SUMIT is a winner

How do we know we got it right? That question is frequently asked when companies evaluate the market response to new product introductions. It’s also a question that members of an industry trade group might ask with respect to new industry standards that break new technical ground, a question that is especially important when there are competing standards to drive the next generation of stackable technologies.

There are multiple ways to evaluate this question, but they do not all carry the same weight. Certainly, the amount of information being written about a new technology is a significant indicator. And we’ve been highly gratified by the sheer volume of technical and application stories that have been published regarding our next-generation board-to-board interface, Stackable Unified Module Interconnect Technology (SUMIT).

Another indicator is the number of members and growth of membership in the organization. During difficult economic times, SFF-SIG has gone from inception (zero members) to 15 as of this writing. And while we appreciate the financial support of our members, it is the members’ active participation in our committees and working groups that makes this organization as effective as it is.

A third indicator is the stability of specifications. A stable specification has a low frequency of revision while maintaining full upward compatibility with each revision. SUMIT has been enhanced twice since its inception in early 2008 – once to offer a fourth USB port plus the option of additional x1 PCI Express lanes when no x4 PCI Express lane is available and once to implement USB channel shifting. Both of these are upward-compatible enhancements, meaning that any SUMIT product built since its inception will work with any other.

Two other indicators are the number of products available on the market that implement the new technology and whether the momentum behind the technology is rising or falling (for example, an initial bubble). Products are precious commodities in our business, especially at the early stages of new technology adoption. Sure, there’s the cost of the engineering staff doing designs and layouts, the cost for prototypes, and the cost for thermal, shock, and vibration and other regulatory testing. But even more than that, there’s the opportunity cost of not doing something else with those precious resources.

Our industry is populated by a number of small- or medium-size companies that can do two, three, or even four new products in a year. Picking the right product is a challenge, and getting it wrong can be a mistake that keeps on hurting for years to come. So we’re particularly pleased that as of press time, more than 30 products implementing one or more SFF-SIG specifications have been introduced to the market. That represents a huge vote of confidence by our member companies who believe in what we are doing.

But for my money, none of the previous reasons are the best gauge of success or the prime indicator that we got it right. That indicator is the number of companies that choose to invest in the new technology. One supplier could decide to bet the farm and introduce 10 or 15 or more products that implement a new technology. But unless several others follow suit, this approach fails to provide equipment designers with a solution that meets their needs for the long term. Having multiple sources provides a solution that is resistant to the dependency on one supplier having trouble, which can lead to a long-term line stoppage.

I’m pleased to report that seven companies have brought products to market using the SUMIT interface. Seven industry leaders have put their money where their mouth is and invested in the next industry-wide standard for stackable architectures: ADLINK Technology, VersaLogic, VIA Technologies, Diamond Systems, WinSystems, ACCES I/O Products, and most recently, Micro/Sys. And I expect at least 3-4 more by this time next year.

By all these measures, SFF-SIG and the SUMIT interface are winners. SFF-SIG is setting a rubric for defining the success of a new standard.

Small Form Factor SIG 408-480-7900