PC/104 ecosystem: Total system design and evolution

With a focus on controlled adaptability to meet future technological advancements, the natural progression of the stackable PC architecture provides end users with a platform that can evolve over time.

During the past year and a half I have written to you describing the PC/104 Consortium's development and execution path for integrating PCI Express into the PC/104 stackable PC architecture. I have discussed issues such as longevity, ruggedness, expandability, backward compatibility, and interchangeability, which have been the hallmarks of the Consortium's family of specifications. I have also discussed the design and vetting process used to help eliminate technical limitations, which took into consideration trends in chip, PCB, and mechanical construction markets with implications to both the embedded computer industry and the entire computer industry as a whole.

The end result was the adoption of PCI/104-Express & PCIe/104 Specification V1.0 and EPIC & EPIC Express Specification V3.0, as well as the creation of the EBX & EBX Express Specification V3.0, which is under ballot as of press time. These specifications show the placement of the stackable PCI Express bus on the Consortium's 104, EPIC, and EBX form factors, which add to the longstanding, successful ecosystem of synergistic bus and form factor options (Figure 1). Updates to the PC/104, PC/104-Plus, and PCI-104 specifications to include features such as power management for increased system performance and eco-friendly operation have also been sent out for vote.

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Figure 1
(Click graphic to zoom by 2.5x)

With a focus on controlled adaptability to meet future technological advancements, the natural progression of the stackable PC architecture provides end users with a platform that can evolve over time. Whether a system requires embedded or standard computer connectors, high or low performance processing, or tight rugged or cost-sensitive environmentally neutral designs, the Consortium's family of technologies allows users to create the right total long-term system design.

Maintaining consistent add-on module design and construction for universal adaptability to all CPU modules - 104, EPIC, EBX, and any other form factor that has one of the Consortium's stackable expansion buses on it - enables end users to tap into the vast add-on module market and add-on module manufacturers to tap into a wide market space to sell their products. The end result is an embedded product offering that covers an enormous breadth and depth of functionalities. Today, the stackable PC/104 architecture remains one of the few standards that OEMs can use to create unique, fully functional solutions without having to do their own custom design work.

As processor performance-to-size ratios increase, standardization also increases the likelihood that users can upgrade the performance and/or decrease the size of their systems with minimal or no software update requirements. This can reduce upgrade costs while taking advantage of shrinking real estate.

The PC/104 Consortium is the place for official information about the stackable PC/104 architecture, including up-to-date specifications, know-how, and module and component manufacturers and their products. Information is disseminated to a wide audience of OEMs and designers through publications, exhibits, and the Internet. Using the Consortium's interactive website, OEMs can quickly find answers to most of their questions and get connected to the appropriate vendor and product to meet their needs.