Intel Atom SBC from Diamond Systems renews interest in stackable architectures

Diamond Systems, a supplier of ruggedised single board computers (sbcs) and expansion modules for real world applications, has the Aurora single board computer as a 'technological breakthrough' in small form factor (sff) embedded computing.

Featuring the 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor from Intel, Aurora combines US-based rugged design know-how with advanced manufacturing process techniques to achieve a rich feature set in the 3.6x3.8in PC/104 form factor. Aurora uses a thermal design to reduce size, weight and power and cost compared to legacy VME and PC/104 SBCs. It combines the 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor with SODIMM RAM up to 2GB, Gigabit Ethernet, USB Flashdisk, Serial ATA (SATA), four RS-232 serial ports (two with RS-422/485 capability), four USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, and both SUMIT-A and PC/104 ISA bus expansion. Prior to Aurora, this feature set was typically accomplished by two board stacks or sbcs with 'wings' (form factor excursions). It is designed to save power by operating off a single low voltage 5V input, but still allows i/o customisation in the form of a plug-in SUMIT module. Diamond supports Windows Embedded Standard and Linux 2.6 operating systems. Rugged features include -40 to 71oC operation and a new SO-DIMM solution with optional mounting holes for ruggedness. Diamond's rugged RAM offering will be manufactured by multiple embedded suppliers. The on-board SATA connector interfaces to SSDs with short 3in latching cables and no need for external SATA convertor. Diamond chose to convert IDE (PATA) to SATA on board since IDE drives are EOL and SSDs are at risk of higher prices and shorter lifecycle compared to 2.5in SATA SSDs. Conduction cooling is suitable for sealed (waterproof / dustproof) metal enclosures in order to prevent thermal runaway and maximise the reliability and longevity of electronics. Aurora packs a 1.6GHz Atom CPU, graphics, networking, a full set of i/o ports, heatspreader, and both SUMIT-A and PC/104 expandability into a compact footprint. Suitable as a basic x86 controller for a range of applications. SUMIT-A is a space efficient interface for PCI Express x1, USB, LPC and I2C buses. The combination of SUMIT and PC/104 expansion interfaces is on a growth trajectory to support the largest overall ecosystem of stackable i/o cards, as PCI chips are becoming EOL in favor of PCI Express chips. System OEMs who use PC/104 I/O cards can now continue to use such cards without having to increase their stack height with a bridge card, or completely re-engineer their software and stack for PCI-based i/o cards. Supported operating systems currently include Windows XP and Linux 2.6, with support for additional OSes and RTOSes (real-time OSes) available on request.