Bringing Modularity to MicroTCA

MicroTCA is a new specification that offers very high performance packed in a small form factor. The new specification is expected to be used in a wide variety of applications, including mil/aero, telecom edge, medical, enterprise and data, and scientific applications. However, there are so many possible configurations, it can be overwhelming. How can one develop various systems and offerings without starting from scratch — and the time to market, high costs, and implementation issues this brings? One solution is using modularity in MicroTCA designs. Prototyping and development of a new system enclosure design can be a time-consuming and costly process. Building upon a proven modular platform allows a wide range of design options with significantly reduced effort.

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The MicroTCA architecture will allow large arrays of AdvancedMC modules to be used in a wide range of applications where a lower-cost solution is required than could be achieved by the standard AdvancedTCA architecture. The MicroTCA backplane allows single or redundant virtual carriers to provide power management, platform management, and fabric connections to a greater number of modules than a single physical carrier card could support in a classic ATCA application. MicroTCA systems will support up to 56 single-module/ full-size AdvancedMCs in a 19” EIA rack or an assortment of double modules either compact, mid-size, or fullsize. AdvancedMC modules are targeted for such modular applications as storage arrays, firewalls, blade servers, and even home entertainment centers. Each module may dissipate between 20 and 80 watts and the platform management scheme is designed to support applications from 99.99% to 99.999% availability. Assuming 3.125 GB/s data rates, the performance of a MicroTCA system slotto- slot is 6,250 MB/s.

MicroTCA can come in a wide number of configurations, including single (75-mm high) or double (150-mm high) modules, in compact, mid-, or full-size. Further, pico, cube, or subrack chassis formats are all possibilities (see Figure 1). The MicroTCA standard was developed with stamped sheet metal enclosures in mind, which is attractive for high volumes, but what about new product development, prototyping, and small-to-medium volumes? The strength of MicroTCA is its flexibility, and that flexibility requires the designer to make a lot of choices. Depending on his exact design criteria, it could be difficult to build and optimize a backplane design without the time and expense of heavy customization. All sheet metal parts need to be drawn and these parts are quite complex. Furthermore, a flat pattern and a punching program have to be created. Modular enclosures designed specifically for MicroTCA can solve this problem.