Standards have been a topic of discussion in the computer business for almost as long as there has been a computer business. Perhaps that is changing.
The purpose of a standard is to allow any user of any computer anywhere in the world to remove a defective card and replace it. The replacement need not be the same model or even be made by the same company. All that matters is that it meets the same standard.
And yet, so often, that is not what happens. The customer finds that, although the new card is sold as meeting the standard, the pinout arrangement is different or the I/O connectors are not the same and all pretence at plug and play and swapability goes out the window.
Increasingly, we are finding that customers don’t mind this because they are more likely to swap out the entire unit, send it back for repair and plug a new one into the gap in its place. This is particularly true with embedded single board computers and in the military and industrial control applications in which GMS excels.
What GMS has done in response to this situation is to produce a family of products a quarter the size of an ATR box but with more I/O capabilities, more functionality and better heat dissipation. We hear two objections to this:
- It’s a modular system and it’s not a standard
- Because it’s proprietary, we can’t exchange bits with bits of other people’s kit.
Those objections are true but the component or card exchange problem also exists with systems that supposedly do meet the standard – so what’s the point of a standard that isn’t really a standard?
When we began with the VME bus, there was a lot more cooperation and collaboration between manufacturers and more respect paid to the concept of interchangeability. Since that’s disappeared, it seems pointless to pretend that we still have a universal standard. What GMS offers in its place is an open spec.