Credit card-sized controller AMD Ryzen Embedded Processor

The AMD Ryzen Embedded processor has already been made available on several COM Express Basic and COM Express Compact Computer-on-Modules. Going a step further, Emerson Automation Solutions has now shrunk the footprint, making the flagship Embedded processor available on the credit card-sized COM Express Mini form factor for extremely space-constrained high-performance machine controllers.

By Peter Missel, Principal Engineer High Performance Computing at Emerson Automation Solutions, ICC Intelligent Platforms

AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 Series processor technology is recognised throughout the embedded computing space as a flagship microarchitecture for many embedded, industrial, and IIoT applications.

This SoC solution seamlessly integrates the ‘Zen’ CPU and ‘Vega’ GPU architectures, combining up to 3.61 TFLOPS discrete-GPU caliber graphics with ultimate computing performance. Overall improvements include an IPC uplift of 52% on the CPU and throughput/clock improvements of 200% on the GPU compared to predecessor platforms, as well as a competitive price edge over alternative options[i].

Moreover, the AMD Ryzen Embedded processor family also supports a wide range of thermal design profiles (TDPs) – with embedded processors that can scale down to as low as 6 W, helping designers achieve optimal performance per watt, and minimising thermal constraints. Such low-power processors can also enable fanless and ventless system designs that prevent debris and particle ingress in harsh industrial environments, improving overall system reliability.

But on the low-power level, performance improvements are not always the major reason why industrial designers are utilising new processor technologies. Industrial designers are more attracted to the IIoT capabilities of the new platform, which are highly demanded throughout the industrial control market today.

Here, improvements have been achieved within the latest processor launches, empowering industrial edge computing to reach deeper into the industrial field than ever before. With edge computing, previously separated tasks like IIoT connectivity, visualisation and real-time machine control can be consolidated on one single system. This means that security becomes a major task for such systems. The latest AMD low-power technology offers designers multiple new features in this respect.

AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 Series processors  feature several security features, including an independent on-chip AMD Secure Processor designed to enable secure Hardware Validated Boot capabilities that help ensure systems are only booting from trusted software, advanced capabilities including Secure Memory Encryption (SME) for defending against unauthorised memory access, and Secure Encrypted Virtualisation (SEV) for securely isolating hypervisors and virtual machines (VMs).

Additionally, the AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 Series processor family provides a One Time Programmable (OTP) capability, allowing customers to manage their own encryption keys. Overall, applications therefore benefit from significantly increased security off-the-shelf.

All this can now be utilised on a dual- or quad-core platform where engineers can separate real-time tasks from IIoT cloud connectivity and even run different OSes by leveraging hypervisor technologies. This opens the opportunity to let the real-time application act autonomously and deterministically as in the past, while the edge computing tasks are executed in parallel on the same hardware platform without disturbing real-time control. Emerson Automation Solutions supports the RTS Hypervisor from Real Time Systems for this purpose. OEMs utilising such a hypervisor can consolidate multiple tasks on a single platform and operate a real-time OS even if the GUI or internet connectivity needs to be re-booted.

This saves costs for external gateways and ensures that deterministic solutions operate most reliably even when connected. Separating the tasks in individual virtual machines also makes the software engineering less complex and more flexible as the components can communicate via virtual channels, similar to the communication between discrete systems.

Offering all these features on an application-ready Computer-on-Module that is standardised by the PICMG’s COM Express specification opens many design-in benefits for system engineers compared to a full custom design. Computer-on-Module architectures separate the underlying carrier board from the processor, making it easier to upgrade the modules to the latest technology than with full custom process logic controller (PLC) solutions.

This approach extends the useful life of a subsystem by allowing the simple, cost-effective upgrade of just the processor, helping reduce long-term cost of ownership while allowing to keep pace with changing performance needs. And in view of the rising IIoT connectivity and machine-to-machine communications demands, the performance needs are drastically increasing as it makes a lot of sense to store data in the various edge clouds today.

Under these circumstances, the capability to update an existing system by simply swapping the module is a highly convenient solution that reduces overall design cycle and validation requirements to lower the total cost of ownership.

Besides the general benefits inherent to Computer-on-Modules, the new platform also convinces with its rugged design, offering durability even when exposed to extreme environmental conditions, shocks and vibrations. This makes the systems ideal for OEMs designing computing platforms into equipment for industrial or harsh environments.

The onboard components are specifically selected for their reliability in demanding conditions. One key requirement in this context is thermal performance. Here, the new COM Express Mini design supports an extended temperature range from ‑40 to +85°C. This not only allows the design of completely sealed systems for extreme environments, but also helps to improve system performance, as CPU and GPU keep their full frequency range and thus full performance level even in higher temperatures. To simplify the design-in, the platform also offers pre-mounted heat sinks/spreaders for optimal cooling and a standardised mechanical footprint according to the COM Express specification.

Moreover, the processor and memory are directly soldered to the PCB for maximum resistance to shock and vibration. This rugged mechanical construction protects the modules, and optional conformal coating provides even greater resistance to moisture, dust, chemicals and temperature extremes. In applications such as beverage plants, where systems may be exposed to vapors and liquids, or in medical environments, where caustic solvents may be used for antiseptic cleaning, rugged boards are more important than ever.

In some instances, the boards are built into portable devices that may be dropped, such as in a hospital setting where they are carried from room to room. The new modules are built to withstand drops of 1.5 meters onto concrete floors, which a non-ruggedised device is unlikely to survive. Because they are rugged and reliable, downtime is kept to a minimum.

The new COM Express Mini Computer-on-Module mCOM10-L1900 is available in three different configurations, featuring the high-performance AMD V1605B quad-core processor with up to 3.6GHz or the 3.2 GHz dual-core AMD V1202B processor for the standard temperature range from zero to +65°C. For extreme demands, customers can also choose the quad-core module with the AMD V1404I processor, offering up to 3.6GHz performance in the extended temperature range from -40 up to +85°C. All variants offer a configurable TDP from 12 to 25W. Operating humidity levels can range from ten to 90%.

All modules feature up to 16 GB of DDR4-2400 soldered memory, optionally with ECC for mission-critical applications. Displays powered by the integrated AMD Vega graphics with up to eight compute units can be connected via DisplayPort++ and eDP. The Gigabit Ethernet port supports secure remote out-of-band management via DASH, the desktop and mobile architecture for system hardware. In terms of I/Os, the mCOM10-L1900 modules offer four PCI Express 3.0 ports, seven USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports as well as eight GPIO ports or an SD-card interface.

Rugged SSDs or cost-efficient hard drives can be connected via 2x SATA Gen 3.0. The extreme ruggedness, flexible interfaces and standard COM Express Mini form factor enable Emerson Automation Solutions to address a broader range of embedded environments including industrial automation, test and measurement, security, transportation and medical, where the new credit card sized Computer-on-Module helps end users to be more productive, manage resources better and improve quality.

For intercompany customers, the new COM Express Mini modules will be used in Emerson’s controller systems, helping them move away from more basic PLCs. The company offers these modules for instance in its PACSystems RX3i line as a central engine for its automation control systems, and in their line of industrial PCs.

This intercompany utilisation also builds a solid basis for the long-term availability of the module for other customers and ensures that services required for highest reliability in comprehensively IIoT connected environments are always kept up to date. So why use a larger module if the AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 is available on an application-ready credit card sized COM Express Mini module?

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