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Building highly parallel rugged computers for electronic warfare

Electronic warfare (EW) systems are among the most challenging embedded systems to design and deploy. Not only do they require voracious amounts of signal processing, they also require more mundane server-style processing (for signal library maintenance, data logging, etc.) and are often packaged in extremely size, weight, and power (SWaP)-constrained environments such as under wing pods.

As a result, advanced EW systems can benefit from consolidating workloads on a single machine with the means to efficiently execute these two very different processing problems using parallel virtual machine (VM) execution. Modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) 3U VPX boards based on Intel server-class processors are a compelling option for these sorts of systems.

Each generation of EW systems increases the demands for high-performance processing and

Mark Littlefield, Kontron

increasingly larger bandwidth for both streaming data in and out of the system as well as for interprocessor communications. Military systems designers face an ever-growing need to meet escalating requirements and provide platforms that can be packaged and deployed in harsh environments.

Furthermore, proprietary systems no longer make sense from an engineering resource, budget, and deployment schedule perspective. Facing the limitations of tightening budgets, defense OEMs must find a way to cost-effectively meet the mounting data throughput and processing needs of these systems. A key way the market has curbed costs is to move from closed, proprietary solutions to open-standard COTS solutions in smaller form factors that are durable and reliable.

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