<p>Vernon says Alliance was envisaged as either a European operation or a key component in one from its foundation: That was one of the reasons for choosing the name for the UK company. When I started it, I hoped that I was going to go into Europe it but I didn't know who with.”</p>

In a duplex fiber-optic module, the TX IC and RX IC, and the communications lines that mate to the external system board through the connector, will accomplish whatever the specified functionality is. Some fiber-module TX ICs will simply drive a laser based on incoming serial data. Some fiber-module RX ICs will simply digitize the analog signal coming from the transimpedance amplifier. In other cases, the TX and RX ICs will also perform serialization and deserialization, respectively (converting one parallel bit data stream at one speed to a serial bit stream at higher speed, or vice versa), or other more advanced functions. Inside the module, a transmitter optical subassembly (TOSA) and receiver optical assembly (ROSA) contain optical devices and focusing mechanisms.

EBT uses the exhibitions to promote a key part of its service — support. Once a manufacturer decides it needs to be active in Europe, it has to supply applications support,” said Vernon. If it initially goes to a German distributor who puts applications support in place, will that support be available to other customers in other countries? If they come to a group like us, the answer is 'yes'. If they go to competing companies in France and the UK, the answer will be 'no'.”

These advantages aside, Vernon admits that it can be difficult to understand how the independent groups work together: It is nebulous, and is built on friendship and trust. It can be more complicated than you think. We started with fairly small, apparently simple, companies. We have had to take advice on the tax issues.”


To overcome these issues, communication plays an important role. Everybody knows that, because we are running our own businesses, we don't want to waste each other's time. If I'm calling Germany, it's because I've got something to say. Individuals take more responsibility and are honest with each other,” Vernon said.

After an exhibition, such as April's Semicon Europa in Munich, there is always a high level of contact. Yesterday I talked to Germany three times and there were half a dozen e-mails as well,” said Vernon. By contrast, for some shows only one of the partnership will be present. Denis Capion, president of STI, was at the recent Semicon Singapore.

There are various things he is doing on behalf of the us and the Germans,” Vernon said. He doesn't necessarily get a financial reward for this but he does it because he is the one who is there. We totally trust him to do that. He will brief us by e-mail as the show proceeds. In fact, we may be over-communicating, if that is possible. We are all doing e-mails in hotels and airports.”


Moving forward

The European sales for the group doubled to $120m last year. Half of these are through HTT in Germany, which also trades surplus equipment and has a CE certification laboratory. The other members of the team represent these facilities.


Vernon is keen to take every opportunity to move forward: Slowdowns such as the one we face at the moment always cause change. Things never come out of a slowdown in the same shape they went in. The last time it happened we looked at new areas, and we focused on optoelectronics as a growth area for the future. That was successful and now we are looking at a number of areas for development, including Bluetooth.”

Bluetooth has some special needs on both testing and RF performance, and EBT wants to build up its contacts in the potentially massive technology.

Previously, resource reclamation in VxWorks was something of a manual process, performed on an object-by-object basis (for example, create a task, delete a task, create a queue, delete a queue). In AE we provided a more powerful and intuitive level by allowing the ownership of all resources (memory, file descriptors and so on) to be tracked on individual user-defined lines, bounded by the protection domain container.

Distributed messaging VxWorks AE incorporates a new scalable feature for extending local message passing (native message queues) beyond single processor boundaries. This distributed message-passing facility is completely transparent, since programmers use the same interfaces provided in VxWorks without regard to the location of the message object.

The new RTOS automatically determines whether the queue is local to the processor and forwards messages to remote queues using a distributed and redundant name service or registry. Those distributed objects are simply named service points that are referenced in the application. In keeping with Wind River's flexible approach to software design, distributed messaging can be enabled over any loosely coupled media.

A transport adapter layer is provided in source code, with ample documentation, to allow servicing over custom media.

By default, the out-of-box implementation provided utilizes User Datagram Protocol datagrams over Ethernet and shared memory transports. Reliable message passing is inherently provided because the protocol supports message acknowledge and packet sequence numbers to ensure that messages arrive intact. Distributed messaging in VxWorks AE provides developers with key APIs to enable fault-tolerant behavior in that it leverages a replicated name server database for routing messages remotely. There is no single point of failure in the system.

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