAN bus or avionics network controllers, GPS or wireless cards, and more), OEMs will find that the largest selection by far is available with only a PC/104 (ISA) connector. To take full and efficient advantage of the hundreds of proven cards of the PC/104 ecosystem, they will need a CPU card that provides a PC/104 (ISA) connector right on the CPU card. As mentioned, the last thing anyone wants is a PCI-to-ISA or LPC-to-ISA bridge card, adding to stack height, adding cost, and perhaps requiring BIOS customization. And PC/104 with SUMIT Onboard CPUs are the only third-generation PC/104-compatible CPU cards with an onboard PC/104 connector.

SUMIT makes PC/104 upgrades pain-free

So, OEMs shouldn’t get bogged down in the SUMIT versus PCI/104-Express debate nor should they spend cycles trying to determine which third-generation solution provides the best implementation of bus technologies not even used in their application. OEMs should also avoid wasting cycles trying to figure out which type is compatible with which type. A specification with more USB ports or more PCI Express lanes is irrelevant if it doesn’t support the OEM’s existing I/O cards and legacy software.

Third-generation PC/104 expandable CPUs (including PC/104, EPIC, and EBX form factors) with onboard PC/104 (ISA) connectors are available today from SFF-SIG members VersaLogic and WinSystems. These CPUs provide the smoothest upgrade path for PC/104 and support the largest ecosystem of PC/104 I/O cards of any third-generation PC/104 CPUs. Plus, OEMs can feel secure, knowing if they want to upgrade their bus technologies in the future, the SUMIT interface is there for them.

Small Form Factor SIG 650-961-2473 info@sff-sig.org www.sff-sig.org