LONG BEACH, Calif. – The VITA trade association kicked off an effort to set standards for opto-electronic components suitable for its military and other users requiring high reliability. The VITA 79 specifications aim to lay a foundation for the next-generation of VMX single-board computers with optical backplanes carrying data at 10 to 25 Gbits/second.
Vendors including Avago, Finisar and others met with VITA officials here to define specifications for components such as pin diodes, emitters and detectors. The specs aim to more narrowly characterize component performance across the broad spectrum of frequencies, operating temperatures, shock and vibration posed by military and aerospace users.
“The optical guys are all over the map writing their own specs [for these apps] so we will tighten them up,” said Ray Alderman, executive director for the VITA group that defines boards for military and other embedded markets. Standards bodies such as IEEE and Jedec “don’t have the expertise or interest to do this,” said Alderman.
“To get to the next backplanes, we have to do the fundamental component work first,” he said.
The moves comes at a time of increasing interest in the long-discussed transition from copper to optical board-level interconnects. Last week, Intel showed a 100G optical module using its silicon photonics technology and aimed at big data centers.
Embedded systems vendors are shipping products based on VITA 66, the group’s first standard for mainly 5 Gbits/s optical backplanes used in high-end military radar systems and other applications. They cost as much as $1 million each, but only a few units ship each month.
In an annual press briefing here, Alderman related a story about radar operators in Turkey using such systems to detect a Russian commercial plane that was carrying munitions bound for Syria. The Turkish air force stopped the plane and removed the weapons, he said.
The VITA 79 component standards aim to open the door to a next-gen standard for backplanes that carry traffic 10 to 25 Gbits/s. Such systems could be ready to ship within two years, generally to radar users pushing the boundaries Alderman said.
The next generation boards likely will replace the embedded fibre optics in today’s VITA 66 boards with polymer coated waveguides. The new technology aims to carry photonic signals through channels inside the printed circuit boards thanks to a new generation of board materials, Alderman said.
“Once you get to cost-effective wave guides the volumes [of these high-end radar systems] will go up,” he said. “Military is the only sector really demanding this technology--telecom wants it, but they want it for free,” he said.