PXI – 20 Years of growth and evolution

Author : Loofie Gutterman, President of Marvin Test Solutions

12 May 2017

Loofie Gutterman, President of Marvin Test Solutions
Loofie Gutterman, President of Marvin Test Solutions

20 years ago, National Instruments proposed a new standard, PXI (PCI eXtensions for Instrumentation), and the following year, the PXISA (PXI Systems Alliance) was established as responsible for managing the specification and evolution of the standard.

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Patterned after the VXI standard, which was based on the VME bus standard, the PXI standard has remained true to its original charter – building on the PCI/CPCI and subsequent PCI Express bus standards which are managed by PICMG. Today, PXI is a $700M+ market with an annual growth rate of over 15%.

Leveraging and building on the PCI and CPCI standards has been a key factor with PXI’s growth and acceptance within the test and measurement market. Beginning with adoption of the PCI bus as the basis for PXI has enabled vendors and users of PXI to take full advantage of the technology and advancements associated with PCI products and components. This results in cost-effective and reduced footprint test solutions based on the PXI standard. And as the PCI standard has evolved, so has PXI by adopting PCI Express as the basis for the PXI Express standard. In addition, when crafting the PXI Express specification, the PXISA understood the need to accommodate both PXI-1 and PXI-Express technologies – preserving a customer’s current investment in PXI instrumentation as well as offering a path to next generation, higher performance test solutions using the PXI Express bus. 

Today, there are PXI Express chassis which support bus speeds up to Gen 3; and with the availability of PXI hybrid slots, customers with PXI-1 instrumentation have the ability to retain their investment while taking advantage of the latest advancements in PCI bus technology.

The adoption of PXI by major suppliers of test and measurement instrumentation has also fuelled PXI’s market growth. Today there are over 60 members that supply PXI products and systems. New RF test products are introduced almost on a daily basis, including innovative products that feature user-programmable FPGAs, RF transceivers, and multi-port VNAs. Similarly, high performance FPGA-based PXI products and high performance, pin-electronics-based digital instruments are now available, offering performance test solutions for component and board level test applications. With an expanding list of PXI vendors, products and capabilities, more test engineers are adopting PXI as their core system platform for functional test applications – ranging from manufacturing and depot test through to portable field and flightline test applications.

The ongoing investment in the PXI standard by members of the alliance has also contributed to PXI’s growth and acceptance. Since its inception, the PXISA has produced 8 specifications for both hardware and software standards, including support of PXI and PXI Express products, which reflects the PXISA’s commitment to keeping the standard current with the latest technology and industry trends. This commitment on the part of the PXISA has also extended beyond the PCI / PCI Express standard to include software, with current work by the PXISA technical committee now focused on adding Linux as optional support for PXI products. With an active PXISA standards group, adopters of the PXI standard can be assured that they are investing in a platform that will evolve as the technology advances and their own test needs evolve. 

PXI’s continued market growth and longevity have been facilitated by building on solid industry standards that have readily evolved with industry trends, the availability of multiple suppliers of products and systems, and a commitment by the PXISA to continuously evolve the standard to keep pace with technology and industry advancements. All of these factors have contributed to annual market growth and broad acceptance of the PXI platform with the PXI market expected to be $1B by 2018 (Frost and Sullivan). The market acceptance and projected growth of PXI confirms PXI’s place in the T&M market – a prominent standard for both current and future test and measurement applications.

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