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RapidIO Reaches for the Clouds

October 15, 2013

Author: 3

RapidIO is a leading interconnect in wireless base stations and is deployed in other embedded applications such as imaging and defense. Despite offering advantages over Ethernet and PCI Express (PCIe), RapidIO has been unable to move beyond its traditional base to attain broader adoption and the associated super-high volume. The RapidIO Trade Association (RTA) aims to change that situation with a new initiative targeting cloud computing and data centers.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the low-key nature of RapidIO is that its most recent specification (Gen2) has not changed since 2008, whereas the industry has evolved rapidly. Under its new leadership, the RTA is moving quickly to develop Gen3 and Gen4 standards. Gen3 specifies a data rate of 10Gbps; Gen4 will increase the data rate to 25Gbps.

The RTA created its Data Center Compute and Networking (DCCN) task group to develop collateral for data-center applications. In phase one, the DCCN aims to deliver a CPU-agnostic RapidIO motherboard and reference design by the end of 2013. Phase two involves optimizing the board for cost, density, and power. We expect the phase-two boards to be available in 2014. Boards from both phases will use industry-standard form factors.

RapidIO can ride on the back of ARM processors from Freescale, LSI, and Texas Instruments (TI) that target data-center applications. The RTA, however, will need to stay on top of the ARM-processor camp if it is to be included or remain a native port on ARM processors from AMD, Applied Micro, Calxeda, and Cavium. If ARM achieves success in the data center, RapidIO should then have an opening. More than anything else, however, decisions by mega-data-center operators will dictate the fate of RapidIO in cloud computing.

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