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Open source design researching and importing design specs. Templates can be broken down into categories based on the roles and requirements they fill: Form Factor Templates - These allow forked designs to interface with existing off-the-shelf prototyping boards, baseboards, or platforms. Additionally, they might be used to meet shape or fit requirements for specific enclosures. Connector Templates - These allow integration with other hardware devices through connector interfaces, such as DDR memory interfaces or USB connectors. Design Function Templates - These can be used to physically specify hardware design functions, such as exact antenna geometry or optimal MCU and peripheral locations for new designs. Design reuse is the key to growth in the open source hardware community. Functional modules in CircuitMaker provide the exact circuitry needed to enable certain functions in the final product. For example, a specific project for a Bluetooth module would provide all the logical and physical design elements to serve as a building block. Users would simply fork the project and start designing additional functionality around the base design. Any completed design in CircuitMaker can be thought of as a reference design. Whether it’s actually used as reference for a new design, or simply deconstructed and reworked for some kind of Frankenstein-style board, the benefit of having this type of content in the community is huge. And while users in the community are already providing great references and examples, many more will be added from Altium in the future. Forking and design evolution The forking process itself is straightforward: Browse or search through the CircuitMaker community vault for an interesting looking design, then simply click the Fork button to create a copy. And the cherry on top: having the ability to follow and track designs as they evolve. Each project has links to the parent and child projects. A popular project in the community might have hundreds of children, and each of those could potentially have several Fig. 2: Reference designs like this General Purpose Regulator (above) are key pieces of content in the CircuitMaker community. children of their own, and so on. It’s easy to see how this kind of environment facilitates amazing innovation, all stemming from a simple template or reference design. Looking ahead Like every design contributed to the CircuitMaker community, Ben Jordan’s LED Display SPI design is planting the seeds for future design evolution. Having a community vault of projects, and the ability to share them in a single location in CircuitMaker will hopefully start a new era of open source hardware design. But that’s just the beginning. The forking and sharing of open hardware designs will lead to true module-based design. And it’s not farfetched to think of an open source design future where design modules unite the physical design, software integration, and server-side applications to provide a truly connected design experience. There’s no better time to get involved in open source hardware design. Download the CircuitMaker open beta now at www.circuitmaker.com. The White-boxing of software-defined networking By Bernard Cole A funny thing is happening to the router and switch market on its way to software-defined networking: it’s slowly but surely getting white-boxed. White-box is a term that emerged in the 1990s to describe the variety of desktop PCs that were emerging from a host of small original design manufacturers (ODMs). The PCs were virtually identical in performance and software capabilities but were a fraction of the price of brand names such as IBM, HP, Dell and Compaq. Similarly, the widespread adoption of software-defined network (SDN) standards has made white-box based network switches possible. The switches depend not on dedicated hardware for separate network functions, but on software-based network function virtualization (NFV) that allows creation of reprogrammable data paths that allow lightning fast reconfiguration of a variety of network elements. This is all good news for single-board computer companies such as Taiwan-based Advantech and Austin, Texas-based Freescale Semiconductor, who are developing more powerful and flexible open-source network system solutions. The target is a switch and router market that up to now has been dominated by Intel’s X86 and IBM’s Power processors, and a handful of network system companies such as Arista, Brocade, Cisco and Juniper who dictated to their corporate customers what processors and software were to be used. Now all that has changed, with competition coming in the form of white-box designs from single-board computer companies such as Advantech, Adlink, and Kontron, and ODMs such as Dell, Big Switch, Pica8, Quanta, and Salom, among others. Rather than use proprietary software, they run on opensource software provided by either the board makers or original design manufacturers (ODMs) but sometimes by the semiconductor companies providing the silicon. White-box switches have much more diverse processor architectures. They’ve 32 Electronic Engineering Times Europe July-August 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


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