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Tiny yet powerful SBC runs embedded Linux

Mar 8, 2004 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

VMEbus and CompactPCI specialist General Micro Systems (GMS) has released a single-board computer (SBC) that supports Linux and measures just 2.8 x 1.9 inches. GMS says its “Spider” SBC is based on an IBM PowerPC chip running either 400 or 800 MHz, and targets distributed control, telecom server blades, handhelds, and… military/aerospace applications.

(Click for larger view of the Spider SBC)

The Spider comes in two models: The P501 is a a low-power version — GMS claims 4 watts — based on IBM's 400-MHz 440GP. The P502 is a high-performance version based on IBM's 800-MHz PowerPC 440GX.

Both Spider models come with two Ethernet ports (10/100 Base-TX for the P501; Gigabit Ethernet for the P502), 256 kbytes of L2 cache, up to 256 Mbytes of DDR SDRAM, 16 Mbytes of boot/user flash, and 32 kbytes of user ID flash. They also provide two serial ports, an I2C port, a real-time clock (with field-replaceable battery), and a 32-bit Device-bus with DMA, “which enables designers to add their own custom I/O without a PCI interface,” according to GMS.

As with most small SBCs, I/O interfaces are provided through external boards that increase the system size somewhat. GMS offers an “LimI/O-1” module that provides 15 digital I/O lines, three of which can drive high-current loads like large DC relays/lamps; two RJ-45 ports for Fast or Gigabit Ethernet; one RJ-11 port (for RS-232); one RS485 serial port; an I2C port; and a memory socket for up to one Gbyte of additional mass storage. Other LimI/O modules under development include FPGA I/O, 802.11g wireless Ethernet, and LVDS I/O.

GMS Spider with I/O module
(Click to enlarge)

The Spider modules use a “share nothing” approach that enables them to function as standalone systems, adding robustness to multi-processor blade server environments, GMS claims. The company also believes the small form factor can simplify cabling, by enabling designers to locate autonomous decision-making closer to the point of control.

Spider modules consume 300 mA at 3.3 VDC and 500 mA at 5-12 VDC, and can operate from ­40C to +85C, according to GMS.

Spider starts at $300 for the P501 and $400 for the P502 in OEM quantity.

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