The Top 4 Networking Challenges Facing Your Embedded Systems

June 07, 2019 | BY: Andrew McCoubrey, Mike Southworth

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Embedded networks serve as the backbone of a platform’s technology architecture, and act as the front line against remote security attacks. Ensuring that all modules and systems are connected for seamless communication by a trusted, reliable network is critical to mission success.

Here we examine the four biggest challenges facing today’s embedded networks. In upcoming papers, we’ll explore each of these challenges in greater depth, along with the technology solutions available to address them.

Challenge #1: Delivering Faster Links

Designers of rugged military and aerospace systems continue to look to the commercial world for networking technology, leveraging available Ethernet switch chips to connect between processing modules and deploying PHY devices to link systems over fiber optic or copper cables. Using the latest high-performance networking technology in deployed systems based on modular COTS standards isn’t always practical, however. While the latest commercial devices support IEEE standards for 100G Ethernet and beyond - based on 25G and 50G SerDes technology - OpenVPX systems using the standard MultiGig- RT2 connector have so far been limited to 10G SerDes signals. To take advantage of these high-speed standards in modular systems, backplane and connector technology needs to catch up.

Terabit throughput and sub-microsecond latency are the ambitious design goals for today’s most demanding systems. In the past, meeting the performance needs for defense electronic applications often necessitated the use of custom hardware and FPGAs. Today, commercial silicon delivers levels of performance and functionality that are hard to beat. The technical challenge faced by many designers is how to implement high-speed interfaces in board-and-backplane modular systems. Modular systems based on VPX backplanes have been proven and deployed using 10G and 40G Ethernet (either by combining four 10G SerDes lanes or through use of the VITA 66 fiber optic standard), but moving to 100G Ethernet and beyond will require the use of four lanes of 25 Gbps (or faster) SerDes technology.

The use of Ethernet at 10Gbps and above has also driven a growing need for optical interconnect solutions. A wide array of commercial products are available for implementing optical links. However, no single approach has emerged as the de-facto standard for rugged systems. As a result, few rugged COTS products integrate optical interfaces, leaving it to integrators to convert from electrical to optical in their systems.

Designers using high-performance and feature-rich commercial Ethernet technology to connect their embedded systems can also deploy a growing range of techniques for managing traffic flows on their networks. Faster networks can carry more traffic from more sensors and applications on a single link, but care must be taken to ensure critical data isn’t delayed or dropped.

Challenge #2: Network Convergence

As network designers seek to connect multiple sources over the same data pipe, a big concern is the potential for interference or contention that would delay real-time traffic.

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Author’s Biography

Andrew McCoubrey

Senior Product Manager, Switching and Routing Solutions

Andrew McCoubrey is the Senior Product Manager for switching and routing products in the C4 Solutions group. He joined Curtiss-Wright from Cisco Systems where he was a product manager for Catalyst switching. His networking industry experience ranges from core routers to enterprise switching and embedded Ethernet. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Engineering from McGill University and an MBA from the University of Toronto.

Mike Southworth

Author’s Biography

Mike Southworth

Senior Product Manager

Mike Southworth serves as Senior Product Manager for Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions where he is responsible for the small form-factor rugged mission computers and Ethernet networking subsystem product line targeting Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP)-constrained military and aerospace applications. Southworth has more than 15 years of experience in technical product management and marketing communications leadership roles. Mike holds an MBA from the University of Utah and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Brigham Young University.

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