Consortium promotes small form-factor specs -

Consortium promotes small form-factor specs


Oh no! Not another consortium for embedded systems standards.

I was hoping we'd get another consortium announced. That's just what we need, right? Actually, I've used that same opening on multiple occasions over the years. This time, it pertains to the Small Form Factor Special Interest Group (, otherwise known as the SFF-SIG.

This group formally introduced themselves at the Embedded Systems Conference, back in September. Its charter is to develop, adopt, and promote circuit-board specs and related technologies that will help electronics equipment makers and integrators reduce the overall size of their next-generation systems.

The group's stated philosophy is “to embrace the latest technologies, as well as maintain legacy compatibility and enable transition solutions to next-generation interfaces.” These technologies, aimed at long-lifecycle systems, include low-power and highly integrated microprocessors, chip sets, and memory that are based on 90- and 65-nm processes. It also covers high-density rugged connectors and high-speed serial interfaces, such as PCI Express, Serial ATA (SATA), and USB 2.0, which should replace larger and slower parallel interfaces.

The group claims the reasons to join the SIG are that it will simplify the specification standardization process and let more companies participate in that process. That sounds fair, but I believe enough consortia are already solving those same problems. A new consortium can potentially create more problems than it solves because system developers now must understand that just because a board complies with the SFF spec doesn't mean it complies with specs from other various consortia.

The founding members of the organization are Octagon Systems, Samtec, Tri-M Systems and Engineering, VIA Technologies, and WinSystems. Initially, three working groups have been formed to address different product categories. The SBC working group is discussing new small form-factor single-board computers (SBCs). The Modules group is developing a spec for a new small computer-on-module (COM) form factor. And the Stackables group is examining approaches for high-speed serial technologies within legacy systems that would preserve the existing investments in I/O, cabling, and enclosures.

There are two membership categories for the SFF-SIG. Voting members review specifications that are submitted to the SIG for adoption. Non-voting members provide inputs directly to internal specification development and can view these specifications prior to publication, but don't get to vote.

Do we need for another consortium? I'm all for standards, but I fear that this will just create more standards where they either already exist or aren't really needed. Could this be just another way for some of these vendors to promote themselves?

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