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Networking SBCs run Linux on multicore i.MX6 SoCs

Jul 30, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Gateworks Corp. announced a family of six Linux-ready single board computers for network processing running Freescale’s ARM Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 processors. The Ventana SBCs range from a dual-core 800MHz model with one mini-PCIe slot, to a quad-core 1GHz board with HD video and six mini-PCIe slots, and can be expanded modularly using a choice of four stackable mini-PCIe, PCI, and Gig-Ethernet (copper and fiber) boards.

Traditionally, network board vendors looking to Freescale for a processor would turn to its PowerPC-based PowerQUICC or newer QorIQ system-on-chips. Yet ARM processors like Freescale’s Cortex-A9 i.MX6 are increasingly being applied to moderate networking duty. Gateworks has chosen the i.MX6 for a family of Ventana SBCs designed for network routers and other communication systems in the industrial, medical, automotive, transportation, smart grid, M2M, military, and consumer markets.



Gateworks Ventana GW5400 with quad-core i.MX6 SoC
(click image to enlarge)

 

The Ventana SBCs range in size, number of cores, number of Mini-PCI Express (mini-PCIe) expansion slots and other features. The GW5310 and GW5410 models are identical to the GW5300 and GW5400 respectively, except that they lack a video processing unit, and can’t deliver 1080p encode/decode capability. The two boards use Freescale’s automotive grade quad-core i.MX6 variants, such as the MCIMX6Q4AVT10AC or MCIMX6Q4AVT08AC parts. The dual-core models would appear to have consumer-grade SoC models with VPUs, but do not offer full HD, and are likely limited to 1080p decode and 720p encode.



Ventana GW5400 block diagram and two-board stack
(click images to enlarge)

 

Gateworks currently offers six versions of the Ventana SBC (see detailed specs farther below):

  • GW5100 — dual-core 800MHz, 1x Mini-PCIe, 100 x 35mm
  • GW5200 — dual-core 800MHz, 2x Mini-PCIe, 100 x 70mm
  • GW5300 — quad-core 1GHz, full HD video, 4x Mini-PCIe, 105 x 100mm.
  • GW5310 — quad-core 1GHz, 4x Mini-PCIe, 105 x 100mm
  • GW5400 — quad-core 1GHz, full HD video, 6x Mini-PCIe, 140 x 100mm
  • GW5410 — quad-core 1GHz, 6x Mini-PCIe, 140 x 100mm

 

The GW5100 and GW5200 SBCs offer 512MB of DDR3 RAM expandable to 2GB, while the other four start at 1GB, expandable to 4GB. They all offer 256GB of onboard flash, expandable to 2GB, and all but the GW5100 provide SD and mSATA expansion.

All but the GW5100 models furnish one or more SIM sockets for cellular radios, although they can all add cellular, WiFi, and other wireless services via their varying numbers of Mini-PCIe expansion slots. All the SBCs provide a gigabit Ethernet port, and the GW5400 supplies two. Further Ethernet and Fiber Ethernet expansion is available via Mini-PCIe expansion modules (see farther below).

Multimedia I/O differs considerably, as shown in the specs listed farther below. For example, the GW5100 is limited to HDMI out and CVBS in, while the GW5400 offers two-way versions of both along with component and LVDS ports. All the models provide a USB OTG port, and the four quad-core models also provide a USB host port. Two to three serial ports of different types are provided depending on the model, and the GW5400 and GW5410 provide CAN ports as well.

It’s not too often you find accelerometers on a networking board, but all but the GW5100 offer them for mobile applications. GPS is said to be optional. Power consumption ranges from 2 Watts to 5 Watts, with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) available, and all six models offer industrial temperature ranges.
 

Stackable expansion architecture

Four stackable, 140 x 100mm expansion modules are available providing Mini-PCIe, Mini-PCI, gigabit Ethernet, and Fiber expansion ports, depending on the model. One each of the GW16082, GW16083, and GW16084 modules, and up to three of the GW16081 modules can be stacked together with any of the six Ventana boards. They all offer industrial temperature support, as well as 8 to 60V DC input support.



