CompactPCI shows that mature technology still has its uses

CompactPCI has been a staple of military computers for more than 15 years. The venerable computer bus interconnect was ratified in 1995, and is still used today in applications where size and cost matter more than moving huge volumes of data.

"It's a good synchronous bus and it's fairly reliable," says David Pepper, product manager and technologist for GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va. "You can get quite a bit of process and performance from CompactPCI." The uses for CompactPCI are broad. "In anything where you need 3U or any time VME can't be used, CompactPCI has taken off," says Aaron Lindner, engineering manager at Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis. Thanks to low costs and almost ubiquitous knowledge of its features, CompactPCI has thrived in the defense industry.

When a product does not require large amounts of computing power, CompactPCI enables customers to save money and leverage the benefits of a well-supported, mature technology. Knowledge of CompactPCI is common, so maintaining systems that use CompactPCI is often easier than using an unfamiliar technology. It also offers proven ruggedization options, having been used in environments ranging from far below freezing to oppressively hot, along with extreme vibration.

The future of CompactPCI is uncertain, but experts expect it won't be fading away soon. "It's the cheapest solution for backplanes and connector cost," says Lindner. For the applications that CompactPCI is suited for, it is often the least expensive way of getting the needed performance. With budget cuts looming, CompactPCI is an attractive option for producing low-cost electronics.


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