The Intel® Xeon® D Processor in High Performance Embedded Computing

This presentation from X-ES, originally given as a webinar on March 29th, 2016 by Senior Design Engineer Nickolas Moser, covers X-ES’ capabilities for designing rugged hardware, X-ES SecureCOTS™ technology and how it aligns with industry needs, and highlights current Intel® Xeon® D product offerings available from X-ES on our 3U VPX and 6U VPX Single Board Computers.

The following is a transcript of Nickolas Moser’s presentation.

Slide Two

Intel® Xeon® D is the first processor of its kind designed for the high performance embedded market where Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) are equally important to performance. Minimizing SWaP is critical with the advent of unmanned vehicles, and enables them to operate longer, thereby increasing mission capabilities.

Intel® Xeon® D is fabricated on Intel’s 14 nm process, which reduces power. Removal of gfx support often seen in the Intel® Core™ i7 series of processors leaves more chip resources dedicated to raw compute, allowing up to 16 Xeon®-class cores in a single die. By integrating the platform controller hub (also known as the Southbridge) into a single System-on-Chip (SoC) package, Intel® Xeon® D allows us as board designers room to add targeted functionality for the high performance embedded market.

Intel® has finally listened to the feedback Mil/Aero segment has been providing over the years and now offers native extended temperature support for up to 12 cores, which is necessary for the harsh environments these products are exposed to.

X-ES understands that every second counts in critical situations, which is why we leverage the Intel® Firmware Support Package (FSP) with the open source bootloader coreboot to implement our fast-boot solution. Using the XPedite7670, which I’ll discuss in more detail later, we have demonstrated two-second boot times from reset to when the operating system begins loading.

Slide Three

To overcome the environmental challenges inherent in mil/aero applications, X-ES addresses them at every phase in the design process. It starts with Class III PCB assemblies on all of our Single Board Computers, which improves reliability across temperature variations.

Mounting holes are positioned to minimize vibration effects experienced by large components, which are more prone to solder joint failures. Additionally, underfill can be added to these components to further enhance the solder joint reliability. Conformal coating is used to limit exposure to moisture in humid environments.

Finally, our innovative hybrid heatframe design optimizes thermal performance while minimizing the overall weight. This hybrid approach uses more thermally efficient copper on the critical components such as the CPU or FPGA, while leveraging lighter aluminum for the less thermally challenging areas of the board.

Slide Four

To guarantee our products will meet the demanding environmental requirements, all SBCs undergo rigorous structural and thermal qualification. All of our qualification is performed in accordance with MIL-STD-810F specifications, and adheres to the maximum levels defined in VITA 47 for 3-axis shock and vibration and temperature cycling.

Slide Five

Temperature qualification is also performed across the maximum storage and operating ranges defined in VITA 47. However, X-ES knows that it is sometimes unavoidable to introduce commercial temperature components in a design, e.g., you need all 16 cores of Xeon® D, which is not available in industrial temperature. Therefore, we analyze the bill of materials for any of these components, and if they exist we perform temperature uprating screening on each individual board before we ship to ensure proper operation across the full temp range.

X-ES understands how important this is to the military segment, so we have made significant investment in the infrastructure required to meet these challenges, including thermal chambers, shaker tables, altitude and humidity chambers, and even underfill stations.

Since we own the equipment and have capabilities to perform structural and temperature testing at our facilities, we can also easily modify our standard qualification to fit your application’s particular environmental challenges, such as operational range from -55°C up to 85°C.

Slide Six

The result of these design practices and rigorous qualification is a product that is tested and proven to operate reliably in the harshest environments on Earth—whether on land, at sea, or in flight, you can depend on X-ES when performance matters most.

Slide Seven

One final aspect that is important to rugged designs intended for long-life applications is tin whisker mitigation. Tin whiskers are tiny, sometimes microscopic, growths of tin which can cause failures if they short two conductors. They have been attributed to some potentially dangerous failures such as a shut-off event that occurred at the US Millstone nuclear plant in 2005. To address this serious concern, X-ES implements a tin whisker mitigation plan on all SBCs that includes:

  • Selecting component finishes that avoid tin whisker growth
  • Used a leaded Class III solder process, which includes re-balling lead-free BGA-style components with leaded solder
  • Special conformal coatings can be selected to help mitigate tin whiskers

Slide Eight

Some years back, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued directives to help limit exposure to the ever-changing cybersecurity threats we increasingly face. The goal was to prevent or significantly delay the exploitation of CPI (Critical Program Information) so that the military can maintain tactical advantage in the field. In order to meet these requirements, they must be accounted for throughout all levels of the design process. In response to these directives, X-ES developed SecureCOTS™ technology.

