Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics – Part 2

In Part 2 of the Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics series we’ll explore the multiple benefits of using a system configured with any of the Switched or Mesh fabrics discussed in Part 1, whether in a commercial, semi-rugged or extreme environment.

These options range from Military and government use, in and out of war zones, geologists using to map land formations for possible research, archaeologists using information on where they may dig to find possible treasures, and even scientists tracking space missions, weather patterns and possible natural seismic activity. Many of these options could be performed by controlling state-of-the-arts drones or robotics. There are multiple uses for the processing power and speed from our systems, whether it be the larger systems, 12, 16 or 20 plus slots or the smaller 6-slot systems. It depends on the needs of the customer and the task.

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OpenVpx Switch backplane

Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics by Mercury Systems – Part 1

The SMP Engineering group at Mercury Systems has worked tirelessly on development and innovation to offer our customers multiple choices for their present and future needs. Since authoring the OpenVPX™ (VITA 65) standard, it has opened the door to customers seeking answers and/or solutions to many of the issues they encounter when designing their systems. First, let’s take a look at what OpenVPX offers us.

OpenVPX builds on the module-centric VPX specifications by providing a nomenclature of planes and profiles to enable system integrators, module designers, and backplane providers to effectively describe and define aspects and characteristics of a system. OpenVPX addresses major system interoperability issues while allowing for flexibility within the system, as enabled by its planes and flexible module profiles featuring user-defined I/O. By following a system-centric approach and defining a number of standard system topologies, OpenVPX enables interoperable off-the-shelf modules and development platforms within the VPX marketplace. The standard has provisions for both 6U and 3U platforms, and high speed serial switched fabric technologies such as PCIE, RapidIO, Infiniband, 10 Gigabit and 40 Gigabit Ethernet.

OpenVPX profiles make it easy to build development systems with compatible components. Deployable systems will always have system issues that need to be addressed, such as I/O, custom backplanes, power, and cooling. SMP engineers not only understand these issues, we have also solved both integration and system-level problems and delivered integrated system solutions to our customers.

OpenVPX Benefits

  • Promotes interoperability and vendor choice
  • Provides specific design profiles that vendors can design to and integrators can specify as requirements
  • Reduces integration issues resulting in faster development & deployment time
  • Higher board volumes –> Economies of scale
  • Industry leading bandwidth and density
  • Higher velocity of technology upgrades
  • Will support higher backplane signaling speeds as technology matures

Now let’s look at the switched fabrics and their supported backplane topologies with OpenVPX platforms.

Types of Backplane Topologies

  • Centralized switching
  • A set of peer payload boards connected by switch fabric boards
  • Single or dual star topology for multiple path routing and potential redundancy
  • Provides system management function
  • Mesh Fabric
  • A set of peer payload cards connected in a full or partial mesh
  • Useful for small slot count systems as it avoids dedicated switch slots
  • Larger slot count systems require switching logic on each payload card
  • Host / slave
  • Typically comprise a master host board with several slave boards linked by PCIe
  • Allows an SBC to have greatly expanded capabilities without complexity of a general switching fabric

Planes and Profiles

Planes: Multiple levels of communication; Bottom to top

  • Utility Plane – Power pins and various utility signals
    • NVMRO (Non-Volatile Memory Read Only)
    • SYS_CLK (System Clock), REF_CLK (Reference Clock), AUX_CLK (Auxiliary Clock)
    • SYSRESET (System reset, including “maskable reset”), POWER
  • Management Plane (mp)
    • Low-power
    • Defined by VITA 46.0 and 46.11
    • Prognosticates/diagnoses problems
    • Can control module power
    • IPMC
  • Control Plane (cp)
    • Reliable, packet-based communication that carries information necessary to establish and control the network
    • Application control, exploitation data
    • Typically Gigabit Ethernet or less
  • Data Plane (dp)
    • High-throughput, predictable data movement without interfering with other traffic
    • Examples: Serial RapidIO, PCI Express, CX3(Connect-3), Infiniband, Ethernet: 10GB or 40GB, Infiniband: 56 GB
  • Expansion Plane (ep)
    • Tightly coupled groups of boards and I/O
    • Typically VME bridging or PCI Express

Profiles: Three types

  • Slot Profile
    • A physical mapping of ports onto a slot’s backplane connectors
    • Uses notions of pipes and planes:
      • The term “pipe” is used to define the number of bidirectional differential serial pairs that are grouped together to form a logical data channel.
    • Does not specify actual protocols conveyed over the backplane
  • Backplane Profile
    • A physical specification of a backplane
    • Specifies the number and type of slot profiles
    • Defines the topology of channels and buses that interconnect the slots
  • Module Profile
    • Extends a slot profile by mapping protocols to a module’s ports
    • Includes thermal, power and mechanical requirements
    • Provides a first order check of compatibility between modules

Next time we will dive deeper into what capabilities are available, how the systems can match your needs, and where Mercury Systems can assist its customers.

Hypervisor- Virtual Machine

Hypervisor Part 2

Welcome back!

Today we will look at Full Virtualization, using either Software assisted full or Hardware assisted full.

Full Virtualization:
Virtual machine simulates hardware to allow an unmodified guest OS to be run in isolation. There are two types of Full virtualizations in the enterprise market. On both full virtualization types, the guest operating system’s source information will not be modified.
• Software assisted full virtualization
• Hardware assisted full virtualization

Software Assisted Full Virtualization:
Software-assisted full virtualization completely relies on binary translation to trap and virtualize the execution of sensitive, non-virtualizable instructions sets. It emulates the hardware using the software instruction sets. Due to binary translation, it is often criticized for performance issue. Here is the list of software which will fall under software assisted (BT).

• VMware workstation (32Bit guests)
• Virtual PC
• VirtualBox (32-bit guests)
• VMware Server

Hardware Assisted Full Virtualization:
Hardware-assisted full virtualization eliminates the binary translation and it directly interrupts with hardware using the virtualization technology which has been integrated on X86 processors since 2005 (Intel VT-x and AMD-V). Guest OS’s instructions might allow a virtual context execute privileged instructions directly on the processor, even though it is virtualized.
Here is the list of enterprise software which supports hardware-assisted – Full virtualization which falls under hypervisor type 1 (Bare metal).

• VMware ESXi /ESX
• KVM
• Hyper-V
• Xen

The following list fall under hypervisor type 2 (Hosted).
• VMware Workstation (64-bit guests only )
• Virtual Box (64-bit guests only )
• VMware Server (Retired )

Here’s a great write up explaining Para virtualization vs Full virtualization vs Hardware assisted Virtualization in more detail.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Hypervisor blog!

Security hypervisor

Hypervisor – Part 1

The Engineers in Mercury’s SMP department have been adding to Mercury’s many capabilities and offerings on both Mercury’s 6U and 3U product lines. I will be featuring some of these over the next few weeks and months to show the commitment and ingenuity that our engineers have for our customers’ needs. One of these capabilities is the availability of Hypervisor. Development, Quality and Test Engineers have been looking for this type of capability on these platforms for a long time. With this product, you are able to control the level of security, isolation, authentication and protection to critical software, hardware and components within your system. You determine what level, depending on your or your customer’s needs. Read More