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RJ-45-sized Linux server upgraded

Nov 12, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 46 views

[Updated 1:45PM] — Digi International will update its RJ-45 jack-sized Connect ME device server. Available in December with Linux cross-development tools, the Digi Connect ME 9210 offers a faster ARM9 processor and serial data rates, while adding a serial peripheral interface (SPI), I2C, and cryptography hardware.

(Click for larger view of the Digi Connect ME 9210)

The Digi Connect ME 9210 comes standard with Digi Plug-and-play firmware based on Net+OS (a version of ThreadX). However, cross-development tools based Linux 2.6.26 are also available, as is a version of the tiny module equipped with a JTAG port (see below). Earlier versions of the Connect ME modules also supported Microsoft's .NET MF, but that environment is not yet supported by the Connect ME 9210, Digi said.

The Connect ME is optionally available with a JTAG port

The Digi Connect ME 9210 is aimed at OEMs who want to network-enable small-format industrial equipment, says Digi. Specific examples include programmable logic controllers (PLCs), power distribution units (PDUs), and building environment controls.

Digi calls the new Connect ME module “interchangeable” with older Connect ME products, which share the same dimensions and pin-out on the 20-pin interface that connects the module to the host system.

The Connect ME 9250 has the same pin-out as the older Connect ME modules

Digi's older Connect ME and WiFi-enabled Digi Connect Wi-ME (pictured) modules measure 1.45 by 0.75 inches and 1.85 by 0.75 inches, respectively. The older Connect ME servers were used in products that include Veracity's TimeNet NTP reference clock server, Kleinhenz Elektronik's Picotux server, and Atmark-Techno's Armidillo-J.

Digi Connect Wi-ME
(Click for details)

The earlier Connect ME products were based on Digi's NS7520 SoC (system-on-chip), powered by an ARM7TDMI core clocked up to 55MHz. The new Connect ME systems step up to Digi's newer NS9210, based on the same ARM7TDMI core clocked up to 75MHz. The NS9210 also ships in a 150MHz version, but that option is not offered for the Connect ME module.

Pin-compatible with the older NS7520 chip, the NS9210 similarly integrates peripherals and memory controllers, programmable timers, a 13-channel DMA controller, an external bus expansion module, and 16 general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins. However, it adds a new NIST-certified AES accelerator for communications security.

Digi NS9210 processor block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

To the NS9210, the Digi Connect ME 9210 server adds 8MB RAM, and 4MB or 4MB of flash (the NET+OS version has 2MB). Real-world I/O consists of a single 8-pin 10/100 Ethernet interface brought out to a standard RJ-45 Ethernet jack. I/O available through the Connect ME module's 20-pin surface-mount connector includes SPI, I2C, GPIO, and 1-wire interfaces. Additionally, a version of the module expected to ship around the first of the year will add a CAN 2.0 interface, but omit I2C.

Digi's tiny device server is said to consume only 1.14 W under typical conditions, and to offer power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capability and power management functions. Extended lifecycle support is said to be offered for the device.

Specs listed for the Digi Connect ME 9210 are said to include:

  • Processor — 32-bit Digi NS9210 75MHz (ARM926EJ-S)
  • Security — On-chip 256-bit AES accelerator
  • Memory — 8MB SDRAM
  • Flash — 4MB or 8MB of NOR flash
  • Networking — 1 x 10/100 Ethernet
  • Expansion — Flexible Interface Modules (FIM) with 300MHz DRPIC165X CPU
  • Interfaces:
    • High-speed TTL serial
    • Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)
    • I(2)C v1.0 bus with 7- and 10-bit address modes
    • 10 x shared GPIO ports with up to 3 external IRQ options
  • Power management — modes for on-the-fly clock scaling, low power sleep, and configurable scaling/wake-up events (EIRQ, UART, Ethernet, etc.)
  • Other features — software watchdog
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 176 deg. F (-40 to 80 deg. C)
  • Power — 3.3VDC @ 346 mA; 1.14 W typical consumption
  • Operating systems — Digi Embedded Linux; NET+OS (ThreadX-based

Digi Embedded Linux

Digi offers a cross-development kit for its embedded modules and microcontrollers. Based on Kubuntu, and distributed on DVD, the kit includes an IDE based on Eclipse 3.1.2 and CDT 3.0.2. It supports C/C++ devlopment, CVS code management, and visual debugging via Ethernet.

The kit includes a reference Linux implementation for the Connect ME module. The implementation uses the open source U-Boot v1.1.4 bootloader and a 2.6.26 kernel. System components include gdb with gdbserver, uClibc, and BusyBox. Filesystem support includes Cramfs, Jffs2, NFS, and Squashfs. Drivers, C++ sample code, and documentation are also said to be provided.

Finally, a development board is offered for the Connect ME 9210 module.

Digi Connect ME 9210 development board
(Click to enlarge)


In December, Digi will ship its Digi Connect ME 9210 with Linux for $48 in quantities of 1,000. At that time it will also offer Digi Embedded Linux 4.2 and its Digi ESP IDE for $300, as well as a JumpStart Kit for Linux, complete with development board, DVD, and cables, selling at $400. More information, including links to extensive documentation on both the server and the NS9210 processor, may be found here.

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