COM HPC makes Embedded Systems Ready for Digitization

Source: Kontron 

Computer-On-Module High Performance Computing, abbreviated COM HPC, is in the process of being added to the top of the proven COM Express® standard. In November 2019, the corresponding working group of the PICMG (PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group) agreed on the pinout of the new specification. Kontron is among the sponsors and driving forces in the working group. Ratification of the standard has been announced for the second quarter of 2020.

In recent years, Aaronn Electronic has established itself as one of Kontron’s most successful sales partners and system integrators throughout Europe. We will therefore also be involved at an early stage in the market launch of COM HPC. Customers can therefore rely on Aaronn to provide them with competent support during the evaluation of the COM HPC modules, which will then be significantly more powerful than the previous COM Express modules.

COM HPC Overview

A COM HPC/Client module has one or two SO-DIMM sockets and can drive up to four displays. A COM HPC/Server module even has up to 8 DIMM sockets available for the main memory – which means a total capacity of 1 TB. While current COM Express modules communicate with the carrier board via 440 pins, the COM-HPC specification requires 800 pins. This allows the maximum number of PCIe lanes to be increased from 32 to 64 for a COM-HPC/server module compared to COM Express Type 7. In addition, COM-HPC modules achieve up to 32 GBit/s per lane via PCIe Gen5, i.e. four times that of COM Express.

Two Platforms of COM HPC

There will be two types of COM HPC: COM HPC/Client as an entry-level platform and COM HPC/Server as a high-end platform.

COM HPC Client


There will be variants of the COM-HPC/Client modules with 95 x 120 mm, 120 x 120 mm and 160 x 120 mm. They are designed for the new generation of demanding applications in the embedded computing sector.

COM HPC Server


COM-HPC/Server modules are available with dimensions of 160 x 160 mm and up to four DIMM slots or 200 x 160 mm and up to eight DIMM slots. As the name suggests, this makes COMs with performance values of classic IT servers possible.

Source: Kontron

COM HPC Client und COM HPC Server im Vergleich

Caption: COM HPC Client and COM HPC Server in comparison
Source: PICMG (PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group)

The higher computing power and I/O performance come just in time. As a system integrator, we are seeing enormous interest among our customers in IoT and artificial intelligence applications, as well as in the use of 5G and the possible new applications it will bring. What all these plans have in common is that much more data needs to be processed much faster – sometimes even in real time – than before. But even with fast data lines or wireless connections, latency is inevitable. When applications communicate with each other several times over long distances for one action, execution is often delayed longer than can be tolerated. Easily comprehensible examples of this are autonomous vehicles or production plants.

Therefore, applications move closer to the scene of the action. They are moving out of the data center to the edge of the networks, the so-called “edge” – in other words, to where embedded systems have long been based. Their reliability, robustness and durability will continue to be needed. However, users expect significantly higher performance and more data throughput for future applications.

They get both with COM HPC. The new standard supports the use of the upcoming high-end server processors. This means that performance features previously known from servers in the data center are now also available for industrial systems.

The COM HPC specification does not define the content or core functionality of COM HPC modules. It only covers the mechanical and electrical interfaces, including the PCB sizes, the position of the connectors and the pin assignment. In addition, the size and characteristics of the interfaces are defined so that they can be offered by multiple manufacturers.

COM HPC continues the Evolution of COM Express

Developers can thus have carrier boards that include all the necessary subsystems, but rely on COM-HPC boards for the essential computing tasks and main memory, which they can obtain from a wide range of manufacturers. As has proved to be the case in the COM success story to date, COM HPC boards can be easily exchanged for higher-performance COM HPC models later, when more powerful processors and memory modules are available.

COM HPC is therefore continuing the successful COM development and is also utilizing the proven market mechanisms. As in the past, system integrators will continue to play an essential role in selection and individual customization. Perhaps they will become even more important, at least in the transition phase, as they can help customers to exploit the new possibilities quickly and efficiently.

Despite the significant improvements, COM HPC will not replace the current technologies, especially COM Express Type 6, 7 and 10, overnight. The latter will have its justification in many application scenarios for years to come. However, many new applications in the automotive sector, in telecommunications or in industry will only be possible thanks to the greater data rate and performance of COM HPC.

WHITEPAPER: The new Standard COM-HPC® – Delivering future proofed power and connectivity

In response to the growing high performance computing requirements and to ensure Computer-on-Modules remain fit-for-purpose long into the future, a new High Performance Computing standard for Modules has been defined by the PICMG: COM-HPC®. This enables more powerful COMs that extend beyond the limits and capabilities of COM Express® (Type 6 and 7) and other COM standards. While complementary, COM-HPC® is distinct from COM Express®, directly supporting the growing need for more powerful future-proofed compute, scalability, transmission, and network performance. (Quelle: Kontron)

COM HPC Whitepaper

WHITEPAPER: Computer-On-Module Invade HPC

A range of industry applications face escalating demand for high-performance embedded computing. More specifically, this growing demand is for solutions built on standard hardware form factors with low power consumption and modularity in mind. At the same time, compact and efficient computer-on-modules (COMs) have evolved to support some of the most sophisticated embedded processors to manage heavier workloads than previously possible using the form factor. This cross section of modern high-performance embedded computing requirements coupled with a maturing COMs technology and supplier landscape is fueling its expansion into a variety of relatively new product designs and applications. (Quelle: Kontron S&T AG)