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Computer-on-module market set to explode, says VDC

Nov 15, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 9 views

VDC says the global COM (computer on module) market will grow from $380 million in 2010 to $883 million by 2015. The market for associated carrier boards will explode from 52.6 million to $212.5 million during the same time period, the research firm adds.

COMs — sometimes also referred to system-on-modules (SOMs) or just "modules" — are the building blocks of the embedded world. Generally smaller and simpler than single board computers (SBCs), COMs offer few "real world" ports, instead serving their interfaces up via specialized connectors designed to snap onto a carrier board. The idea is that system designers can use an off-the-shelf carrier to create a device, then later retain the module as a basis for their own custom hardware.

As part of its 2011 Embedded Hardware & Systems report, VDC Research has carved out some COM statistics that show a promising future for the segment. The global COM market will grow from $380 million in 2010 to $883 million by 2015, projects the research firm.

Global COM and merchant COM carrier revenues in millions of dollars, 2010-2015
Source: VDC Research

Off-the-shelf carrier boards — called "merchant COM carriers" by VDC — should grow from a 52.6 million market in 2010 to $212.5 million in 2015, says the research firm. This 32 percent projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for COM carrier boards during that five-year span "represents one of the fastest growing embedded technology segments," says the research firm.

Worldwide combined spending income for COMs and merchant COM carriers is projected to reach nearly $1.1 billion by 2015. During that five-year period, combined spending will grow at a CAGR of 20.4 percent, says VDC.

Trends in the COM and COM carrier market through 2015 include the move toward Kontron's nanoETXexpress format, as well as other smaller COM Express variants, says VDC. COM sales will be driven in part by the growth in GUI displays, thermal controls, and security features such as encryption in embedded devices, says the research firm.

In its predictions for the 2011 embedded market released last December, VDC Research projected big growth for the COM market. By combining COM Express modules with off-the-shelf COMs, suppliers can offer several different configurations of CPU boards and leverage COMs' interchangeable characteristics, the research firm explained at the time. As a result, CPU vendors can thus offer a fairly wide range of boards without incurring high design and inventory carrying costs, said the firm.

Mezzanine cards growing at slower rate

In its latest report, VDC also published projections for mezzanine cards and other "non-intelligent" carrier cards. Although not defined here, the mezzanine category would appear to include PCI Mezzanine Cards (PMCs) and larger Advanced Mezzanine Cards (AMCs), which are added to AdvancedTCA (ATCA) telecom equipment.

Mezzanine cards and non-intelligent carriers by region in percent of dollar volume shipments, in 2010 (left) and 2013 (right)
Source: VDC Research

Mezzanine cards and "non-intelligent" carrier cards will represent a combined $367 million in global spending by 2015, at a CAGR of 9.65 percent, says the research firm. As shown in the regional sales chart above, regional share will stay largely the same, although the Americas market will lose share both to Europe and Asian regions, with APAC growing the fastest.

Nevertheless, total U.S. volume shipments in these categories will rise from $232 million in 2010 to $323.4 million in 2013, says the research firm.

Trends that span COMs, COM carriers, mezzanine cards, and non-intelligent carrier cards, include increases in computational power, as well as reductions in power consumption and size, says VDC. There will also be a continuing transition from single-core and discrete multiprocessor designs to multicore-based modules and cards.

Embedded board ecoysystem
Source: VDC Research
(Click to enlarge)

Trends in the overall embedded market covered in VDC's 2011 Embedded Hardware & Systems report include the following:

  • Linux and FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) are redefining embedded market growth requirements
  • smart grids are creating new opportunities for embedded processors
  • SBCs are enabling next-generation computing for military/aerospace applications
  • new project starts and sustained unit shipments will maintain embedded market growth in 2012


More information on VDC's 2011 Embedded Hardware & Systems report may be found on this VDC Embedded Hardware Practice web page.

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