Social shock and big acquisitions

The impetus for this issue came when I posted “COM Express: Flexibility and scalability for UAS sensor processing” to the PC/104 and Small Form Factors LinkedIn group (www.linkedin.com/groups/PC104-Small-Form-Factors-PC-1854269). The article was originally published under the xTCA & CompactPCI Systems title, and being a PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG)-centric magazine, it, admittedly, did not fully consider Small Form Factor (SFF) alternatives beyond COM Express. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, I heard about it.

The post sparked a healthy debate, garnering several comments from developers of Computers-on-Module (COMs) and PC/104 boards defending their respective architectures. The conversation boiled down to rectifying some “mistruths” mentioned in the article, as well as a discussion of “bias versus passion,” but overall left me with the realization that this type of banter is to be expected in an industry so fragmented. So, although it is difficult to include everyone’s perspective in a single, coherent piece, the issue sought to offer everyone a fair shake by incorporating contributions from each of the major standards organizations that govern SFF specifications: the PC/104 Consortium, PICMG, and the VITA Standards Organization (VSO).

After deciding on this three-pronged approach, the intention was to have members from each consortium focus on the one SFF specification that best represents the organization in military and avionics systems, which is the application focus of the issue. However, I quickly realized that identifying one distinct specification was next to impossible because, even within the various consortia, small form factor standards do not exist completely on their own; there are different sizes, shapes, and layouts within specifications, not to mention the fact that requirements for compatibility with legacy systems complicates differentiation because electronics typically exist in a state of flux, without definitive beginning and end points. Therefore, what is offered is insight into individual specifications in the context of their specification family, including coverage of PCIe/104, COM Express Type 6 and Type 10, and the new VITA 73, 74, and 75 SFFs currently under development. An article on migration strategies by Jeff Milde of the PC/104 Consortium accompanies these pieces in this fall’s “Big (Yet Small) Picture” section.

Big bucks for small form factors

In other news, Salt Lake City-based Parvus Corporation was purchased by Curtiss-Wright Controls in Charlotte, NC, who acquired a 100 percent stake in the SFF vendor from Eurotech S.p.A. for a net USD $38 million. In an October 1 press release, Curtiss-Wright Controls President Tom Quinly said that his company will utilize Parvus’ “Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS)-based small form factor processors and networking subsystem solutions” to fill “two gaps in our product portfolio to help drive continued growth in our core aerospace, defense, and homeland security markets.” For the time being, Parvus will retain its own identity but operate under the Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions business unit.

PC/104-based offerings make up a substantial portion of the current Parvus portfolio, although it is unclear whether Curtiss-Wright’s long-term intentions are to use Parvus IP for PC/104 products or to bolster other small form factor offerings. In an interview with PC/104 and Small Form Factors, Mike Southworth, Vice President of Marketing, Parvus Corporation, asserts that the acquisition will “extend and complement Curtiss-Wright’s existing range of higher performance COTS solutions.

“The acquisition of Parvus significantly expands Curtiss-Wright’s ability to meet the growing demand from global aerospace, defense, and industrial customers who require increased miniaturization and Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP)-optimized solutions,” he says.

More from Parvus on PC/104 technology can be found in “PCIe/104 extends legacy of service in mil/aero” on page 10.

Brandon Lewis Associate Editor blewis@opensystemsmedia.com