Military Embedded Systems



November 12, 2014

Ronen Isaac


ETHERNET EVERYWHERE BLOG: This is a first in a series of blogs covering the latest and greatest information surrounding Ethernet. However, I thought I’d start out the first blog answering the question “Why Ethernet?" and then, I’ll proceed through a series discussing the latest innovations, standards, and applications.

Let’s first discuss the drivers for a technology that can connect hundreds of devices to each other and back to a central compute platform. Today, there are an enormous amount of electronic devices that help military and avionics equipment carry out their mission, and even help them move.

Most manned and unmanned military aircraft use multiple sensors – visual, infrared, near-infrared - to guide them and keep them from harm’s way while in the air. For purposes of a mission, these aircraft will also carry radiation, biological, and chemical sensors along with multiple visual cameras, short-range radios, satellite, radar, and other tactical communications devices to reach back to centralized command.

For next-generation giants like armored vehicles and trucks, Ethernet will be a key technology of the network that will not only enhance the survivability of the soldiers, but enhance the survivability of the these vehicles that will be used for infantry combat, command, reconnaissance, and armored utility applications.

And finally, let’s not forget unmanned ground vehicles and robots that are becoming a key battle zone partner to help keep our soldiers out of harm’s way. Armed Robotic Vehicles (ARV) are capable of improvised explosive device (IED) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), reconnaissance, communications, CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive)/hazmat, security, heavy lift, defense, and rescue missions.

So, why Ethernet?

Ethernet is the well-established standard in government, enterprise, and home applications. Due to proven interoperability, reliability, and speed and flexibility it is rapidly becoming the standard for military and other rugged applications. Historically, dedicated bus architectures have been used in military applications, resulting in heavy and somewhat inflexible systems.

Ethernet has been shown as a viable alternative for a number of reasons:

Ethernet and IP technologies are ubiquitous-since being developed in 1973 and then making it way the IEEE for industry standardization. It is everywhere -- from cars, to home computing devices, to business-class servers, to data centers, to the backbone of the Internet. Ethernet is now the industry standard for connecting devices that must share data.

Ethernet devices are inherently interoperable which encourages modularity. Historically, dedicated bus architectures have been used in military applications, resulting in heavy and somewhat inflexible systems. The ability to break down systems to the component level, enables flexibility to create customized configurations. All of these components can now “talk” to each other via Ethernet so you only have to pay for and support the components your system requires.

Rugged commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components are readily available. Ruggedized, mil-spec versions of sensors, cameras, compute platforms, laptops, storage devices, Ethernet switches, routers and much more are now all available in COTS platforms. They all communicate to each other via Ethernet and there is no customization needed for most military applications. This speeds time to market, reduces expenditures on customized solutions and created flexible solutions to meet almost any requirement.

Ethernet continues to receive large technology investments. As I mentioned earlier, you can even find Ethernet as a standard feature in cars now. Never mind that the world’s largest service providers depend on Ethernet to run our Internet and phone services. Everybody depends on Ethernet, it’s a standard that isn’t going away and it continues to be further in terms of speed, ease of use and interoperability. The Ethernet Alliance is a global consortium of system and component vendors, industry experts, and university and government professionals who are committed to the success and expansion of Ethernet technology.

Ethernet operates over world-spanning distances using established infrastructures. No matter where you turn, Ethernet is pervasive in the day-to-day lives of citizens all of the world. Ethernet has enabled us to make phone calls to China with no more than a 20 second delay. Data now travels at the speed of light thanks to fiber optics and 100 GbE technology. And it all interoperates with devices that have been in data centers for the last 5-10 years. That’s the beauty of an established standard. After 30 years of continuous innovation, it still has backwards compatibility.

It’s an exciting time for military embedded and non-embedded systems. Government mandates for COTS and standardization brings us one step closer to delivering the same commercial applications adoption rate to military applications that will enable up to protect and save lives.


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