cPCI Backplanes / CompactPCI Serial Backplanes

CompactPCI Backplanes (cPCI Backplane) are robust interfaces used in embedded computing systems, featuring a parallel bus structure ideal for defense applications. In defense scenarios, cPCI Backplanes are pivotal due to their reliability and durability under extreme conditions, facilitating critical functions in avionics, radar systems, and military communications. These backplanes support hot-swappable modules, enabling quick maintenance and upgrades, and minimizing system downtime. Standardized architecture ensures interoperability, which enhances flexibility and efficiency in mission-critical operations.
Overview cPCI Backplanes / CompactPCI Serial Backplanes
By Mike Ball Last updated: May 15th, 2024

CompactPCI or cPCI backplanes provide a method of physically and electrically connecting together multiple devices such as plugin cards and modules with additional memory, I/O, peripherals and other devices, according to a defined standard that was designed to use Eurocard form factors and PCI signalling and protocols.

cPCI backplanes have become more common in military applications, enabling defense OEMs and systems integrators to take advantage of a wide variety of existing COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware from multiple vendors without needing to spend time and resources developing bespoke solutions.

Conformal coatings to protect components, enhanced shock and vibration resistance, and thermal management features such as conduction cooling that allows excess heat to be transferred to the chassis, are all ruggedization techniques that can be employed to enable cPCI backplabes to withstand harsh and demanding battlefield environments.

3U & 6U cPCI Form Factors

CompactPCI backplanes are designed to accept cards that are either 3U or 6U in width. While both form factors are found in military systems, 3U boards may be more suitable for certain applications, as their smaller size allows them to better resist shock and vibration.

Up to eight boards can be connected together on a backplane in a segment, and multiple segments can be connected together via a bridge. Some backplanes provide a hybrid design that features cPCI slots as well as other form factors such as VPX or WME, allowing for a more versatile approach to designing military computing systems.

CompactPCI Serial

An upgraded version of the CompactPCI standard, known as CompactPCI Serial, has also been developed. This design update replaces CompactPCI’s parallel data bus with high-speed serial interconnects.

These upgraded capabilities are advantageous for a number of military applications, especially those that require large-scale data processing and real-time performance such as ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), sensor fusion, and tactical communications.