Demand for intelligence at the edge is driving the need for sophisticated, high-efficiency computing platforms capable of video processing and edge analytics. This adds significant complexity and time-to-market for industrial, transport, and logistics engineers, who are now pressured to design, source, and manufacture complex embedded control systems.
By using modular, embedded hardware standards like COM Express and MXM, or PCIe plug-in modules outfitted with high-performance Intel® Core™ processors and Intel® Arc™ GPUs, developers can offload the design of advanced-compute modules, maintain a unified software ecosystem for streamlined application development, and acquire all the components they need from a single source.
Henk van Bremen, Head of the Modular Solutions Business Unit at ADLINK Technology, a global leader in edge computing, discusses how to leverage this approach in the design of next-generation intelligent edge controllers at embedded world 2023.
Henk van Bremen: Okay, my name is Henk van Bremen, I work for ADLINK Technology, and I’m BU head for Modular Solutions, mostly COM Express, but now also MXM.
Okay, so we deal with a lot of verticals. Actually, our product line is kind of horizontal. We deal with gaming, medical, test and measurement—all these industries that nowadays have to step up, they have to get into AI, or they have to add AI. And mostly the solution is to use GPU-based solutions to add it as a component to their existing solutions. Where we sell into is actually not super-high volumes. We’re talking about something like 1,000, 2,000 pieces per project. So the overhead of engineering for customers is enormous if they have to build systems themselves. So most of our customers are turning to modular solutions. That’s already like that for something like 15 or 20 years with COM Express, which is basically a Core i5-, Core i7-based solution. But now we also see GPU as an add-on in an MXM form factor. That means they don’t have the pressure of designing the core. They just do what they’re good in, and that’s mostly carrier boarded specific to their application, and then they plug in these modules.
Well, the good thing now is, I mean, first of all, we like multipolarity, a multipolar world. We don’t want to have one ruler in the GPU space. So we’re very excited that Intel now is entering also in the GPU space. And of course we know that, for software ecologies, it’s always better to work with a single vendor solution, both on the GPU side and on the CPU side, because we can use things like OpenVINO™ that has already been proven in the market. So it’s mostly tied into the software ecology, which becomes much more efficient if you work from one vendor. So this is typically something that, of course, we don’t sell it as a production item. The production item is the MXM module. But we provide these things to customers to have a simple prototyping system. So you can see here the Intel Alder Lake COM Express paired with the Arc MXM module. So this is a prototype system for software development. Finally, they can approve the software stack.
Customers mostly start making their own carrier boards specifically for their medical market, gaming market, or something like this; and they would buy these things off the shelf, of course, from ADLINK. So we have a special development kit that includes this whole package for customers to start playing around with and basically verifying the software. And one of the most important things right now is actually supply line. ADLINK’s core value is not that we build these products, but that we manage the whole supply line, that we have our own production centers based in Taiwan and based in Shanghai. In especially the last two years, there has been a lot of disturbance in the market. ADLINK was able to supply anyway. We will redesign for customers to keep products alive and everything like this.
We really focus on securing supply line for our bigger, Tier One customers. They can go to adlink.com, that’s our homepage. And we have a special site for selling these development kits online, where you can just simply use a credit card and get these things shipped in one or two weeks to you.