RapidIO on tour

RapidIO represents a leap forward in bandwidth and service diversity for military apps featuring higher demands on embedded hardware interconnects than PCI or Ethernet can handle.

RapidIO started in 1997. In early 2003, ECMA International, Geneva (Switzerland), announced the interconnect standard ECMA-342, which was developed by the members of the RapidIO Trade Association (RTA) as an international open interconnect standard designed to ensure reliability and system-level compatibility. RapidIO is the only standard of its kind approved on the international level (ECMA-342 and ISO/IEC 18372). RapidIO has its roots in RACEway (ANSI/VITA 5.1), a crossbar interconnect using ring, mesh, or tree topologies. RapidIO technologies represent a leap forward in bandwidth and service diversity for industrial and military users with higher demands on embedded hardware interconnects than can be handled by PCI or Ethernet. RapidIO is used in computer system architectures, such as AdvancedTCA/AdvancedMC, CompactPCI, VME, or VPX. It is used in applications where large data streams must be transported in a meshed configuration (such as DSP clusters) over short distances in real time without overhead.

RapidIO in Munich

The RTA held its European Design Summit event on May 21 in Munich. Presenters included Tom Cox, executive director of RTA, as well as American and European representatives from companies such as Freescale, IDT, Mercury Computer Systems, and Texas Instruments.

The RapidIO interconnect architecture addresses the high-performance embedded and military industry's need for reliability, increased bandwidth, and faster bus speeds for packet-switched, crossbar, or switched interconnects. The RapidIO interconnect is used for chip-to-chip and board-to-board communications at performance levels scaling to 10 Gbps and beyond with low latency and low protocol overhead.

Tom Cox presented RapidIO's status and roadmap (see Figure 1, courtesy of RTA). He announced that several companies - GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, Motorola, Nortel, and Qualcomm - had recently joined the RTA. The current version of Serial RapidIO (V 2.0) was approved by the RTA in June 2007. A set of four RapidIO interconnects (x4) at 3.125 GHz is frequently used in applications where large data streams must be transported in real time in a meshed configuration, between DSP clusters over short distances.

Figure 1
(Click graphic to zoom by 2.0x)

Product examples

VMETRO, Norway, has recently introduced several very high-performance VPX boards, all with Serial RapidIO interconnects for applications like distributed multiprocessing Intelligent Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) or high-volume data traffic in real time. These and other VPX, VXS, and XMC boards featuring Serial RapidIO include:

  • MPE730, SBC731, HPE720 - All 6U VPX-REDI with PowerPC MPC8641D, Serial RapidIO, and XMC/PMC sockets
  • MM-16x0 VPX with four FPGAs, MM-1200 VPX I/O carrier, MM-15x0 VXS carrier - All 6U with Serial RapidIO and dual XMC/PMC sockets
  • MM-6171 XMC with 2-4 GB DDR2, x4 Serial RapidIO

This shows the focus on high-performance VPX and Ruggedized Enhanced Design Implementation (REDI) boards and systems for industrial and military applications requiring real-time operation under harsh environmental conditions. VMETRO, as the pioneer in bus analyzers, offers matching analyzers for VME, VPX, CompactPCI, and other bus types.

The FusionIPC software suite from VMETRO utilizes the Serial RapidIO fabric in demanding signal processing applications like radar and signal intelligence where the workload exceeds the processing capability of a single CPU. FusionIPC is based on open standards with POSIX interfaces.

This is an example of a European-based company implementing Serial RapidIO for demanding applications. Other companies, including AMCC, Mercury Computer Systems, and Silicon Turnkey Express, also offer a great variety of boards and systems with RapidIO technology.

Application example

The Global Hawk, a publicly disclosed weapons system, is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) used for reconnaissance based on Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The UAV can provide high-resolution images even through cloud cover and sandstorms. It can survey as much as 100,000 square kilometers (40,000 square miles) of terrain a day. Global Hawk is using Serial RapidIO for its system I/O.

In-Stat estimates that Serial RapidIO was used in approximately 20 percent of processors in the defense industry in 2007. This may increase to 35 percent by 2009[1].

Tour of Asia

The RIO Summit will travel from Beijing, China to Bangalore, India, visiting four major cities in Asia between November 7 and 17, 2008.

For more information, e-mail Hermann at hstrass@opensystems-publishing.com.