Independent memory compatibility testing lab CMTL is branching out from its traditional Intel platform roots to provide services to the industrial sector. Its new Industrial Manufacturer Advanced Tested Memory Compatibility program is aimed at serving manufacturers such as Arbor Solutions, Kontron, and Portwell.
CMTL president John Deters says industrial partners are looking to have memory modules on their commercial platforms tested by a third party because they cannot afford to have failures due to memory problems, as the memory modules are deeply embedded into the products they make. Arbor, for example, manufactures products for embedded computing, rugged mobile computing, and touch-panel computing, including industrial motherboards and wide temperature boards.
One of CMTL's long-standing memory customers, Legacy Electronics, has already received Advanced Tested memory certification under the new program for Arbor's ELIT-1000, which is a digital signage player running on the Intel Atom D2550 platform. The ELIT-1000 uses Legacy's embedded SODIMM product line, which was designed with ruggedized applications such as digital signage boxes in mind, says Legacy CEO Jason Engle.
Legacy does conduct extensive internal testing, but sees value in having arm's length verification of its products, says Engle. The company's customers do not have the in-house staff to test how Legacy's memory works with their technology and feel better that there is a second authentication through an independent lab. "They don't want to take a chance on cheap memory and having it fail," he told me.
CMTL's expansion into the industrial platform manufacturer market segment aligns well with Legacy's goal as a memory maker, says Engle. The company competes globally for business, and commodity memory markets are crowded and less profitable. However, "memory is popping up on everything." Legacy was the first memory maker to be qualified by CMTL for Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) compact form factor; the company also expects SSD flash memory to be a significant growth opportunity, especially in the industrial space.
CMTL was founded in 1996 as a short-term venture to test Intel laptop motherboards and has expanded to provide independent memory compatibility testing for desktops, servers, and RAID controllers. It has since performed more than 20,000 advanced memory module compatibility tests for customers that include Avant, Dataram, and Kingston Technology. CMTL's testing facilities include more than 40 heat and hot/cold chambers ranging from five to 27 cubic feet, thermal measurement and analysis equipment, and an inventory of more than 120 boards and systems from Intel and popular motherboard manufacturers, including both current and legacy products.
CMTL's facility contains rows of heat chambers for memory testing on motherboards.
Like Legacy, CMTL sees more opportunity by continuing to move away from commodity markets and growing demand for memory -- hence testing -- for industrial markets, which Deters describes as environments that aren't extremely rugged (like the aerospace and military segments) but are harsher than a consumer's home. Digital signage that uses embedded memory is an excellent example, he says, as well as SSD, which is becoming more widely adopted in business-critical environments. Industrial partners that are embedding SSD in their products will want to understand performance degradation and how it is affected by state changes.
Deters said memory compatibility testing eliminates conflict of interest, although some vendors only conduct internal testing, which he likened to having a company perform its own financial audit. He said platforms need to be retested whenever there's a change in the bill of materials, since it's no longer the same product.
As embedded memory requirements continue to grow in industrial products including those in the advertising, healthcare, and transportation segments, Deters expects the demand for third-party testing to grow, "Memory sometimes doesn't perform the way it's supposed to when needed."
— Gary Hilson is a freelance writer and editor who has written thousands of words for print and pixel publications across North America. His areas of interest include software, enterprise and networking technology, research and education, sustainable transportation, and community news. His articles have been published by Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times, Strategy Magazine, and the Ottawa Citizen.