2009

Industrial PCs Offer Configurable System Options and Quad-Core Performance

Industrial PCs (IPCs) are all about performance, including processors, mass storage performance, and network throughput. In all applications — medical, communications, automation, process control, transportation, military and defense, and more — bandwidth requirements for data transmission and processing are on the rise. Long-term use, low-level noise tolerance, ruggedness for shock and vibration, extended availability of additional systems — these are just some of the top-level requirements that must be considered in pairing the right industrial solution to the right application.

Deployed systems have an incredibly broad range of applications, even within a single market segment, yet the systems engineer is tasked with building in the right features for long-term, rugged, and ever increasing performance needs. As a result, configuring systems flawlessly — carefully verifying performance with the broad range of specific required components — can be a challenge for implementing industrial systems quickly and effectively.

In the past, available processor performance may have had limited bandwidth; however, today’s quad-core systems are responding with new and growing levels of processing horsepower. Quad-core systems enabled by Intel’s 45- nm process technology can handle massive computing and visualization workloads in faster, cooler, and quieter systems. Making the most of that performance, today’s IPCs are delivering complex feature sets that vary dramatically from application to application. In certain applications, increased drive capabilities may be required — for example, up to terabyte drives — to handle greater amounts of video and graphics. These applications are also storageintensive and may require DVD drives as well as more powerful graphics processing units or media accelerators. Applications such as battlefield simulation and training, measuring real-time radiation characteristics from a mobile ground vehicle, or even real-time data processing in a hospital operating theater or computer server room, may require these special adjustments in available features and performance, all contained within proven rugged construction.

Modular Means Faster Time to Market

So how are project engineers developing the most effective systems and getting to market quickly? Meeting diverse industrial requirements with custom systems can be costly in terms of both expense and development time. In contrast, ready-to-go configurable systems are gaining ground as a notable engineering trend. Modular and scalable to users’ needs, they eliminate the need for many custom design efforts, and avoid being subjected to high minimum order requirements, extensive compatibility testing, and special certification efforts.

With configurable systems, today’s project engineers are able to select specific components and functions, controlling the choice of processor, memory, mechanical parts, and hardware and software options, all pre-tested and validated for performance compatibility. Attention to thermal flow and power management ensure high reliability and low operating cost as well, providing platform stability that makes all the difference in getting systems up and running faster and more efficiently — well prepared for a MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) requirement of up to 50,000 hours.

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