A new form factor for embedded devices is ready to get rolling. It has the potential to close the gap between Mini-ITX and embedded NUC™ and thus become an important building block for the widespread roll-out of Industry 4.0 solutions. While Mini-ITX comes with a footprint of 289 mm², embedded NUC™ boards rank at around one third of the surface with 100 mm². However, due to their small dimensions, the latter brings out significantly fewer interfaces. Further to this it only uses processors with a TDP <35W. Therefore embedded NUC™ is often neglected in CPU-intensive applications, like those required as a server solution in edge and fog computing. With embedded mini-STX (also known as embedded 5×5) and COM Express Type 7 modules it is possible to create ultra-compact solutions (i.e. 140 mm × 147 mm), using the latest Intel Xeon processors and up to four high-speed Ethernet interfaces with 10 GbE each. Equipped with a baseboard management controller (BMC) and up to three M.2 sockets, this allows for micro-servers for industrial applications. Of course customers can adapt them to individual applications as required.
Another advantage of the mini-STX form factor is the fact that it can be used with off-the-shelf components, such as housings. For example the Akasa Intros Galileo ST Fanless Mini-STX package, which is designed for CPUs with a TDP of up to 35W. At the embedded world 2018, iesy presented the world's first embedded 5×5 system with COM Express Type 7 modules and housing. The solution is being developed in close cooperation with congatec. The direct link between the hardware and software development teams during the design-phase was key to success as well as proof of the efficiency of both companies. Hence, the development took less than four months from idea to a finished prototype.
For Ansgar Hein, Head of Innovation & Communication at iesy, embedded mini-STX is the logical evolution of the popular embedded NUC™ standard: "Both in terms of space and performance, we have reached the limits for embedded NUC. Here, embedded 5×5 offers significantly more options, especially for Industry 4.0 applications." Furhter to this, Hein sees a possible standardization under the leadership of SGeT e.V. "With congatec and iesy, two founding members of the SGeT have jointly launched the project. We would like to share our experience with other SGeT members to define and establish a new standard for embedded systems."
With the release of the first COM Express Type 7 modules in the autumn of 2016, the foundation stone was laid for the successful cooperation between congatec and iesy in the development of powerful server systems. In the meantime, with the embedded 5×5 board and three other design concepts, a total of four solution blueprints for COM Express Type 7 are available, from the Basic-Size Board (95mm × 125mm) to the 19-inch QuadServer for high-end applications on the shop floor.