Mercury Computer Demonstrates New Software Radio Technology

10/16/2003 - Software-defined radio (SDR) systems require an architecture that provides extreme processing capacity, flexibility, and scalability in addition to rapid reconfiguration. Mercury Computer Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY) and Xilinx, Inc. (NASDAQ: XLNX) demonstrated that functionality at the Military Communications Conference (MILCOM 2003).

The new platform, using Mercury’s pool-of-processors approach and the Xilinx high-performance Virtex-II field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), enables the rapid development and reconfiguration of high-performance SDR systems using inexpensive commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. These systems are uniquely suited to operate in real-world deployed environments such as battlefields or urban situations where the airwaves are saturated with signals, jamming, and noise. Mercury’s expertise in technologies for the Scalable Communications Architecture (SCA) and deployed, real-time processing implementation of signals intelligence (SIGINT), radar and sonar, are directly applicable to solving these looming challenges in the SDR industry.

The goals for the new platform are flexibility, scalability, and reduced cost. By using a pool-of-processors approach to software radio, systems can be rapidly reconfigured to match the desired waveform. The pool-of-processors approach uses a wideband switch fabric to connect the entire heterogeneous set of processors, including FPGAs and PowerPCs, to each other and to each of the input channels. The multiprocessor communications middleware allows any number of those processors to be assigned to any waveform for any input channel. This approach enables the reuse and flexible reassignment of computational resources so that fewer resources are needed and more complex waveforms can be processed.

"Mercury Computer Systems is a leader in the SDR space," said David Squires, director of the DSP Center of Excellence at Xilinx. "Mercury’s RACE++® architecture provides the processing and data handling capacity required for advanced functionality such as beamforming and multi-user detection. These capabilities will be critical in real-world SDR environments where tens or hundreds of users need to communicate with each other."

"Reconfigurable Virtex-II FPGAs are an essential part of real-world SDR systems," said Craig Lund, chief technology officer at Mercury Computer Systems. "By definition, SDR is flexible, and Virtex-II devices provide the flexibility of easy field upgrades, where accommodating new waveforms is as simple as downloading new software rather than redesigning hardware. Mercury’s SCA middleware enables the SDR systems to switch among multiple waveforms nearly instantaneously, irrespective of whatever processing elements (FPGAs or PowerPCs) are used for implementation."

A real-world SDR design requires not only reconfigurable hardware like the Virtex series of FPGAs, but also a flexible programming environment, enabling designers to quickly modify the system while it’s deployed in the field. The Xilinx System Generator for DSP software platform provides this flexible programming environment. This software platform enables signal processing and communication engineers to use the tool flows and languages with which they’re familiar in order to design today’s ‘real-world’ SDR systems.

A software defined radio solution capable of swapping between W-CDMA and FM3TR waveforms will be demonstrated at Mercury’s booth #725 at MILCOM 2003, October 13-16, at the Seaport Hotel Complex in Boston. Portions of the demonstration are available on-line on Mercury’s web site.

About Mercury Computer Systems, Inc.
Mercury Computer Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY) is the leading supplier of high-performance embedded, real-time digital signal and image processing computer systems. Mercury’s products play a critical role in a wide range of applications, transforming sensor data to information for analysis and interpretation. In military reconnaissance and surveillance platforms the company’s systems process real-time radar, sonar, and signals intelligence data. Mercury’s systems are also used in state-of-the-art medical diagnostic imaging devices including MRI, PET, and digital X-ray, and in semiconductor imaging applications including photomask generation and wafer inspection.

Based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Mercury serves customers in North America, Europe and Asia through its direct sales force and a network of subsidiaries and distributors.

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