Making the most of limited space

13 November 2019

It could just be me, but it is at this time of year that I tend to get an urge to move things around - tidy up - and rearrange furniture at home. It’s likely due to the impending realization that more furniture plus the same size house isn’t compatible with the Christmas tree and relatives fitting in the house comfortably during the festive period.

But: there is also an element of wanting to make a few changes to help things work or flow better. This year is no exception; the increase in demand for space comes in the form of a new bookcase and a larger TV than last year - but an unwillingness to have a smaller tree. Combined with being in my house for over a year since moving in without really changing the placement of furniture, this was a recipe for setting my mind to making changes.

Tantalizing option

Now, any rational thinker would simply choose to compromise on the requirements and take something out to make space. This becomes a particularly tantalizing option when there’s space out in the shed to put things temporarily without much thought or effort required. Alas, I do not always buy into that school of thought. A feeling (belligerence) that it is possible to pack more into the space without compromising was at the back of my head.

For once, something from the networking product range inspired me (not the other way around) – the XMC477RC and its compressing of four SFP cages into the same space as a soldered down module. Which is exactly what we decided the key goal of the XMC477RC would be earlier this year – not only to not compromise on functionality, but also to include improved features.

SFP modules are great in terms of flexibility. That’s exactly why they are also used on the GBX25 - but they do come at a slight size penalty versus RJ45 connectors or soldered-down optical transceivers. The constraints on a mezzanine card are about how it fits on its host - a little bit like how my TV and couch only fit in a certain place in the living room.

The simple answer on the XMC477RC was to push the module cages such that they protruded slightly out from the front panel : that’s no issue, as that’s where cabling is in relatively free space anyway.

Inspiration strikes

Back at home, inspiration struck while emptying the trash bin one day. The side tables on each side of both couches could simply be pushed forward slightly to allowing the couches to move apart. Problem solved on both fronts.

The next trick to is to try and make even better use of that space where possible. That’s exactly what we were able to do with the XMC477RC; its lower component count compared with the PMC676RC or PMC677RC allowed us to push things like the Ethernet controller and power supply closer together. The net result: everything fits onto a short width XMC, making it a far more flexible product.

Not quite as clever but, in the case of my living room, it was simply a case of nesting two sets of tables together. Tree, relatives and additional furniture should all fit without feeling claustrophobic.

The combination of a slightly reimagined layout with a smaller and simpler design have allowed us to keep the same number of ports as the PMC677RC on the XMC477RC - but using a smaller standard footprint.

So: if you’re looking to the next generation product to replace one of the PMC NICs, the XMC477RC should give you more flexibility from the SFP modules, as well as the move to the XMC connector on a short width card opening up more opportunities to move to newer and more capable host boards.

Glyn Evans

Having spent a year with Abaco as an intern at Towcester in the UK, Glyn joined the company in 2015 as an electronics design engineer. In 2017, he was appointed product manager, and now has responsibility for Abaco’s range of networking solutions. He has a first class honors BEng degree from De Montfort University, Leicester.