VMEbus praised by Navy electronic experts

CRANE, Ind. - VMEbus is still the most popular bus for specialty and embedded computers and is a safe bet to lead the market for the next decade, according to the findings of the annual technology assessment prepared by the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Crane, Ind.

Jun 1st, 1997

By John Rhea

CRANE, Ind. - VMEbus is still the most popular bus for specialty and embedded computers and is a safe bet to lead the market for the next decade, according to the findings of the annual technology assessment prepared by the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Crane, Ind.

The report also praised the VME International Trade Association in Scottsdale, Ariz., for maintaining compatibility with existing systems, such as PCI Mezzanine Cards and VME64 extensions.

"By not obsoleting previous versions of VME with these improvements," the report notes, "VME vendors have been able to maintain their large customer base while satisfying the performance needs of their customers."

NSWC Crane officials cited a 1997 survey by Venture Development Corp. in Natick, Mass., which found the military neck-and-neck with the other major VME board-level users: 26 percent of the market vs. 27 percent each for industrial automation and communications.

Motorola Computer Group in Tempe, Ariz., continues to be the leader in VMEbus merchant board sales with 22 percent of the market, but there are more than 100 vendors. The other major one is Force Computers, Santa Clara, Calif., which was recently acquired by Solectron Corp., Milpitas, Calif.

Force currently has 10 percent of the market, but NSWC Crane officials expect the acquisition to enable the company to push both its VME and Compact PCI products. Force recently introduced its Pentura system with a hybrid PCI/VME64 extensions chassis and a 166 MHz Pentium processor board.

Among the other consolidations in the VME business, the report cites the acquisition by DY 4 Systems in Kanata, Ontario, of Ixthos Systems in Leesburg, Va.; the acquisition of Digital Technology Inc. by Systran Corp.of Dayton, Ohio; and the acquisition of V-I Computer Corp. of San Diego by Themis Computer of Fremont, Calif.

The report calls DY 4 the world leader in the military market for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) VMEbus modules designed for operation in harsh environments and Ixthos a leader in VMEbus digital signal processing (DSP) solutions based on the Analog Devices SHARC DSP chips.

Systran should be able to expand into the MIL-STD-1553 market with DTI`s expertise, the report adds, and V-I Computer brings PowerPC design to Themis`s SPARC-based VME product family.

NSWC Crane experts were not so optimistic about Futurebus+, which once had the backing of both the VMEbus and Multibus communities and appeared poised to be the logical follow-on to those products. "To date, this standard [Futurebus+] has not found a market; chip sets, backplanes, and boards are expensive ... and key protocol features such as packet data transfer mode and cache coherence did not work as advertised," the report notes.

Multibus II, a bus architecture developed and dominated by Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., is suffering from the company`s decision to get out of that business, a step NSWC Crane called "likely the beginning of the end for Multibus."

The report was also wary of Compact PCI, noting that software applications and PCI chips are plentiful but that Compact PCI will have growing pains until board-level hardware functions become plentiful.

NSWC Crane evaluates component- and board-level technologies each year in support of its major business in the BSY-1, BQQ-5, and BQQ-6 sonar systems. Additional information is available from Andy Brough, (812) 854-6435 or brough_aj@se.crane.navy.mil and Dale Gardner, (812) 854-5981 or gardner@homer.crane.navy.mil.

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