Working with the UltraZed SoM and PCIe Carrier Card

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Working with the UltraZed SoM & PCIe Carrier Card

UltraZed SoM and PCIe Carrier card circuit board

By Adam Taylor

Continuing my exploration into the capabilities and use cases of the Zynq/Zynq MPSoC ecosystem, I recently had the opportunity to evaluate the UltraZed ™ System on Module (SoM) and accompanying PCIe Carrier Card from Avnet.

The UltraZed SoM is the latest in a line of embedded computing technologies from Avnet which include a heterogeneous System on Chip (SoC). In the case of the UltraZed, the SoM comes fitted with a high-end Xilinx® Zynq® UltraScale+™ MPSoC ZCU3EG. This provides a step change in capability over the MicroZed ™, MiniZed ™ and PicoZed ™ SoMs, which are based on the lower-end Xilinx® Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC. This addition of the UltraZed SoM allows developers the ability to choose the correct SoM for their application.

For those unfamiliar with the SoM concept, a SoM contains the essential elements of an embedded system. Typically, this includes the processing element, clock and reset circuity, as well as DDR and non-volatile memory, all in a small easily integratable form factor. The UltraZed SoM provides the designer with 2GB of DDR4, 8GB of eMMC and 64 MB of QSPI memory, while also breaking out a significant number of Processing System (PS) and Programmable Logic (PL) IO in addition to the high-end Zynq MPSoC device. The SoM is then integrated with either an existing carrier card or a custom-developed, mission-specific carrier card.

If you have followed my blogs over the years, you will know I am a big fan of creating SoM-based solutions, having worked extensively with the MicroZed. In my opinion, SoMs offer a range of advantages to the developer, including:

  1. Risk Reduction – Developing an in-house solution contains inherent risk that the design may not function as intended. Correcting issues will require a redesign which impacts both cost and schedule. Conversely, a SoM arrives tested and ready. This enables you to focus on value-added activities from day one, reducing the time spent debugging. Indeed, the UltraZed SoM comes with a range of reference designs which can be used to further accelerate the development time.
  2. Reduce Development Time – The use of a SoM, and appropriate carrier card, enables the rapid develop of a minimum viable product (MVP). Simply put, the lead time for availability of functional hardware is reduced, value-added development can start immediately after the project kick off.
  3. Module Cost – Depending upon your production size, it will often cost more to develop, manufacture, test and verify your module, than it does to purchase a SoM module.


UltraZed SoM & PCIe Carrier Card Context Diagrams

UltraZed SoM & PCIe Carrier Card Context Diagrams

Of course, if the need for a mission-specific carrier card has been identified, the developer can use the SoM on an existing carrier card which closely resembles the final card. For the UltraZed SoM, we have the choice of the PCIe or IO carrier cards.

For applications which demand high-bandwidth interfaces, Avnet’s PCIe Carrier card is the most versatile. It not only provides a PCIe end point, but also a range of other industry standard interfaces including SATA, RJ45, Display Port and the very popular FMC. This range of interfacing capabilities ensures we can create solutions for a wide range of applications from embedded vision to signal processing, networking and cybersecurity.

Regardless of application, cybersecurity is a hot topic as systems are increasingly network-enabled and deployed remotely at the edge. These systems must be secured against both unauthorised modification and malicious actors trying to gain access in order to compromise the system. As such, cybersecurity is required in many use cases, from autonomous driving to vision guided robotics and Industrial IoT. To secure our UltraZed SoM-based systems, we can establish a root of trust using a Trusted Platform Module Pmod and secure the higher levels of the application using the Mocana IoT Security Platform. This IoT security platform enables authentication, certificate management, encryption and device and data integrity.

With this introduction to the UltraZed SoM and the PCIe Carrier card, the next step is to look at how we can get both up and running quickly. As such, we will be focusing upon how to create a hardware platform using the Xilinx Vivado Design Suite, before creating a PetaLinux image to enable us to leverage the power of the UltraZed SoM. Stay tuned.

Read also: Building PetaLinux for the Ultrazed and PCIe Carrier Card

This post was sponsored by Avnet

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