By John Keller
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The standard PCI mezzanine card (PMC) for VME, CompactPCI, and passive-backplane printed circuit boards is about to get some competition from a proposed new mezzanine card standard called PC-MIP.
Although PMC has become the standard daughter card of choice for many systems designers over the past two years, PC-MIP backers claim their proposed new standard will stop PMC in its tracks and become the dominant mezzanine card for embedded systems.
PMC advocates counter that their standard has tremendous industry momentum, and point out that the larger PMC boards have more real estate for increased functionality than does PC-MIP.
Proposals for PC-MIP, which has backing from the Motorola Computer Group in Tempe, Ariz., and from Micro Electronik Neuremburg (MEN) GmbH of Germany, come from SBS Greenspring Modular I/O of Menlo Park, Calif. - originators of the popular IndustryPack (IP) mezzanine card.
Engineers from GreenSpring and MEN are working together to produce the standard PC-MIP mezzanine cards, which are about one-third the size of the PMC, but like PMC use the standard PCI interface.
"This should wipe out the PMC entirely," says Stephen Cooper, president and chief operating officer of GreenSpring parent SBS Technologies of Carlsbad, Calif. "We are looking at what size coffin PMC needs, and it will be a big coffin," adds Kim Rubin, chief technical officer for GreenSpring.
The double-sided PC-MIP is hard-metric and measures 47-by-90, or 47-by-99 millimeters.
The single PMC, meanwhile, measures 75-by-100 millimeters. PC MIP supports 4 PQ 208 packages per module, has three 64-pin PCI connectors, and supports 300 lines of I/O per board per 6U host, Rubin says.
"Its combination of very high density, high performance, and low manufacturing cost will provide a large number of design-in opportunities for telecommunications, manufacturing, medical, and factory applications," Rubin says.
While PC-MIP may capture low-end applications, PMC will continue to dominate the high end where board functionality is crucial, claims Wayne Fischer, director of the IEEE 1386.1 PMC standards committee, and director of strategic programs at Force Computers Inc. of San Jose, Calif.
"There is a market need out there for these very small modules," Fischer admits. "They are going for the low-end mezzanines and we are the high-end mezzanine. Many of our PMCs are jam-packed with electronics, so there is no way you can put all of that on a PC-MIP."
Fischer points to the tremendous momentum building behind standard PMC, and says PC-MIP will be "a niche within a niche."
Sophisticated military and aerospace applications may not be the best place for PC-MIP, says Gorky Chin, vice president of advanced technologies at Vista Controls Corp., a supplier of ruggedized VME printed circuit boards based in Santa Clarita, Calif.
"For less-expensive or less rugged areas, their solution will be very viable," Chin says. "But in higher-price boards and higher-stress environments it is less viable than PMC because PC-MIP has less usable real estate relative to the expensive interface. On the PC-MIP card you can use 30 percent of the board real estate for the expensive chip, while PMC has far more space for other functions."