SecureCOTs™ is a design methodology providing the necessary hooks and features to implement multi-layered data protection. By integrating FPGAs with Intel® Xeon® D CPUs, you can leverage the enhanced security features of each to help meet stringent anti-tamper, information assurance, and cybersecurity requirements.

Slide Nine

SecureCOTS™ technology protects your critical data by reducing exposure to physical attacks and information extraction by encapsulating sensitive components, limiting access to test/debug interfaces and sensitive signals, and offering the ability to store critical data encrypted.

Encryption capabilities provided by the FPGA can authenticate using unique keys, so you know the data being interpreted or code being executed came from a trusted source. This is paramount to establishing a root of trust.

Since the FPGA has access to the critical interfaces, it can detect and monitor data buses for informational attacks. On-board environmental sensors can also be monitored to detect a physical attack, such as voltage sensors detecting out-of-tolerance power rails.

The FPGA, coupled with your IP, enables you to implement a customized response to various threats, including sanitizing memory, or securely erasing or declassifying on board storage.

Slide Ten

The XPedite7670 is our flagship 3U VPX product featuring the Intel® Xeon® D processor. It is currently with up to 16 GB of DDR4-2133 ECC SDRAM in two channels, but is designed to support up to 32 GB once the newer memory components become readily available.

It uses Gen3 PCI Express on dataplane in an OpenVPX™-compliant profile for high-bandwidth system level interconnect. The Intel® Xeon® D’s Non-Transparent Bridge is on this interface as well, allowing multiple CPUs to connect without the need for an external switch. This can significantly reduce size and power in SWaP constrained systems.

Now, as I transition to our next product, the XPedite7672, look at the photo of the board and notice the similarities in the upper half of the board.

Slide Eleven

The similarities are due to our assembly line design process. By condensing the core CPU subsystem into a compact, rugged, reusable block, X-ES can reserve space in the design to implement your applications unique features.

So in the case of the XPedite7672, we used this space to add our SecureCOTS™ technology using the Microsemi SmartFusion®2 security SoC, which has an embedded processor coupled with FPGA fabric. This product offers the same core set of features as the XPedite7670 and is effectively pinout compatible. They both leverage the native 10GbE on the control plane to provide an easy growth path that is compatible with existing 1GbE backplanes.

Slide Twelve

Next we have the XPedite7670’s “big brother”, our 6U VPX product called XCalibur4640. It adds four more 10GbE ports, additional Gen3 PCI Express fabrics, and is currently available with up to 32 GB of DDR4-2133 ECC SDRAM in two channels.

Two XMC/PMC sites are provided with full I/O being routed to the backplane, making it ideal for expanding capabilities by hosting COTS or even your own custom mezzanines. A VITA 46.11 Tier 2-compliant IPMC is provided for system management as well, making it an excellent choice for a general processing node with high bandwidth system interconnect.

Again, notice the open space on the right half of the board, reserved for customization as we transition to the XCalibur4643.

Slide Thirteen

Our next product, the XCalibur4643, fills that space with a Xilinx Kintex UltraScale FPGA to implement our SecureCOTS™ technology. The Kintex Ultrascale was chosen for its low-power yet high-performance DSP capabilities, making it ideal for radar or sonar processing and signals intelligence applications.

It also shows the use of VITA 61 XMC connectors, which are more rugged XMC connectors with better characteristics for high-speed signaling. These XMC connectors are available as a build option on all of the X-ES Intel® Xeon® D single board computers.

Finally, take note of the mounting holes in the memory array next to the FPGA on the right and the Intel® Xeon® D on the left. This exemplifies how X-ES designs to meet the ruggedization challenges from the very beginning of the design process.

Slide Fourteen

All of these Intel® Xeon® D products I just introduced are 100% designed, manufactured, and tested in the US, a fact we are proud of — and a fact that not all our competitors today can claim. You can learn more about these products and more by visiting our website at where you’ll find detailed block diagrams and datasheets, or by contacting our knowledgeable sales team.

However, if these products aren’t exactly what your application requires, whether it’s minor I/O changes such as 1553, ARINC 429, avionics-level GPIO, etc., or perhaps the use of a specific FPGA, or even a fully custom form factor, our assembly line design process allows X-ES to rapidly modify these COTS products to meet your needs, and we’ll do so faster than the competition.

So with that in mind, you can depend on X-ES for your high-performance embedded computing needs.

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