VMEbus embedded computer industry settles dispute; unites on VPX networking standards

CHELMSFORD, Mass., 19 April 2009. Single board computer and VME backplane manufacturers in the embedded computer industry are putting aside their differences and are uniting behind a two-organization master plan to solve interoperability problems with the VITA-46 VPX high-speed serial bus for fast data transfer.

By John Keller

CHELMSFORD, Mass., 19 April 2009.Single board computer and VMEbus backplane manufacturers in the embedded computer industry are putting aside their differences and are uniting behind a two-organization master plan to solve interoperability problems with the VITA-46 VPX standard high-speed serial bus for fast data transfer.

The two opposing sides in the dispute agreed last week to work through two organizations -- the OpenVPX Industry Working Group, and the VITA 65 working group -- to resolve interoperability conflicts that had made it difficult for lead systems integrators to make VPX components from different vendors work easily together.

The OpenVPX group technically will function as an independent standards organization, while VITA 65 will work within the VITA Standards Organization, which is part of the VITA industry trade association in Fountain Hills, Ariz.

The VME embedded computer industry previously had threatened to fracture over a dispute on how to proceed with VPX interoperability standards. One side wanted to work outside of VITA through the OpenVPX group -- formed last January -- and the other side wanted to work within VITA -- traditionally the standards organization for the VME embedded computer industry.

One side was led by OpenVPX founders Mercury Computer Systems Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass.; Aitech Defense Systems in Chatsworth, Calif.; GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va.; Hybricon in Ayer, Mass.; and Tracewell Systems in Westerville, Ohio. On the other side were VITA advocates Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va.; Elma Electronic Inc. in Fremont, Calif.; S.I.E. Computing Solutions Inc. (formerly Carlo Gavazzi Computing Solutions) in Brockton, Mass.; and Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis.

VPX is a high-speed serial data fabric and associated circuit board connectors and related components that enables boards within electronics enclosures and other integrated systems to communicate with each other at high speeds.

At Curtiss-Wright's urging, VITA last week spawned the VITA 65 working group to resolve industrywide VPX interoperability issues, while working under the aegis of the VITA Standards Organization.

As part of the industry fence-mending agreement, members of the OpenVPX group have agreed to join the VITA 65 working group, and many of the original OpenVPX antagonists have agreed to join that organization, as well.

"We needed to raise the argument," says Ian Dunn, chief technology officer at Mercury Computer. "We needed to determine the right level for these issues to go into VITA."

As of last week, Curtiss-Wright, Elma Electronic, and X-ES had agreed to join OpenVPX. The agreement would dissolve the OpenVPX group next October and turn over the group's work to the VITA 65 group, which will bring the work accomplished by the two organizations to the overall VITA membership for adoption as a series of industry standards.

Essentially, the two groups are working on the same issues. "There is no difference in corporate members and obligations," Dunn says. "There really aren't two groups; it is one and the same."

All members of OpenVPX and VITA 65 will have equal voting privileges and influence. Some companies had feared that OpenVPX founders would have controlling influence over the organization. "We are an equal member," says Mike Hornby, marketing director at Curtiss-Wright.

"Everybody recognizes that it's the end-result that's important," says Mark Littlefield, product marketing manager and applications engineering manager at Curtiss-Wright.

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