2028: It's all about VME
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What role has VME and its markets played in embedded systems since 2008? Maybe the best way to approach this is to look at some headlines in the technical press:
VME systems on Mars still working after 30 years
All the probes sitting on the surface of Mars are built with VME systems. The Sagan Lander is still working on the Red Planet, even though it landed in 1997, nearly 30 years ago. After surviving months of travel in a vacuum and exposure to extreme temperatures, high radiation, severe shock, and vibration, the electronics still work. That's the hallmark of VME-based systems: rugged, reliable, and high-performance. This is reflected in the VITA 47 REDI (Ruggedized Enhanced Design Implementation) standard for extreme environmental conditions for critical electronics. Extensions to this standard started in 2008 for high-altitude and space applications. VITA focused on the singular charter of Critical Embedded Systems in extreme harsh environments back in 2007. Today, all avionics and space electronics are built to these VITA specifications.
VME market unaffected by repeal of RoHS laws
Since July of 2006, the world's electronics markets have been plagued by low-quality products that fail early in their useful lives because of the mandated RoHS legislation (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), originally begun in Europe. This legislation banned lead-based solders used to fabricate printed circuit boards. The entire electronics industry shifted to brittle high-temp lead-free solders, which spurred the highest failure rates in electronics devices in the history of the electron, and the largest increase in new landfill development. Tin whiskers, cracked solder balls in ball grid arrays, and separated via plating resulted from the untested but mandated use of those RoHS-compliant solders, rendering all compliant equipment worthless. The VME community refused to use these unproven solders in critical embedded systems bound for military and industrial applications and maintained their use of tin/lead solders as outlined in the VITA52 Lead-free practices document completed in 2009. Most VME-based products have a mean time between failure (MTBF) of 10–15 years (as calculated with the VITA51 Reliability Prediction guidelines). Despite the tremendous investment and research into RoHS failures and solutions by the electronics industry and governments for the past two decades, the MTBFs for RoHS-compliant products are still measured in months.
Optics in computing still four years away, except in VME
Fiber-to-the-curb, fiber Internet connections, and optical-interconnect computing are only four years away, according to the latest market research reports. However, the VME community has been using optical interface connections for over 20 years, with tremendous results. The VPX VITA46.12 standard created optical-interface backplanes, used in many critical embedded systems, especially in military applications. The optical/RF mezzanine specification, begun in 2008, is the primary platform for all SDR (software-defined radio) applications in the world. VITA adopted optical and RF interconnect technologies into its charter in early 2007, just before the entire telecom equipment industry collapsed for the third time in 2008.
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