Military Embedded Systems

Tactical decision-making demands increasing speeds and volume of data processing


August 03, 2023

Aaron Frank


For defense applications, responsiveness, accuracy, and precision have never been more critical to mission success. Expanding the connectivity bandwidth within and between systems enables faster time-to-solution and greater mission capability through higher data resolution and fidelity, all of these with reduced latency.

Curtiss-Wright first introduced its 40 Gbit ecosystem in 2013 with its 6U VPX products that featured 40 Gbit Ethernet and InfiniBand fabrics. The full ecosystem of 40 Gbit interoperable modules – single-board computers (SBC), digital signal processors (DSP), FPGAs [field-programmable gate arrays], and GPU engines, as well as fabric switches, and backplane/chassis systems – was the first to provide system integrators with a complete suite of 40 Gbit building blocks that significantly lowered their integration risks when building high-performance embedded computing (HPEC) systems.

Today, higher-bandwidth connectivity within systems will enable the processing elements to transfer and share more data faster. To take full advantage of 100 Gbit connectivity in an embedded computing system, the processing elements must be able to supply and consume the data at the higher speed without the impediment of other architectural bottlenecks. This is critical for modern sensors which rely on increased volumes of efficiently processed data. Higher-bandwidth connectivity between systems also enables more data and actionable information to be efficiently shared, for increased mission effectiveness and integrated situational awareness.

A system-level 100 GbE solution should encompass all aspects of embedded computing, from sensor ingest and processing, to the most advanced levels of network integration and connectivity. Such a system will feature solutions in 3U and 6U VPX form factors to fit the unique needs of a wide range of programs. By leveraging the COTS [commercial off-the-shelf] model, vendors can ensure that their highly modular and interoperable solutions will be flexible enough to address any platform’s needs. The COTS approach provides system designers with proven technology at a lower cost than custom-developed hardware, and with reduced system integration risk.

One of the main challenges in applying new technology to existing systems is integrating disparate components from a variety of vendors and reducing program integration risks by ensuring the components and all parts of the system work together. To solve this problem, the modules that make up an end-to-end 100 G system-level solution should be tested together, an approach far superior to simply testing each individual module on its own.

With newer technology, system integrators are often left to develop a patchwork approach to system design using cards from various vendors. When integration between cards from different vendors fails, who is responsible for facilitating the integration? This failure is a significant risk to system design and can result in unforeseen project cost increases and schedule delays.

100 Gbit Ethernet technology is not just the future of the embedded computing industry; it is a foundational building block needed to ensure competitiveness and agility in an ever-changing defense landscape. Investing in 100 Gbit components enables system integrators to quickly bring new capabilities to the field, ensuring that designs remain relevant and efficient while minimizing both near-term and long-term program cost and risk.

The first modules in the Curtiss-Wright Fabric100 portfolio, a pair of 6U OpenVPX high-performance processing modules ideal for sensor ingest and advanced processing for next-generation radar and SIGINT systems. Alignment with the modular open systems approach (MOSA) – such as the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Technical Standard – enables building new systems that can deliver the critical information troops need at the speed of relevance.

The Fabric100 offerings enable system integrators to take full advantage of faster processing speeds while leveraging the lower latency and the improved fidelity offered with 100 Gbit technology. (Figure 1.)

[Figure 1 ǀ The Fabric100 family of 100 Gbit OpenVPX modules enables greater bandwidth connectivity within and between systems to increase mission effectiveness for defense and aerospace applications.]

Aaron Frank is senior product manager for Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions.

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

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