The SBC (Single Board Computer) vs. motherboards

What are the key advantages of using a SBC?

sbc2Conventional desktop computers generally have most of their electronics on a single large “motherboard” or “main board” that mounts to the bottom of the computer’s chassis. While this is the least expensive packaging method, it leaves a lot to be desired when used in industrial applications. Replacing a motherboard necessitates complete disassembly, removing all cards and cables from the system. Downtime ranges from 30 minutes to several hours. This is unacceptable for many mission critical applications where downtime can cost thousands of dollars per hour. Since motherboard technology changes literally on a monthly basis, it is sometimes impossible to find an exact replacement. Using another motherboard often causes software problems due to BIOS changes, changing device drivers, and different timing and interface issues. These can take days or weeks to completely solve.

Another key area of concern is the availability of expansion slots. Many of today’s motherboard type systems do not offer as many ISA/PCI expansion slots as they did in the past. In fact, the ISA slot has virtually disappeared from the latest boards available today.

backplane_faqEnter – the SBC
The Single Board Computer or SBC contains all the functionality of a conventional motherboard only designed onto a single plug-in type card, which looks similar to a standard ISA/ PCI card. This SBC plugs directly into what is referred to as a “Passive Backplane”. The Backplane is simply a combination of ISA/PCI expansion slots into which the SBC and other cards are inserted. There are many different configurations of Backplanes available ranging from a couple of slots up to 20 or more.

Utilizing SBC and Backplane technology has several key and distinct advantages.

  • Available ISA/PCI expansion slots for add-in cards
    Lower mean time to repair (MTTR). System’s can be upgraded or repaired in seconds
    Better configuration control and longer product life cycle and technical support
    Designed for 24 hour 7 day operation

For more information on Industrial Computer standards checkout PICMG at: