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Why CompactPCI Continues to Drive Mission-Critical Applications


CompactPCI is the solution to many complex problems – and it will continue to be the key to meeting challenges across a wide range of industries. Because this computer bus interconnect technology meets the requirements of mission-critical industrial applications, it has helped solution builders solve problems all over the world – and beyond. For example, the brains of the Mars Curiosity Rover, the Rover Computation Element (RCE), were made up of two 3U CompactPCI single board computers (SBCs). Their radiation tolerance of 100 KRAD+ and ability to withstand temperature extremes and other environmental conditions in space made them the ideal choice. Additionally, the 128 MB SDRAM onboard memory enabled data and video storage and transmission to Earth in approximately 14 minutes.  

Of course, CompactPCI also enables a variety of computing workloads on Earth. For example, CompactPCIs are integral to electronic trading, improving precision in timestamping between trading sites and providing automatic failover. CompactPCI technology also enables control and diagnostics for particle accelerators used in medicine, industry and research.  

The Architectural Benefits of CompactPCI 

Although you may be able to find other means to deliver the reliable performance, continuous computing capabilities and long product lifecycle that your use case demands, CompactPCI offers distinct benefits when compared to other architectures, including:  

  • Available in dual form factors — 3U and 6U Eurocard. Form factor options give CompactPCI SBCs extensive plug-and-play compatibility and enable adding rear I/O to meet all requirements of an application. 
  • Hot-swap capability. Boards can be swapped without turning off power, which is especially crucial for defense, aerospace, and transportation applications in which downtime is not an option.  
  • Small footprint. CompactPCI can be used in applications where space is limited, but performance is still crucial.  
  • Support for redundancy. CompactPCI systems can consist of a single board or an elaborate redundant configuration with multiple peripheral boards, ensuring reliability. 
  • Efficiency. CompactPCI SBCs consume less power than comparable alternatives. Additionally, using an interconnect (bussed vs. point to point) deployment, maintenance and support are easier and faster.  
  • Cost-Effectiveness. In addition to the cost savings that CompactPCI features deliver through minimal downtime and maximum reliability and efficiency, this technology also requires less of an upfront investment than other form factors, such as VPX.  

Time Tested & Field Proven  

The trend toward digitalization has increased the demand for performance, reliability and durability in industries, including:  


Much equipment used by armed forces is capable of handling harsh weather, temperature extremes, shock and vibration – most IT is not. CompactPCI plays a key role in many applications, such as avionics, submarines and battleships, radar, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in which precision is vital, and failure isn’t tolerated.  


Aerospace applications require complete accuracy, redundancy, and reliability and components that won’t fail or require maintenance when a rocket or satellite is launched into space. Additionally, the CompactPCI Serial Space PICMG standard gives builders a platform specifically designed for aerospace applications.   

Rail transportation 

IT use cases in mass transit are particularly challenging. Systems have to run continuously while sustaining extreme vibration and the full range of weather conditions. Moreover, solution builders must also take regulatory standards and passenger experiences into account when they design systems.  

Manufacturing automation  

Customer and competitive pressures are driving industrial automation, and operations that don’t keep up know the future of their companies hang in the balance. CompactPCI gives manufacturers cost-effective, high-performance options to meet today’s demands and lay the foundation for scalable, extensible systems that adapt to future needs 

Power and Energy  

CompactPCI meets the power and energy sector’s demands for certified computing platforms that comply with IEC 61850-3 and accurate time sync IEEE 1588 standards and support high cybersecurity standards. CompactPCI technology also enables modular, redundant architecture that minimizes downtime and edge computing that leverages 5G telecommunications.  

Keep in mind that CompactPCI technology continues to evolve to offer even higher performance computing and connectivity. New standards, such as CompactPCI Serial, enable next-gen applications. CompactPCI can also leverage GPU processing and heterogeneous computing to drive artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications.  

Examples of systems leveraging CompactPCI for intelligent applications include: 

Machine vision in a bottling plant: Machine vision systems consisting of a camera assembly, image processing system, software and network linking to the factory system can automate processes. It can decode barcodes or use optical character recognition (OCR) to read labels, count products, and QC product features.  

Tactical defense communications: CompactPCI enables signal integrity and security in defense communications via a system consisting of a vendor-neutral operator interface, low-bandwidth requirements, and over-the-horizon functionality of HF or UHF SATCOM.  

ADLINK can share even more examples of how CompactPCI technology is delivering value today – and how it can benefit your project. ADLINK is a pioneer in CompactPCI technology with decades of experience in product development, engineering and design. ADLINK is an executive member of the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) consortium, which initially introduced CompactPCI in 1999.  

Additionally, we are a global leader in this space, offering an extensive portfolio of cost-effective and high-performance CompactPCI solutions for a range of use cases, such as:  

  • 3U/6U CompactPCI 2.0 Blades 
  • 3U/6U Enclosures and Systems 
  • Backplanes  
  • Switches  
  • Power Supplies  
  • Peripheral Cards 

However, we not only offer an industry-leading portfolio of products, but we also continue to work to steer CompactPCI architecture toward a strong, long-lasting future. 

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