The military’s transition to Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) has created an enormous demand for improved networking and performance capabilities for ground mobile command and control applications. Military success now depends on the ability to communicate actionable information among command centers, troops in the field, UAVs and other military assets. Although new technologies are continually being developed to meet military demands, this transition to NCW has created new uses for existing technologies, a few of which have been used for many years in the commercial realm before making the move into military applications.Historically, military system engineers were focused on developing in-vehicle subsystems using proprietary designs and form factors, or small standard form factors designed specifically for military systems. These systems were expensive, making it difficult to keep pace with changing technologies. The military is now moving away from powerful, compartmentalized war machines toward interconnected units that can operate cohesively. For these interconnected units, military programs are also looking to reduce development time while saving on total cost of ownership. ATCA (Advanced Telecommunication Computing Architecture) and virtualization are two prime examples of long-standing commercial technologies evolving to meet these military needs.
To meet time and cost challenges, the industry is turning to open standard, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, such as ATCA solutions, allowing developers to take advantage of the latest in networking, performance, and computing capabilities while focusing their resources on designing command and control applications. The industry is also seeing a further shift as manufacturers look to pre-integrated solutions as the new industry building block. This approach further reduces development cycles and gives application developers a greater choice in selecting performance levels to meet their specific application needs.
ATCA is a set of standards released by the PCI Industrial Computers Manufacturers Group (PICMG) that defines a high availability open bladed architecture. At its core, the ATCA specification defines all the electrical and mechanical requirements of the ATCA industry standard platform—back-plane properties, blade size (8U), backplane interface specifications, power rating, cooling and so on. ATCA is designed to meet Network Equipment Building Systems (NEBS), which defines requirements for fire suppression, thermal margin testing, vibration resistance (earthquakes), acoustic limits, failover and partial operational requirements, along with many other testing and certification requirements. Because ATCA is an open standard, customers can build platforms that address multiple applications based on products from multiple vendors.
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