Over the past 18 months I have asked a question multiple times that I know many customers have been asking as well and that remains unanswered, at least definitively: When will PICMG release a new smaller version of the COM Express standard?
This will allow for smaller, more compact, and lower power COM modules that also conform to an industry standard. Something that customers have been demanding for some time and that vendors have been providing, albeit through smaller but also proprietary COM designs that have been marketed as closely tied to their true COM Express products, but that don’t actually met any official standard. Mostly because one does not exist. I also know that there has been a PICMG working group working on a COM Express extension that will allow for smaller COM Express modules, but nothing has been released to date.
I believe the time is well past due for this new standard. As every supplier continues to offer their own proprietary design(s) for a smaller COM Express form factor it will have a “fracturing” effect on the market that could cause customer confusion and hurt the entire market. Customers might begin to defer decisions because they do not want to bet on the wrong technology or design. The fear of selecting a form factor that may disappear in two or three years time because it is not an industry standard and therefore at the mercy and whim of the single supplier has a paralyzing effect on customers.
The COMs market has been here before. When COMs were first offered by suppliers there was a large number of competing “standards” such as DIMM-PC, SOM-144, ETX, and COM Express. This delayed the rapid growth of this market as it caused a lot of customer confusion. It took about a good 30+ months for any of these to gain enough momentum over the others to become a de-facto industry standard that gave customers enough confidence to make a selection and allow growth to take off. A lot of progress has been made since those early days and it has left us with two major COMs standards – ETX and COM Express. COM Express is clearly the path to the future in higher bandwidth applications, so it would be a shame to see this progress reversed as we wait for a smaller form factor version of the COM Express standard. VDC would love to see PICMG release such an extension to the COM Express standard in early 2010. This is a vital step for the market as a whole.