Friday, December 9, 2011

Commitment to ARM development

ADLINK Technology supports Kontron's new COM standard that targets ultra low power ARM/RISC and SOC designs.

The smallest “short” module size of
82 mm x 50 mm, based on 314-pin MXM
3.0 connector
ADLINK Technology is to support the new Computer-on-Module (COM) standard from Kontron for ultra low-power embedded architecture platforms with a whole new line of products. Building on our design experience with ARM/RISC in OEM and Intelligent Display projects, this marks ADLINK's first endeavor outside x86 boundaries for a standard form factor product offering.

The new COM standard provides a very slim and low profile solution for ARM/RISC and SOC based ultra low-power processors. The standard specifically targets new fast growing markets such as handheld devices and industrial tablets, and in the near future is also expected to move into more traditional applications such as industrial control and data communications. It will be based on a 314-pin MXM 3.0 connector that allows for a total package height of less than 5 mm for both module and carrier. Two module sizes are specified: a very compact “short” module measuring just 82 mm x 50 mm and a “full size” module measuring 82 mm x 80 mm. The defined pin-out will be able to support both traditional features such as 24-bit RGB, and will be future proof by supporting more modern standards such as LVDS, HDMI and DisplayPort. Power consumption of these ARM/RISC solutions will be on the order of 3W.

"Current COM standards do not address the needs of ARM/RISC specific designs. In the COM market today, we either see ARM being forced onto x86 optimized designs that lack ARM critical pin-outs, or we see specific ARM designs that are not future proof because they lack the inclusion of modern interfaces into their pin-out," explains Dirk Finstel, CTO at Kontron. "This limitation in existing COM standards makes our case that there is a need for a new form factor now. We welcome ADLINK to join us in the promotion and verification of this new COM standard. Bringing this to the market with a second supporting company emphasizes the concept of second source that has made the COM approach so successful during the last ten years."

"Embedded technology has always leveraged parts that have been deployed on a large scale in the commercial field. The reason for this is simple: wide availability, investment in OS support, and optimized pricing for components due to large commercial volumes," according to Henk van Bremen, Product Director for Embedded Computing at ADLINK Technology. "This happened with the notebook market in the early 2000s and with netbooks around 2006. It is happening today with the breakthrough of ARM and RISC in the intelligent mobile phone and tablet market that is taking the traditionally x86 dominated netbook market by storm. For the first time, embedded customers will have the same wide choice of operating systems on ARM as on x86, enabling efficient implementations of new and complementary embedded applications based on ultra low-power devices, that were not possible with x86 based platforms. ADLINK will be able to offer a wide range of OS support including: Linux, Android, Windows CE, Windows 8, VxWorks and QNX."

The support model for ARM/RISC based design will be very different than that of traditional x86 designs. While drivers for x86 platforms are generic and mostly provided by parts vendors, the loading on ARM/RISC hardware suppliers is much higher. ADLINK is investing heavily in a new infrastructure to be able to provide driver development, customization and application support that is specifically focused on ARM/RISC for all their product lines, not just for COM modules. ADLINK's commitment to the new modular form factor is just the first step in adopting ARM/RISC platforms, with all other departments soon to follow in embracing ARM/RISC and leveraging the inroads made by this new COM standard.
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