PMBus digital power management protocol specification released; special interest group established

Artesyn Technologies Inc., Astec Power,and six semiconductor firms recently released their open-standard, digital power management protocol, Power Management Bus (PMBus), Revision 1.0.


Artesyn Technologies Inc. , Astec Power , and six semiconductor firms recently released their open-standard, digital power management protocol, Power Management Bus (PMBus), Revision 1.0. They’ve also established a special interest group (SIG), System Management Interface Forum (SMIF) Inc., to further develop, enable, and promote PMBus’ power operating system.

Artesyn and its partners state that PMBus is a collaborative venture to establish the first truly open communications standard for the digital control of power systems. In addition to Artesyn and Astec Power, a division of Emerson Network Power, the initial coalition included semiconductor manufacturers Intersil Corp., Microchip Technology Inc., Texas Instruments (TI), Volterra Semiconductor, Summit Microelectronics Inc., and Zilker Labs Inc. Since this group was formed, most major power companies have endorsed the protocol, and announced that they intend to develop compliant standard products.

The partners add that establishing SMIF as a formal SIG will help make PMBus available to a wide audience. They also set up a working committee, PMBus Implementers Forum, which has just released the first formal revision of the protocol specification, which is available at SMIF’s Web site . A downloadable membership application is also available on the web site for new companies wishing to join the forum. Members can contribute to future specifications and revisions, and participate in working groups for related projects, if they choose to become PMBus adopters.

"We’re extremely pleased that the PMBus initiative now has a formal organization to support and accelerate continued PMBus development," says Todd Hendrix, Artesyn’s worldwide marketing and business development VP and one of the SMIF’s board members. "This will accelerate the adoption of a standard protocol across a wide industry base, which will benefit all OEM system designers, power supply, and semiconductor manufacturers alike. Artesyn is a longstanding advocate of open architecture systems to help customers improve time to market and streamline costs by adopting standard platforms. We expect the first compliant semiconductors and digital POL converters to hit the market during the summer."

Dave Heacock, co-chairman of System Management Interface Forum and TI'’s portable power management VP, adds that, "The PMBus protocol, implemented over the industry-standard System Management Bus (SMBus) serial interface, offers system developers an ideal route for digital control of power products in the near future."

The partners add that the growing complexity of power system control is changing the way power solutions operate. To satisfy these requirements, the coming generation of power conversion solutions—including isolated "bricks," non-isolated point-of-load (POL) converters, and eventually ac/dc power supplies—will be intelligent and offer the capability for programming and control, as well as real-time monitoring. The protocol for communicating with these future converters will be critical. They add that PMBus digital protocol establishes an open, industry-standard communication format to support these future products.

As a digital protocol, PMBus addresses the desire of OEM customers to have open standards that result in multi-sourced products. OEM customers can continue to design their systems' power architectures using discrete components or turnkey converter solutions. However, once the new protocol is widely adopted, the OEM will be able to control all compliant converters using the same set of commands.

Besides managing PMBus, SMIF also will assume responsibility for supporting SMBus, which was defined by Intel Corp. and the Smart Battery System Implementers Forum (SBSIF) for low-speed system management communications in PCs and servers.

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Jim Montague, news editor, Control Engineering,

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