During the Electronica USA/Embedded Systems Conference (San Francisco, Calif.), product initiatives using RapidIO interconnect technology were presented by six member companies of the RapidIO Trade Association. At the meeting, the Association also reviewed its new RapidFabric communications spec.
The Association is promoting RapidIO as an ISO-certified, open-standard that promises to seamlessly enable chip-to-chip, board-to-board, control, backplane and data plane interconnections as used in emerging networking, communications and embedded systems (detailed information on the RapidIO specification, products, design tools, member companies, and membership is available at the Association's Web site).
With the steady---and predictable---increase in microprocessor clock speeds, system bandwidth requirements are moving beyond the capabilities of any bus architecture. Enter RapidIO as a next-generation switch fabric interconnect architecture for embedded systems.
Optimized for both high bandwidth and low latency, RapidIO provides a direct memory-mapped interface (evolved from microprocessor buses) that can be implemented in part of an FPGA or in a small corner of a microprocessor chip.
With these features, RapidIO is initially targeted at high-performance embedded applications such as networking, storage, multimedia, and signal processing.
Members Propel The Technology
Back to the meeting---and its consequences for you. Members in attendance at the Electronica USA/Embedded Systems Conference included Analog Devices, Enea Embedded Technology, Mercury Computer Systems, Texas Instruments, Tundra Semiconductor, and Xilinx.
"RapidIO's embedded silicon, software, systems, and OEM companies continue to propel this technology," notes John G. Metz from markey analysis company Metz International.
"Research conducted for our Bus Wars report shows that RapidIO will continue to maintain its lead, attaining projected revenues of approximately $2 billion in 2008." (More information is available on the Bus Wars reports at Metz's Web site.
The RapidFabric spec is expected to help RapidIO address the needs of communications fabrics developers. It will provide communications equipment makers with protocol-independent encapsulation of any packet/cell/frame protocol data unit (PDU).
It will also handle segmentation and reassembly of large (64-kbyte) PDUs, handle hundreds of traffic classes, and millions of flows and PHYs (phycial layers). RapidFabric seamlessly interoperates with the existing RapidIO specification.
RapidIO supporters are sanguine. "The RapidFabric initiative should help cultivate massive synergy between RapidIO-based products and AdvancedTCA and CompactTCA form-factors," contends Eric Mantion, senior analyst at research firm In-Stat/MDR.
"Together, these technologies could help to change the face of the high-end networking market, and help backers of these technologies capture billions of dollars relatively quickly."
What The Vendors Are Doing
So, what are the meeting's particpants up to right now? Well, for its part, IC maker Analog Devices is developing serial RapidIO for its next-generation of its popular TigerSHARC DSPs. The company says that the combo of RapidIO's speed between chips, boards, and backplanes, along with TigerSHARC's raw performance, will foster a new class of high-capacity 3G wireless base stations.
At realtime operating system (RTOS) house Enea Embedded Technology, the company is fully geared up for RapidIO. The company says that RapidIO matches the firm's OSE RTOS's distributed direct message-passing model, with seamless transparent distribution, dynamic system configuration, fault tolerance, and fault management.
Enea says it will soon be showing multi-processing support under OSE featuring RapidIO (parallel) on Motorola's Torridon demo board.
This board houses four Moto PowerQUICC III MPC8560 microprocessors and a Tundra Semiconductor Tsi500 RapidIO multi-port switch. Tundra's Tsi500 RapidIO Multi-port Bus Switch and Tsi400 RapidIO-to-PCI Bus Bridge were the first RapidIO system interconnect products to hit the market.
At board-level computer maker Mercury Computer Systems, the company's ImpactRT 3100 system is already being used in semiconductor imaging equipment and laser pattern generation equipment for flat panel displays. Mercury's latest RapidIO system, the PowerStream 7000, delivers TeraFLOPS, or more, of total processing power.
Over at semiconductor giant Texas Instruments, the company says it's focusing on serial RapidIO for its next-generation of wireless DSPs and ASICs.
Elsewhere on the IC scene, FPGA house Xilinx is also expanding its existing RapidIO product offerings. This time it's doing that with the introduction of its ATCA Development Platform.
ATCA, combined with Xilinx's RapidIO LogiCore, enables deployment of AdvancedTCA systems targeting the PICMG 3.5 standard for high-speed networking and communications design.
Xilinx's ATCA platform features a line-card based on Xilinx's popular Virtex-II Pro FPGAs, test and demo programs, as well as schematic and board layout files. Example FPGA designs and selected reference designs are also available as part of the platform.
New members are also joining the RapidIO Trade Association all the time. The newest include semiconductor, software, training, and systems companies. Joining up are AMCC, a company that designs, develops, manufactures, and markets silicon networking technologies for wide area networks (WANs) and storage area networks (SANs), and Honeywell, a well known maker of aerospace products, control technologies for buildings, automotive products, power generation systems, and chemicals, to name a few. Click here for more info about Honeywell.
In the domain of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) defense and aerospace products, board maker Radstone Technology is also supporting the technology, as is Telesoft Technologies, a developer of GSM mobile, open programmable switches, test and diagnostic, broadband, surveillance and monitoring equipment that's located in England.
Joining as a so-called auditing participant is Arnewsh. It provides RapidIO technical training programs. Arnewsh focuses on products from Motorola, including the latter's PowerQUICC III processor that uses the RapidIO interconnect.
For its part, Arnewsh will focus on details of RapidIO's architecture, address common system and design questions, compare competing interconnect technologies, and review RapidIO's use in control and data plane applications.
Another particpant is DRS Signal Solutions. DRS specializes in communications-surveillance products that meld both RF and DSP technologies.
Another company climbing aboard is Jennic, a provider of intellectual property (IP) and silicon design services to broadband communications developers. Jennic announces plans to develop IP supporting RapidIO.
Finally, Nexus Technology, a maker of test equipment, is part of the group. Nexus focuses on RapidIO in conjunction with Tektronix logic analyzers.
So there you have it. As you can see, RapidIO is rapidly gaining adherents, new products, and supporters.