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Hardware, APIs, libraries optimize fast data-acq development platform

Posted: 11 Mar 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:vme bus board? vme? data-acq? da? pentek?

VME bus board maker and high-speed data-acq supplier Pentek Inc., is rolling out its rts2503 development platform, and SystemFlow API (application program interface) and libraries. The hardware in this system has a flat frequency response from 400kHz all the way out to 700MHz (front-panel RF inputs use Analog Devices' AD9430 data converter chips as digitizers).

Significantly, these newest RTS platforms are more or less ready-to-use hardware and software bundles that comprise board-level and system-level development tools. They're just the ticket for realtime high-bandwidth data acquisition, signal processing and fast recording applications.

For their part, Pentek's Model 4990 SystemFlow API and libraries lets users address new applications by customizing an already functioning starter RTS platform. "Out-of-the-box functions of the RTS platforms gives you a starting point for getting a system fired up and ready for application development," notes company VP Rodger Hosking. "SystemFlow then lets you quickly make the system your own."

Easier FPGA development

"Users can add an alternate user interface, realtime FPGA signal-processing algorithms, and application-specific software," says Hosking. "Because SystemFlow comes with source code and documentation, it can help you cut development time." Hosking emphasizes that SystemFlow software has a modular design that includes API libraries for a target board, as well as user-control libraries for a host PC.

Windows DLL (dynamic link library) calls are written in Visual C++, and a GUI comprises a front-end host that communicates over Ethernet with a royalty-free eCos real-time operating system on a G4 PowerPC target board to execute real-time application code. The system can also run Linux.

API libraries for both host and target include full source code, letting users modify both the platform front-end and target code. The software package also includes a data viewer, written in National Instruments' LabView. It shows display plots of collected data in either time or frequency domain. A user can use the viewer to preview data before storage or to review stored data.

Development hardware
Pentek is also rolling out the second member of its RTS Development Platform family, namely the RTS2503 Multi-Channel 215MHz real-time data acquisition, signal processing and recording system development platform. The new RTS2503 implements a multi-channel wideband data recording system that's suitable for applications such as wireless communications or radar signal capture and analysis.

Scalable to 20 channels
Pentek's system is also scalable from one or two channels (in two VMEbus slots) to 20 channels that fit within a single rack-mount chassis. Real-time streaming data flows through various high-speed interfaces, including FC (Fiber Channel), Gigabit Ethernet, RACE++, FPDP (front panel data port) and the new VXS serial fabric.

The on-board FC interface links to disk arrays for real-time wideband data acquisition using RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks), or JBOD (just a bunch of disks) storage systems.

FPGA resources
Pentek's existing GateFlow FPGA design resources also support the on-board FPGAs of the RTS2503. Tools include a GateFlow FPGA design kit for adding user-defined FPGA algorithms, and a GateFlow IP core library for doing FFTs (fast Fourier transforms). The library also includes digital receivers and radar pulse compression algorithms.

GateFlow factory installed IP (intellectual property) cores let users take immediate advantage of FPGA technologywith zero FPGA development effort.

According to company spokesman Mario Schiavone, the RTS2503 is priced at about $24,500. Add about $2,500 for the APIs, and about $5,000 more for the toolset.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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