GW16081 and GW16082 expansion boards
(click images to enlarge)

 

The Ventana expansion modules include:

  • GW16081 — 7x Mini-PCIe, plus 3x more via host USB; 2W consumption; up to 3x boards can be stacked to get 24x Mini-PCIe
  • GW16082 — 4x Mini-PCI, plus 4x more via host USB; 2W
  • GW16083 — 4x gigabit Ethernet; 5W
  • GW16084 — 2x SFP Fiber cage; 3W

 

Ventana SBC specifications

Specifications listed for the Ventana boards include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6 (GW5100/GW5200 dual-core 800MHz; others quad-core 1GHz)
  • Video capability — GW5300/GW5400 Full HD (1080p) encode/decode; others non-full HD
  • RAM — 512MB expandable up to 2GB DDR3 (GW5100/GW5200); others 1GB expandable up to 4GB DDR3
  • Flash — 256MB expandable up to 2GB
  • Flash/storage expansion — mSATA and uSD on all but GW5100
  • Cellular SIM sockets — GW5100 (none, but 1x cellular modem available); GW5100 1x sockets; GW5300/GW5310 2x; GW5400/GW5410 3x
  • Mini-PCIe slots — GW5100 1x; GW5200 2x; GW5300/GW5310 4x; GW5400/GW5410 6x
  • PCIe slots — optional
  • Networking — 1x gigabit Ethernet on all but GW5400/5410 (2x); more ports via expansion modules
  • Multimedia I/O:
    • GW5100 — HDMI out, CVBS in
    • GW5200 — HDMI out, CVBS in, LVDS out, mic/speaker
    • GW5300/GW5310 — HDMI in/out, CVBS in/out, LVDS out, mic/speaker
    • GW5400/GW5410 — HDMI in/out, CVBS/Component in/out, LVDS out, mic/speaker
  • Other I/O:
    • USB OTG — 1x
    • USB host — 1x on all but GW5100/GW5200
    • Serial TTL — 1x on all but GW5100 (2x)
    • Serial RS232 — 1x on all but GW5100
    • Serial RS485 — 1x on GW5400/GW5410 only
    • Digital I/O — Yes
    • CAN — 1x on GW5400/GW5410 only
    • I2C — on all but GW5100/GW5200
  • Other features — RTC; voltage/temp. monitor; 3D accelerometer/magnetometer (all but GW5100); GPS (optional); tamper switch with encryption key support
  • Power:
    • DC input — GW5100 8 to 42V; others 8 to 60V
    • Typical consumption — GW45100 2W; GW5200 3W; GW5300/GW5310 4W; GW5400/GW5410 5W
    • PoE — Passive; 802.3at support on all but GW5100
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Operating system — OpenWRT Linux open source BSP; OpenEmbedded Linux and Android also available

An open source OpenWRT Linux board support package (BSP) is available, as well as optional BSPs for OpenEmbedded Linux and Android, says Gateworks. Extra-cost customization options are said to include selection of CPU speed, cores, DRAM, flash, and peripherals, including de-population of unwanted components.

The YouTube video below, by Gateworks, provides a brief overview of the Ventana SBC family.



 

The Ventana boards are available at the following dates, with pricing available upon request: GW5400 now; GW5100/GW5200 Q3; GW5300/5310 Q4; GbE/Fiber modules Q4; Mini-PCI/PCIe modules not stated. More information and links to datasheets may be found at the Gateworks Ventana product page.
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

2 Responses to “Networking SBCs run Linux on multicore i.MX6 SoCs”

  1. netmonk says:

    Nice board, just the prices missing …

  2. Robert says:

    “pricing available upon request”, translation: If you have to ask you can’t afford it.

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