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PICMG Firmware Upgrade Capability Supports ATCA, AMC and MicroTCA

PICMG has released a new specification that defines an open mechanism for systems to upgrade the resident management software and firmware on the various components and subsystems. Designated PICMG HPM.1, the specification was developed by the existing PICMG 3.0 subcommittee but released as a separate specification so it can also be applied immediately to other PICMG-defined architectures, specifically Advanced Mezzanine Cards (AMC) and MicroTCA systems. This specification is the first from PICMG to augment the hardware platform management (HPM) layer of all three architectures in a single document.

The Intelligent Platform Management Interface specification, which ATCA uses as the basis for its hardware platform management infrastructure, does not provide any generic mechanism for upgrading management controller firmware. This new specification defines an advanced architecture and corresponding interfaces so that a single upgrade agent can update the firmware in the many management controllers of an entire system, even if the modules in the system come from different vendors.

“HPM.1 adds very useful functionality to ATCA and MicroTCA systems, along with the AMC modules they include,” said Mark Overgaard of Pigeon Point Systems and the Chair of the HPM.1 effort. “This framework will allow system integrators to have a single set of tools for upgrading all the IPM controllers in an entire system. In addition, the HPM.1 architecture ensures that all new compliant field-replaceable units will be automatically supported by the upgrade tools compliant with this specification, and vice versa,” he added.

HPM.1 will be provided free to PICMG members and is available for purchase by non-members. More information, including product listings, can be found at www.picmg.org.

IBM to Acquire Telelogic, Become 800-Pound UML Gorilla

IBM has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Telelogic at an offer price of 21 Swedish Kronor per share or approximately US $745 million, subject to regulatory reviews and other customary closing conditions. Telelogic is a public company headquartered in Malmo, Sweden. Upon completion of the acquisition (expected to close Q3 2007), Telelogic will be a business line within the IBM Rational Software unit.

Last year, Telelogic acquired embedded software modeling tool rival I-Logix and has since worked to integrate the company’s Rhapsody product into Telelogic’s existing suite of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) products, including the popular DOORS requirements management solution. Post acquisition, the competitive landscape featured a growing Telelogic looking to challenge IBM in this segment as both a leading provider of UML tools for embedded software development and a vendor of an integrated suite of ALM tools that could be competitive with IBM’s larger product offering.

According to analysis by Venture Development Corporation (VDC), within the software modeling tools market, IBM’s acquisition of Telelogic will surely change the competitive landscape. The combined company will become the clear market leader in UML tools within the embedded space, and VDC believes that there will be few challengers able to match IBM Rational/Telelogic in terms of revenue, breadth of product offering, global-reach and consulting services.

Perhaps more importantly, in addition to securing leadership in the embedded software modeling tools market, the acquisition also strengthens the positioning of the company’s larger ALM offering across both the embedded and enterprise markets. IBM Rational/Telelogic will now have a broad set of complementary market solutions to offer to their diverse customer base and will likely look to leverage solutions and services from both companies across specific target markets that play to each solution’s strength. The acquisition will provide greater opportunity to deliver integrated products to shared customers, especially within the military/aerospace, automotive/transportation and telecom/datacom industries.

Specification for Multiple-Interface Memory Cards

The MultiMediaCard Association (MMCA) has announced a specification for the new miCARD, a 12 mm x 21 mm x 1.95 mm storage card designed for easy data interchange between MMC and USB devices. When used in portable devices such as cameras, smart phones and PDAs, miCARD takes advantage of the low power consumption and high-performance characteristics of the MMC interface. The miCARD then allows consumers to transfer that media-rich content to PCs, printers and home entertainment appliances by inserting the card directly into those devices’ existing USB connectors—without the need for dedicated card slots or separate card readers.

Preserving the performance and ease of use consumers currently experience with USB 2.0-compliant devices, miCARD will transfer data at speeds up to 480 Mbits/s, with full electrical, mechanical and software compatibility. It is the first memory card to combine the features of the MMC System Specification v4.2 and USB 2.0, the most successful interface in the world.

Initially, passive mechanical adaptors will be available to convert the miCARD for use in many of today’s CE products that accept full-size MMC cards. In the future, portable devices will be able to take advantage of miCARD’s smaller size by offering slots that accept miCARD directly. No change is needed for miCARD compatibility with existing USB Type-A ports; consumers can simply plug and play.

