As system designers strive for higher levels of speed, bandwidth, and performance in embedded systems, traditional intrasystem interconnect structures based on hierarchical buses have begun to fall short in their ability to provide the necessary functions. Despite the application of novel techniques to further exploit bus-based approaches, the resulting complexity and need to balance competing design issues have limited their broad applicability.

The increasing use of high-bandwidth smart peripherals, as well as the advantages of direct communications between various system devices and elements, has brought bus-based interconnect technologies under further scrutiny.

To combat the inadequacies of traditional interconnect structures that have risen from the modern requirements of embedded system designers, several switch fabric technologies have come into play—each vying for its own foothold in the market.

Although there are over 60 switch fabrics currently documented, with several more anticipated to show up on the scene, there are only a few that utilize an open architecture platform, thereby making them available to the broadest number of users and increasing their chances of utilization in the marketplace.

Here, we’ll examine some of the most widely adopted open architecture fabrics to provide an overview and comparison of each, then we’ll focus on some recent developments to RapidIO, one of the leading open architecture switch fabrics.

Reprinted with permission from Embedded Computing Design/Spring 2004. Article © OpenSystems Publishing.