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Rugged Computers Look To The Data Center

Virtual-machine technology, fast interconnects, innovative thermal-management techniques, and modular architectures bring data-center power to embedded computing.

Originally Published in the January Issue of MILITARY & AEROSPACE ELECTRONICS

MILITARY & AEROSPACE ELECTRONICS, VOL. 27, NO. 1, January, 2016 – Sometimes even more exotic thermal-management techniques are necessary, including refrigeration in which chassis are air-conditioned. Designers at General Micro Systems (GMS) in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., are taking an entirely different approach with RuggedCool computers.

GMS engineers are using the full server-class Intel Xeon processor in the RuggedCool line which can generate heat as high as 135 watts, explains Ben Sharfi, CEO of General Micro Systems. “Cooling of the processor gets significantly more difficult when you deal with 135-watt processors,” Sharfi says.

GMS designers use a thermal management technique that mounts the processor to a copper plate, and floats the copper plate and processor in a tub of liquid silver. “The heat from the processor dissipates through the copper plate, which is suspended in a liquid-silver chamber,” Sharfi says. “The silver melts and makes a perfect-thickness media, and next to gold, silver is the best thing for transferring heat.”

An added benefit of this approach is the processor’s ability to withstand the effects of shock and vibration. “Our shock resistance jumps up to 160 Gs because the processor is never touching the case,” Sharfi says.

S2U front exploded view

Moving away from standards
With all its benefits, there’s a price to be paid for such a design, and the biggest one is the cost. “It is very expensive and very messy,” Sharfi says. In addition, the RuggedCool approach represents a custom design, which many call into question in this era of open-systems standards.

A move away from open-systems standards is fine with Sharfi. “There are no standards in today’s market in any platform,” Sharfi declares. “There is no interchangeable standard that anybody can claim that is in the market today. It isn’t VPX; VME was the last platform that did that. No two manufacturers use the same number of pinouts and lanes for VPX; the only standard is where the power pins are. Everything is custom; it’s a single-manufacturer architecture.”

January, 2016

By John Keller

Editor, Military & Aerospace Magazine