Most PCs only has a small number of PCIe slots. The new Ndigo Crate from cronologic GmbH & Co. KG allows to increase this number by up to seven boards in an external chassis. This is especially useful in data acquisition applications that aggregate many channels or use a multitude of boards to accumulate many different types of data. The enclosure was specifically designed to house up to eight of cronologic's Ndigo5G-10 digitizers for a total of 32 channels operating at up to 5 Gsps each, but it is equally well suited for other applications that need more PCIe boards in a single PC than usual. High performance computing users for example could squeeze more than 14000 double precision GPU shaders units in a single PC.
The communication between host and extension is implemented using PCIe-over-cable at a rate of 16 lanes PCIe2 for a total of 80Gbps in each direction. This is eight times the performance of a thunderbolt connection.
The use of PCI express as a protocol has the convenient consequence that the extension is managed entirely by the BIOS without the need of a software driver. An operating system can't distinguish a board housed in the extension box from a board plugged into the PC mainboard.
But the unique feature of the Ndigo Crate is that the board connections are accessible from the front side of the box. "In DAQ applications you need to be able to see the status LEDs at all times.” says cronologic's CEO Kolja Sulimma. He adds: "In an experimental setup the Ndigo Crate allows the operator to quickly modify cable connections without the need to crouch behind tables". The Ndigo Crate is available now with eight PCIe2 x4 slots. In Q3/2012 another version of the crate will follow that supports PCIe3 x8 slots and also has two legacy PCI slots. This allows the crate to act as a PCIe to PCI adapter. In particular it enables the user to create systems that use cronologics HPTDC8-PCI time to digital converters synchronized to a Ndigo PCIe digitizer.
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