Linux to Launch into Space

Wind River Systems has been selected by Honeywell Aerospace to support the development of NASA’s New Millennium Program Space Technology 8 (ST8) Dependable Multiprocessor. The contract marks the first time a Linux platform has been selected by Honeywell for a space mission. Honeywell Aerospace is the prime contractor for NASA’s ST8 Dependable Multiprocessor project. Wind River’s Platform for Network Equipment, Linux Edition, will be the underlying operating system to support the processing of science and experiment data on board the ST8 spacecraft.

The Dependable Multiprocessor will create a new generation of “smart” spacecraft and robotics for future exploration missions conducted by NASA. Composed of a COTS-based supercomputer architecture capable of incorporating both on-chip and FPGA-based algorithmic coprocessors, Dependable Multiprocessor technology can autonomously and adaptively configure the level of fault tolerance applied to the COTS-based computer system in response to constantly changing mission environments and the criticality of the mission application. The Dependable Multiprocessor will allow the spacecraft to process and analyze its own data to make instant decisions about what is observed without having to send the information to Earth and wait for a reply.

Any material put into space is subject to variable accelerations, mechanical shock and vibration, harsh vacuum conditions, extreme temperatures and often intense particle and electromagnetic radiation. Wind River Platform for Network Equipment, Linux Edition, running in conjunction with GoAhead SelfReliant Software, which provides high-availability middleware, and Honeywell’s Dependable Multiprocessing Middleware on Extreme Engineering Solutions’ XPedite6031 boards, will support the demonstration of high-availability and high-reliability operation for the ST8 Dependable Multiprocessor experiment.

The ST8 mission is scheduled for launch in November 2009, with an expected duration of at least seven months consisting of two phases, including a one-month commissioning phase and a six-month experiment phase. The mission consists of four independent experiments, including the Dependable Multiprocessor on a common spacecraft bus being provided by Orbital Sciences Corporation. The Dependable Multiprocessor experiment will validate a computer system architectural approach that allows application flexibility by applying robust control of the high-performance COTS cluster, enhanced software-based Single Event Upset (SEU) tolerance, and user-selectable redundancy only to the level required by the environment and the criticality of the task or computation.

PICMG Forms Rugged MicroTCA Subcommittee

PICMG has formed the new Rugged MicroTCA subcommittee to investigate and define enhancements to the MicroTCA and AdvancedMC definitions. The enhancements will enable products to be used in markets where environmental requirements may be much harsher than the telecommunications market, the first target of these specifications. The committee is called the Rugged MicroTCA subcommittee but it will also address Advanced Mezzanine Cards, which are the building blocks of MicroTCA systems.

The target markets for Rugged MicroTCA are:

• Commercial and military applications including airborne, shipboard and ground mobile equipment

• Telco Industry Customer Premise Equipment and Remote Access (such as roadside or pole mounted, no fans)

• Machine Industry (Rotating machine mounted; no fans; vibration)

• Transport Industry (Railway; truck, ship, aircraft mounted)

• Traffic control (roadside, no fans)

• Security (remote access, no fans)

It is likely that there will not be a single solution for all these markets. The committee expects its deliverables will be “dot” specifications that layer on top of the base MTCA.0 specification and contain the environmental enhancements needed for a specific set of market applications. These are likely to include specifications for air cooling, conduction cooling and shock and vibration enhancements.

“MicroTCA has created a huge buzz. There is a large demand to address these issues so it can be used in many more markets,” said Mike Franco, the chair of the new subcommittee. PICMG will publish backgrounders and other documents from the subcommittee on the “Resources” page of www.picmg.org as work progresses.

VITA Secures ANSI Re-Accreditation, Modifies Patent Policy

VITA, the VMEbus International Trade Association, has announced that it has been re-accredited by ANSI effective May 22, 2007. In January, VITA had submitted revised patent disclosure policies and standards procedures to ANSI. The revisions ensure that VSO participants disclose patents that are essential to implementing a new standard and that the participants openly declare the most restrictive terms required to license any such patents. The new requirement to declare the most restrictive licensing terms is intended to make the changed policy fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory. ANSI has approved these revised standards procedures with minor modifications.

VITA has been exploring more effective patent disclosure procedures for several years. These explorations led VITA to query the Department of Justice about how to develop better procedures. During the first half of 2006, VITA and its board of directors developed new patent disclosure procedures for use by the VSO. The new patent policy was submitted to the Department of Justice on June 8, 2006, for their review. After numerous meetings to gain clarification, slight changes were made. The Department of Justice issued their positive business review letter on October 30, 2006. The VITA members and board of directors approved the changes in January of this year. ANSI’s approval of the procedure changes now completes the process for ANSI re-accreditation of the VITA standards efforts.