Top 5 modular instrument news stories of 2015

-December 07, 2015

#1. Cobham leaps into AXIe

This October, in a Test Cafe exclusive story, Cobham announced their entry into AXIe.  For those of you without a scorecard, Cobham is the new name of Aeroflex, recently purchased by Cobham. Cobham’s entry into AXIe is important for two reasons.

The Cobham mA-13xx AXIe chassis is shown housing (bottom to top) the Cobham mA-31xx Embedded Controller, Keysight M9703A-B01 Digitizer, Cobham mA66xx Dual Vector Transceiver, Guzik ADC 6082 Digitizer, Keysight PXI Carrier (itself housing two National Instruments PXI Multifunction DAQ cards).  Image courtesy of the AXIe Consortium.

First, Cobham brings the same open system flavor to AXIe that Keysight has recently brought to PXI. AXIe has been dominated by Keysight, much in the same way that NI dominated PXI. Having a second major vendor who will bring chassis, modules, and software to the AXIe world adds significant credibility to AXIe and competitive choices to the customers.

Second, Cobham showed off some very compelling AXIe architectural features. Their AXIe vector transceiver modules allow 10 vector transceivers in a 4U rack height. This is approximately double the density available in PXI. The analysis in the Test Cafe column showed that this record density was entirely due to choosing AXIe: A calculation of rack density shows twice as much circuitry can be enclosed in a standard 4U AXIe chassis as can be enclosed in a standard 4U PXI chassis. Cobham plans to exploit this natural advantage. Cobham is also the first AXIe vendor to adopt the new “Wide PCIe” specification recently adopted by AXIe. Quadrupling the bus width while doubling the bus speed to PCIe Gen 3 enables an eight-fold increase in speed.

Altogether, these factors made me choose the Cobham story as the #1 modular story of 2015. However, all the stories show the unique architectural advantages of modular instruments coupled with creative deployments from the vendors.

My prediction for 2016? Expect more of the same. Manufacturers are just getting started in exploiting the advantages of modular instruments. The disruption continues.

See also:
•    5G to disrupt the test equipment market
•    Prediction: Microwave coming to PXI – big time!
•    NIWeek: Inside the Nokia/NI 5G system
•    Inside the Keysight 5G channel sounding system
•    FPGAs supercharge instrument flexibility
•    All of NIWeek can be reduced to one diagram
•    Keysight mobilizes for modular
•    Cobham leaps into AXIe
•    AXIe specification gets an upgrade

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