PFU Systems expands family of computing modules

November 27, 2002

New architecture offers high-end capabilitiesPFU Systems has added a new member to its family of embedded system technologies. The new technology, a 64-bit PCI bus called Blazor, clears the way for the company to market its

New architecture offers high-end capabilities

PFU Systems has added a new member to its family of embedded system technologies. The new technology, a 64-bit PCI bus called Blazor, clears the way for the company to market its system-on-module (SOM) architecture for use in high-performance radiology equipment such as advanced MR, PET/CT, or 3D color flow echocardiography systems.

"We are targeting equipment that must process large sets of data," said Kishan Jainandunsing, vice president of marketing for PFU Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of PFU Limited of Japan.

PFU publicly unveiled the new SOM in Boston Nov. 19 at the Embedded Systems Conference, a tradeshow for manufacturers of electronic components. The company has been privately shopping the architecture around to prospective customers since early fall.

The Blazor structure, which measures 8.5 x 4.8 x 1.3 inches, is attracting interest from companies in several industries, including those developing medical and industrial imaging, network security, and military sonar applications. Jainandunsing believes Blazor will have a major impact in medical imaging, where the SOMs would be used to support postprocessing functions such as those that provide user control over the data set in the presentation of a data volume, or the integration of CT and PET data sets.

"We are not talking about retrofitting existing OEM products but integrating Blazor into next-generation machines," said Jon Barnard, marketing communications manager of PFU Systems. "We are really looking over the horizon to future products."

Like the 32-bit SOMs released by the company in 1999 and 2000, Blazor integrates functions often found on a motherboard, including the CPU, chipset, graphics processing, super I/O, BIOS, and system memory interface. But Blazor offers substantially more power than its 32-bit predecessors, called Plug-N-Run and RazorBlade. The new SOM integrates a complete 64-bit PCI-based AT server architecture on a densely packed printed circuit board.

"With Blazor it is possible to design a very small, very low power (computing) module that delivers high performance," Jainandunsing said.

Blazor is not a product, he emphasizes, but rather provides a foundation for the creation of products. Blazor defines a common architecture for PFU to develop 64-bit SOMs, he said. The first two of these are scheduled to appear in January 2003. Typically, OEMs would integrate several SOMs into an MR or PET/CT scanner, according to Jainandunsing.

PFU Systems is part of an international joint venture between Matsushita (Panasonic) and Fujitsu Limited, two of the largest electronics manufacturers and IT service providers in the world. Before April 2002, the company was known as Cell Computing. Worldwide revenues from PFU's applied computing business are expected to reach $80 million in 2002 and $150 million in 2003. Medical applications should be a major contributor to those numbers, according to Jainandunsing.

Blazor serves as an off-the-shelf answer for OEMs seeking expanded computing capabilities. Alternatively, companies could invest in custom designs using compact PCI technology, he said. But building SOMs into medical devices decreases time to market by avoiding the need to design a computing solution from scratch.

PFU has already made inroads in the imaging industry with its low-end Plug-N-Run architecture, which has been incorporated into one OEM's low-tier portable ultrasound scanner to facilitate image transmission from site to site. The 32-bit architecture has also been built into SOMs that drive patient monitors. Blazor will go far beyond this.

The new architecture can deliver 64-bit, 66-MHz PCI 2.2 and 133-MHz PCI-X performance in single- and dual-processor configurations, featuring data throughput up to 2128 MB/sec, according to the company. It is compatible with Linux, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. Blazor provides the opportunity for PFU Systems to address a high-performance market segment, an opportunity that Jainandunsing believes it is near to realizing.

"In talking to our existing customer base regarding the potential for Blazor, we have found that this technology will satisfy their requirements for higher end imaging applications," he said.