Developed in 1981, VME has served as a reliable, extensible platform for deployable embedded computing applications. The electro-mechanical standard typically includes components like processors, IO boards, enclosures, backplanes, and power supplies.

VME – and its successor VPX – have supported aircraft, spacecraft, naval ships, and a variety of defense technologies that call for stream computing. The platforms are especially valuable for sonar and radar applications, for example, which require the processing of a massive amount of incoming data.

Unlike the bus-based VME, the next-generation VPX uses switched-fabric interconnects to increase speeds. A MultiGig RT2 interconnect, for example, offers data rates at about 10 Gb per second.

VME is still a remarkably strong market, but VPX adoption has grown. According to an IHS market study in 2016 , VPX showed a 25-26 percent annual growth rate.

In a presentation this week titled The Future of VME / Rugged Computing in the Military, a Tech Briefs reader asked our computing expert:

What technology or application shift might spell the beginning of the end for VME? And what trends may render VME obsolete?

Read the edited response below from Steve Gudknecht, Product Manager, Embedded Computing Products, at the Fremont, CA-based component manufacturer Elma Electronic Inc.

Steve Gudknecht: As we’ve seen today, it’s not going to happen very soon. As long as the usage model lends itself to VME and the cost model serves the bottom line, VME will continue on. Higher-bandwidth requirements, even in existing applications, will evolve and may ultimately exceed VME's capabilities.

Additionally, I think that the eventual exhaustion of Tundra [Semiconductor] chips, for example, is going to complicate the choice to VME.

Lastly, as more players come into the VPX field, prices will tend to decrease; so the VME/VPX choice becomes less clear, perhaps in favor of VPX. It’s a blending of the cost model, bandwidth usage, and the technology support going forward.

Two things stand out as key enablers to the continued use of VME. First: suppliers’ commitment to adopting new technology. Kontron’s new entries into the market and the industry’s response to the Tundra [Semiconductor] interface EOL [end-of-life] are examples.

Secondly: there is cooperation between the partners and their products, which ensures multi-vendor integrated system-level solutions.

Additionally, and running concurrently with VPX growth, VME-support business promises to last years and years, given the sheer numbers of installed systems. This is also a major pipeline for the continued demand for VME.

While VME is not sailing off into the sunset just yet, the handwriting is on the wall. We see the same explosive growth rates with VPX – this pertains not only to the boards and backplanes, but also to the chassis and cabinets that we see.

The dawn of VPX has arrived. It’s inevitable. New applications requiring high speed signals and higher aggregate system bandwidth will ensure this.

What do you think? Has VPX arrived? (And will VME sail off into the sunset?) Share your comments below.

Watch the full presentation: The Future of VME / Rugged Computing in the Military.