When your life depends on it …

10 April 2018

In pubs and bars around the world, a question you’ll often hear is: “If your life depended on it, who would your trust to … ?”

Inevitably, over a beer or two, the question is likely to become sport-related, morphing into “Who would you trust to hit a home run from a single pitch?” or “Who would you trust to score a penalty with the last kick in the soccer World cup final ? The obvious answers are duly trotted out - Albert Pujols or Lionel Messi, for example - but it really would be quite a chance you were taking to rely entirely on either, if your life really depended on it!

For those of us involved in supplying equipment that really can impact the safety of the people using it in what are often real life-or-death situations, we need to be looking for solutions that take the element of chance out of the equation.

Totally predictable

For a totally predictable computing system, both the hardware and software need to contribute to its real time behavior. For software, there are well established vendors of real time operating systems who tend to dominate the defense and aerospace industry and users can pick their favorite, knowing they can rely on the outcome.

But from a hardware perspective, users have had to take into account that some computer chips actually start to limit their performance at high temperatures to protect themselves from overheating. In Intel devices particularly, this feature can’t be disabled and the processors throttle their clock speed back when they get to their pre-set thermal limit – which again isn’t adjustable.

One way of dealing with this unpredictable clock speed is to set the clock speed at a realistic minimum for the application - which means that the CPU will never reach its throttling threshold providing it stays within in the specified operating temperature range. This works well - but it does constrain the operation of the product at all temperatures, not just at the high end.

A better approach

At Abaco, we’ve now created a better approach – which is to improve the thermal solution embedded within the product to such an extent that the full clock speed is never throttled, even at the highest temperature. We’ve just announced that our latest single board computer guarantees its maximum rated performance right across the temperature range from -40 to +75C.

This has been made possible by using space grade technology to move heat away from the CPU and deposit it at the card edge, where it can move out through the cooling system. The first product this is deployed on is the 3U VPX SBC347D SBC which offers a 45W Xeon D with 12 CPU cores operating at 1.5GHz.

It really is a product you could rely on when your life depends on it …..

Richard Kirk

Richard graduated from the University of Manchester in 1984 with a BSc degree in Physics, and followed that in 1998 with an MBA from the Open Business School. In the interim, he’d joined Plessey Optoelectronics, part of one of the UK’s most venerable technology companies. He joined Radstone, located in Towcester, UK—subsequently acquired by GE—in 1999, and now has worldwide responsibility within Abaco's business as Director, Core Computing.