Linaro is the open source collaborative engineering organisation leading development of software for the Arm® ecosystem. It aims to bring together industry and the open-source community to develop new technology, reduce industry fragmentation and duplication, and provide common software foundations for enterprise, networking, digital home, mobile and Internet-of-Things applications. Members comprise many of the world’s leading technology businesses including Arm, Cisco, Comcast, Google, HiSilicon, Qualcomm, Red Hat, SaneChips, Socionext, Spreadtrum, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.
Linaro has a sophisticated automated testing laboratory called the LAVA Lab that is being adopted as a standard test framework by companies around the world. LAVA (Linaro Automated Validation Architecture) is Linaro’s home-grown testing architecture. The local development and centralised testing lab in Cambridge has around twenty, 42u racks for testing a wide variety of Arm devices and hardware platforms from credit-card sized circuit boards for mobiles to large-format boards used in servers. Over 50% of the target devices rely on USB connections for testing.
From the outset, when Linaro was set up in 2010, it struggled to find reliable USB hubs offering external control and the capability to withstand rigorous and Case Study Linaro Dave Pigott, LAVA Lab head, Linaro demanding LAVA Lab testing requirements. As the volume and complexity of work undertaken by the lab grew, problems around USB control and connectivity became increasingly costly and time consuming. Dave Pigott, head of Linaro’s LAVA Lab, says, “The main problem was reliability. We’d buy a range of hubs from basic cost to more expensive ones, but we found that eventually all would start to develop faults. They wouldn’t deliver full power on every port or a fault would cause a server problem, resulting in a server reboot. Another problem was that if you wanted to charge a device and run some tests, the device would often drain power faster than it would charge. We also needed the ability to control each port individually and there was simply nothing on the market with that capability.” Pigott and his team had even resorted to a Heath-Robinson-like solution of cutting a USB cable and connecting up to a Raspberry Pi computer to gain some level of power control.
While researching for a better solution, one of the LAVA Lab team came across Cambrionix – a local business that was fast making a name for itself as a pioneer of USB charging technology. Linaro approached Cambrionix, started testing its USB hub equipment and was instantly “blown away” by its capabilities.
Pigott says, “What we got from Cambrionix was far more than I ever hoped for or expected. While its equipment is not the cheapest on the market, it has been incredibly reliable and that is worth everything. Cambrionix is so far in advance of any other hub manufacturer I’ve ever seen, especially for our environment of industrial-class, automated testing. From day one we got the feeling that this company really knows what it’s talking about.” Linaro has replaced all of its existing USB hubs with around thirty Cambrionix devices and is now setting up a number of advanced technology projects that are likely to see the number of Cambrionix products it uses more than double over the next two years.
Linaro is using the Cambrionix PowerPad15S, which is a compact unit designed to connect and charge 15 USB devices with a single host computer. It is specifically designed for industrial standard testing environments and is over-engineered to provide both high-current charging as well as robust data transfer to the host. Linaro has also started to deploy EtherSync technology for managing and charging USB devices over Gigabit Ethernet LAN/WAN.
Cambrionix has helped to transform the way Linaro manages and operates its LAVA Lab making it more efficient and cost effective. Pigott says, “For the LAVA Lab itself, Cambrionix is really essential to what we do. My life and lab operations would be significantly harder and more complicated without the Cambrionix technology. The lab is the focus of many of the working groups in Linaro for testing, and whether or not those groups are aware of Cambrionix, it is fundamental to providing them with an efficient and reliable testing service.” Using the Cambrionix USB technology means that the lab can now run automated testing without having to manually monitor or stop and start operations. For example, USB ports can be switched automatically on and off or OS events triggered depending on the testing requirement. Pigott says, “Cambrionix technology delivers consistent power, control and reliability and the Cambrionix equipment simply does not fail. What that means to us as an organisation is huge. Before we were constantly fire-fighting problems. There is only a small team in the lab and now our time is freed up to be efficient and effective in high-value, productive operations. Without Cambrionix, I reckon we would need at least another two engineers, just to deal with the USB connectivity issues we used to have to manage.” Linaro and Cambrionix have now formed a collaborative relationship in which both organisations are exchanging knowledge and expertise to deliver innovative projects and technologies that further advance the work of Linaro. Pigott says, “Sometimes when I’ve gone to Cambrionix to discuss a particular problem or idea they’ve gone and grabbed some piece of kit they’ve been working on and said what you need is something like this. So often, Cambrionix is thinking ahead.”
“What we got from Cambrionix was far more than I ever hoped for or expected. While its equipment is not the cheapest on the market, it has been incredibly reliable and that is worth everything. Cambrionix is so far in advance of any other hub manufacturer I’ve ever seen, especially for our environment of industrial-class, automated testing. From day one we got the feeling that this company really knows what it’s talking about.” Dave Pigott, LAVA Lab head, Linaro