There’s a new COM standard on the way: Computer-On-Modules High Performance Computing (COM-HPC®). The first modules based on the standard will be available from early next year following pioneering work by Kontron along with other leading members of the PICMG standards committee.
Do we really need another standard for embedded HPC applications – isn’t the widely used and hugely popular COM Express sufficient?
Yes, and no, is the answer. Put it this way. Developers will soon require standardized high-performance Computer-On-Modules (COMs) which go beyond the limits and capabilities of existing COM standards. And this includes the highly successful COM Express®. However, it doesn’t mean the end is near for COM Express®. In fact, far from it. COM-HPC® will be complementary and help ensure the future of COM Express® by being clearly differentiated in terms of performance, overall feature sets and price level.
What’s driving demand for COM-HPC® modules?
The IIoT and Industrial Automation is a prime example. Huge amounts of data are being produced and this often requires local pre-processing at the edge. In the Communications sector, 5G wireless is generating growing backhaul traffic and increased processing requirements. And don’t forget, autonomous vehicles, factory floor and HPC workloads are demanding server-class processors for supporting much higher-end platforms.
Many of these scenarios no longer take place in a protected high-performance computing data center or in the cloud, but close to where the data originates: on mobile masts, on production lines, in warehouses, at processing plants or in autonomous vehicles. I/O data throughput and communications performance is also growing significantly.
COM-HPC® offers almost limitless potential for scalability, compute performance, connectivity, and high-speed communications.
This means developers and OEMs will have the peace of mind of knowing standardized COMs can meet any requirement. There will be five form factor modules: Sizes A, B, and C relate to three embedded COM-HPC®/Client modules for use in high-end embedded applications. These will focus on powerful graphics and connect 2 x MIPI-CSI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface – Camera Serial Interface) for imaging tasks including those required for medical equipment, autonomous vehicles, and surveillance.
Sizes D and E are for the two COM-HPC®/Server modules intended mainly for high performance edge server class applications such as AI and analytics, to manage high data volumes involving high speed transmission and real-time processing.
So where does this leave COM Express®?
For many industrial HPC applications – especially the already popular COM Express® Type 7 - will remain ideally suited thanks to its powerful processing, high speed Ethernet connectivity and high data throughput.
This is perfect for a broad spectrum of IIoT applications requirements, including:
- Value-oriented optimized performance/watt implementations with Ethernet connectivity e.g. Network routers, Gateways, and Microservers
- Edge Cloud and Fog servers
- High bandwidth Mobile Communications: at the edge of carrier base stations
- Industrial: machine temperature monitoring; camera inspection; intelligent power control; indoor and outdoor small cell applications
On the other hand, COM-HPC® modules will allow developers to keep pace with the HPC requirements of the future.
These will satisfy more power-hungry applications (CPU TDP up to 150W, overall power envelope up to 250 – 300 W) compared to Type 7. They will also address implementations where more features and functions are required. However, the additional performance and feature-sets will command a higher entry level price.
Typical Use Cases: COM-HPC®
Multiple PCIe lanes combined with High-Speed LAN connectivity and PCIe x16 ports for high performance GPGPUs/FPGAs:
· AI – machine learning + camera inspection
· Test & Measurement
· Autonomous driving & Truck Fleet control
· Data logger
· Automotive test equipment
High performance multi-core processors and multi-LAN support up to 40G/100G Ethernet
· 5G RAN platforms
· Network appliances
· Datacenter switching with high speed uplinks
Processing power combined with High-Speed Ethernet connectivity
· Surface inspection
· Assembly control
· Pattern recognition
· Robot control
Think professional football: these days the most successful clubs ensure optimum performance and resilience by having the widest possible player talent pool to choose from – for handling all eventualities. In similar fashion, these COMs are in the same squad but are clearly differentiated by performance, overall feature sets and price level!
COM Express® Type 7 is most probably the right platform for applications requiring processor TDP up to 60W and memory capacity up to 128GB and where a smaller footprint and thermal limit is necessary. Other criteria might include the need for extending the longevity of an existing COM Express® solution to save investment and ensure continuity. Or where there is a low to medium budget consideration.
COM-HPC® will be the more natural choice when processor power is required beyond 60W TDP, memory capacity must go beyond the limit of 128GB and / or faster interfaces are necessary such as PCIe Gen5 or 25 Gb Ethernet. With this comes a larger footprint and a higher price point.
In summary, the new COM-HPC® standard will bring a whole new dimension to COM Express® as well as future-proof the concept of standardized modular embedded computing. Embedded solutions developers and OEMs can therefore be sure of choosing standardized COMs to meet any requirement.
Kontron supports all embedded COM needs - including those of the new rapidly expanding high-performance computing era. So which team would you choose?
To find know more about Kontron’s portfolio of embedded HPC COMs® visit https://www.kontron.com/landingpages/com-hpc