Roadmap to the future

There has been a significant expansion in the number of specifications that the Consortium administers. The Consortium, initially established to govern the PC/104 spec, is now the steward for

  • PC/104
  • PC/104-Plus
  • PCI-104

In January 2003, the Consortium Board agreed to explore expanding the reach of the Consortium beyond standards in the PC/104 form factor. Our first effort in this space is to take on the stewardship of the EBX specification. The EBX (Embedded Board eXpandable) platform meets an additional need expressed by our end users – namely, a larger footprint board with PC/104 and PC/104-Plus I/O expansion. The Consortium’s technical committee is in the process of reviewing the EBX specification with the expectation that it will join other specs under our control.

Beyond EBX, the group of companies that defined the newly announced Embedded Platform for Industrial Computing (EPIC) has approached the Consortium to see if we would be the administrator and technical standards organization for the emerging specification. To support the effort, the Consortium is in the early stages of developing an approach to govern the process by which additional embedded PC standards can be brought under Consortium stewardship. We are moving ahead with the development of a formal “Adopt-a-Spec” policy. This policy will serve as a guideline for qualifying whether an existing platform might have the appropriate synergy with our existing standards mix as well as provide a mechanism by which the Consortium, as a group, could evolve a new specification suitable to our mission.

Multiple physical form factor options are being driven by end users. Manufacturers have stepped up to the plate to accommodate customer requirements. The acid test for whether the Consortium should evaluate and accept new platforms (that fit with our mission) will be whether the proposed standard embraces PC/104 growth and proliferation. The ease of use, stackability, and continued reliance on PC/104 for I/O expansion is the centerpiece of any expansion to the specifications governed.

Beyond the form factor, the Consortium must examine other factors that will impact our collective future. We will need to continuously monitor evolving PC technology and evaluate the appropriateness of it for our embedded market. We need to examine the practicality and feasibility of deploying high-speed, switched fabric architecture to our collective intellectual property. How will PCI-Express or other fabric technologies impact the specification? More importantly, how can we plot our future to provide customers and ourselves a technological roadmap to the future that includes interesting emerging technologies?

In addition, we must address the lack of ISA support on newer chipsets. ISA, officially removed as a viable hardware interface for desktop PCs, provides our end users the ease of use so critical to our historic growth. The Consortium must chart a course that ensures long-term ISA availability or support the efforts by member companies to ensure that end users' needs are met.

There is substantial work to perform to map our course. Fortunately, the Consortium is staffed by some of the best professionals in the industry and is up to the task. We expect to refine our strategy and provide an outline of the course that lies ahead as it’s time for a clear PC/104 roadmap for our future.

For further information, contact the Consortium.