Bandwidth Blues for Board Vendors and the Software that Supports Them

As the quest for enhanced bandwidth continues in its inexorable path, the stage is being set for changes in the embedded merchant computer board marketplace that threatens to undermine a multi-billion dollar industry. Segments of the embedded merchant computer board market segment are under assault from different directions and the need for enhanced bandwidth is the common denominator.

For several years, Embedded Market Forecasters' (EMF) research has alerted embedded vendors to the perils that a CompactPCI (cPCI) merchant board strategy entails. Although cPCI is an enabling technology that permits many PC-based tools and software to be ported to embedded systems applications, the market for cPCI boards remains small compared with PCI and VME merchant boards. Two reasons stand out to account for this fact.

First, there is no off-the shelf cPCI market. cPCI vendors have come forth to support EMF's forecast by reporting that virtually all cPCI boards orders now are for custom specifications, and the board's value is very small compared to the overall system application. Second, and most important, cPCI found its greatest potential in the packet-switching applications of the telecom infrastructure. Herein, very clever embedded engineers found new ways to squeeze additional bandwidth out of a slot-limited technology in order to address the "access layer" requirements of the SS7 infrastructure. This market is collapsing as optical and switched fabric technologies better address service provider requirements.

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