Industry Trends: Failure Is Not An Option

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I consider crucial computer systems to be those that are inherently reliable and must not fail. Many critical applications require computers that can operate for years without maintenance in challenging environments. Military, medical, and factory process control are among the examples of crucial applications that require the most robust computers possible. Consider the communication networks used for firefighters, police, and other first responders. For complete wireless radio coverage, these networks require computers be deployed and working 24/7 in unstaffed, remote areas that may be extremely difficult for a service technician to reach.

The most common failures in typical computer systems are the mechanical devices – namely motors – in both the cooling fans and the hard drive. Temperature management is critical, and manufacturing technology has evolved to include thermal testing of the finished product, the integration of heat exchangers into the enclosure and lower power components used in the manufacturing process.

Sealevel has been a leader in the design and manufacture of solid-state computing for several years. We eliminate the hard drive by utilizing flash memory devices, which were initially like the compact flash cartridges found in your digital camera, but more recently solid state drives (SSDs). As stated in Moore’s Law, as flash memory prices decrease and the density increases, we can offer more storage capability and a real costeffective solution to mechanical drives. We can put Windows Embedded or Linux on the SSD; the computer doesn’t know the difference between a conventional hard drive and the SSD.

Fan motors simply wear out over time, and once the fan fails, components in the computer start to overheat and fail. In our systems, we developed ways to remove the heat without a fan. Heatsinks which utilize the metal in the case are one approach. Using thermal analysis software during the design phase, we see where the heat will be concentrated. Proper component placement, chassis design and using natural air flow eliminate much of the heat. Extensive thermal testing and characterization also help.

Intel and other semiconductor companies are constantly pursuing lower power technologies, which is one of the most effective ways to eliminate heat at the source. This is all part of the “green” initiative: lower power, less heat, less wasted energy. Green initiatives are increasingly important in manufacturing with the elimination of lead in the soldering process, more efficient robotic parts placement machines, and supply chain logistics that eliminate excess inventory and lower shipping costs. Sealevel Systems, Inc. is committed to the long term sustainability of our environment. Companies can adapt processes and evolve technology as well to protect our natural resources now and into the future.