At Logic Supply our engineers are constantly developing our product line to include customizable solutions that are cost-effective for our customers. How do we do this? We start with an off-the-shelf product and customize it to fit your application and budget. It costs less because we are not developing from scratch, we’re starting with an already existing product and working from there.
Recently, a major communications semiconductor corporation needed a system to perform internal network traffic monitoring, and came to us looking for a solution with the following requirements:
- Single-core Intel Atom CPU or better
- 2GB-4GB of RAM (max supported by CPU)
- 2x PCI Express slots (OR 1x if 4x GbE can be accommodated on the mainboard)
- 4x GbE ports (onboard or via 2nd PCI Express slot)
- Rackmount preferred
It was easy to meet the CPU and RAM requirements. However, the challenge was that any components on the bottom of the mainboard, or a tall audio port stack, can make a board incompatible with every 1U rackmount chassis. Also, the 4x GbE and PCIe can create a real challenge, as most Mini-ITX boards only have one PCI or PCI Express slot, and having more than 2x LAN ports on a board is rare.
Although their CPU requirements were minimal, Intel has intentionally limited its Atom lineup so as not to cannibalize Celeron and Pentium chips. This, unfortunately, means that they are limited to just four PCIe lanes, which eliminates them from contention, as the solution started with a requirement of a minimum of twenty PCIe lanes (4x for GbE, 16x for add-in card). Therefore, we used the Intel DQ77KB which has an x4 slot, along with the requisite PCI Express Mini Card and dual GbE ports.
Without onboard NICs, we used expansion but needed the PCIe slot for the customer’s proprietary card. Using ADMPEIDLA, Jetway’s PCI Express Mini Card, allowed us to add 2x GbE ports from the PCIe Mini Card slot.
We then needed to find a board with 2x GbE onboard, mPCIe, and a PCIe slot. After confirming with the customer that an x4 slot would be fast enough but that they needed an x16 slot for the physical connection, we added the EXP4-797-10 flexible riser card, and had our board.
The DQ77KB has onboard power. In itself, this isn’t a big deal usually, but for rackmounts it can be a bit messy with the external AC/DC brick. So, we had to work something out that would allow a standard C14 connector on the system to go straight to an AC outlet. The DQ77KB did not fit in a 1U rackmount case, so we opted to use the MK150 Expandable Rackmount Case. With a 1.5U chassis it was high enough to fit the brick inside.
In addition to fabricating the custom bracket to hold the AC/DC brick inside the case, we made a cable to adapt the DC barrel connector to the 2-pin connector on the board. This allowed the customer to plug a standard 6′ AC power cable into the back of the case without an external brick. As part of the build process, our assembly technicians block the on-board DC barrel connector with both sheet metal and stickers to prevent the unit from accidentally being powered by two sources.
So there you have your “semi-custom COTS” solution – stock motherboard, expansion card and riser, power supply, and CPU and cooler with reliable availability, short lead times, and no up-front engineering fees or minimum order quantities. The only truly custom piece is the AC/DC brick bracket, and the associated build instructions. Because Logic Supply owns the IP for the bracket, we can work with different manufacturers to scale production to meet the customer’s lead time and cash flow needs.
Although we can’t build this system on the front-end of our website because of the complex inter-dependencies of the various components, we created a custom SKU on the backend. This allows the customer to quickly and easily order the same, consistent product each time, effectively building in some additional revision control safeguards.
If you’ve got a project that you can’t find a solution for, give our Technical Sales Team a call at (802)-861-2300 ext. 1 to see what they can configure for you, or post your requirements below and we can get you started in the right direction.