Long Beach, CA USA (January 20, 2004) - Critia Computer and Silicore Corporation announced today at VITA's Bus and Board Conference in Long Beach, CA the formation of an independent organization to promote and develop VMEbus-compliant VHDL cores and supporting software. The effort, called the "Open VMEbus Project" will be an opportunity for the open community to participate in an effort specifically targeting the venerable VMEbus architecture.
For nearly a quarter of a century VMEbus has proven itself to be a resilient host for embedded computer technology. Spearheaded by VITA, the VMEbus International Trade Association, VME-based technology has been continuously expanded to incorporate many related technologies through standards development efforts. Through the mostly volunteer work of VITA's ANSI-accredited Standards Organization, VSO, open standards continue to emerge that help keep VMEbus-based products current and viable.
"The OpenVME Project is not intended to be in any way an alternative to VITA or VSO efforts." said Ken Boyette, President of Critia Computer. "Rather, as VSO standards emerge, the OpenVME Project will provide a structure for related IP development. The VMEbus represents one of the oldest and most successful 'open' standards for embedded computing and with the continued commitment from the industry through VITA, it is an ideal candidate for open, freely available IP cores."
"This OpenVME idea is very much in keeping with the 'VME Renaissance' program that Motorola is spearheading." noted Wade Peterson, President of Silicore. Motorola's commitment to VME was announced in 2002 and is evidenced by the upcoming 'Tempe Chip' which will be available through Tundra Semiconductor. "The Tempe Chip which enables the high bandwidth transfers that were promised by the VITA 1.5 2eSST Specification will certainly help VME maintain ground in the short term." continued Mr. Peterson. "However, Tempe's hard silicon only bridges PCI/PCIX to VME. As fabric interfaces like RapidIO™, HyperTransport™ and PCI Express™ become common connections to processors, the need to bridge to VME will emerge."
Essentially, the OpenVME Project will provide a central resource for those companies and individuals who wish to develop products with VMEbus technology. The true benefit will be in having a modular set of openly developed, documented and tested VMEbus functions which can be incorporated easily into cost-effective FPGA devices. This is an "enabling technology" for the VMEbus manufacturer; allowing resources to be focused on the logic specific to the intended application. With programmable arrays of a few thousand to well over a hundred thousand logic elements, the current generation FPGA's are very scalable and can easily implement simple to complex VMEbus controllers and back-end interfaces. For example, there are already open source cores available for PCI, Ethernet, I2C and many others.
"The combination of modular VHDL building blocks and FPGA technology can prove to be very powerful and cost effective. Let's say, for example, that a VME I/O board needs 2eSST capability for data transfer, but only requires that a simple set of registers get configured by the host." noted Mr. Boyette. "The two or three VHDL modules required may very well fit into a fast, but low pin count device. Add a few TI VMEH22501's transceivers and you have a very inexpensive, but very capable VMEbus interface."
One of the most powerful attractions to open source development is the product protection afforded by having access and control of the source programs. The growing success of the open source operating system GNU/Linux™ in embedded applications clearly demonstrates this. VMEbus manufacturers have historically had to fund major internal efforts to keep products alive when key components are rendered obsolete by the semiconductor manufacturer. The VMEbus is particularly vulnerable to this scenario because of a number of typical factors:
- VME products are low volume
- VME products often have extended environmental requirements
- VME products are required to have a long service life
- VME products are required to have an extended period of availability
- VME products are used in high security environments
By developing open source modular VHDL, the VME board manufacturer can address many of these issues. FPGA devices are available from a variety of sources, can be bought in low volume, come in a broad range of technologies and many are available with extended environmental specifications. By implementing open source functions it is possible to address virtually all design and maintenance requirements.
Peterson added that: "We think this strategy will foster the development of new VMEbus interface technologies. This will be done through community code development much like we see in the GNU/Linux world. In order to get things rolling, Silicore is releasing a VMEbus to PCI bridge System-on-Chip under the LGPL license. This will serve as 'seed code' for the development of other interfaces. It also uses the WISHBONE architecture, so it's compatible with many other cores at OpenCores.org."
The OpenVME Project will have a WEB presence at www.OpenVME.org. Through this site, it will be possible for volunteer developers to work together, exchange ideas and help each other. Individuals may work on project activities that suit their interest and expertise. These would include project definition and management, VHDL code development, testing and documentation. The resulting modules will be made available through the same website or an established organization like OpenCores.org.
The founders invite everyone, companies and individuals, with an interest in the long term future of VME to support the OpenVME Project. More information will be forthcoming on OpenVME.org.
Critia Computer, Inc. is a start-up company led by embedded computer industry veteran Ken Boyette. Headquartered in Raleigh, NC, Critia is currently developing standards-based products for the embedded board-level market with special focus on VMEbus and MIPS®-based technology. Critia Computer fully supports the OpenVME Project and philosophy. For more information about the company, visit www.critia.com For more information contact: Ken Boyette, Critia Computer, Inc., TEL: 919-821-1896.
Silicore Corporation, headquartered near Minneapolis, MN provides expert technology services in the areas of electronic design, sensors, and IP cores, and provides System-on-Chip designs in the form of microprocessor cores and VMEbus interfaces. Silicore's president, Wade Peterson has authored numerous technical publications including The VMEbus Handbook and the WishBone SOC Specification. For more information about the company, visit www.silicore.net. For more information contact: Wade Peterson, Silicore Corporation, TEL: 763-478-3567.
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