Intel x86_64 processors are making major inroads into military and avionic areas previously dominated by Power architecture processors. IBM and Freescale's Power architecture was one of the dominant DSP platforms because of its Altivec vector processing support. Intel had SIMD support but not on the same scale until recently.
Other issues with Intel platforms in these environments was power and connectivity. Ethernet was not a problem but Serial Rapid IO (SRIO) was used in a number of applications. Getting SRIO to work with Intel chips required an FPGA. That tended to be an expensive and duanting chore.
All that has changed. IDT now has a x4 SRIO endpoint chip with a x4 PCI Express interface and Intel's low power Sandy Bridge (see An Embedded Sandy Bridge) adds 256-bit Advanced Vector Extensions (see Intel's AVX Scales To 1024 bit Vector Math). AVX puts Intel right in the middle of the vector processing arena. It is also scalable to 1024-bits so future products will be even more interesting.
This combination is being delivered by Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing. It's 6U VPX CHAMP-AV8 hosts a pair of Sandy Bridge processors tied together with SRIO using four IDT chips. Each processor has two IDT chips because the Intel processor can use the bandwidth. There is an SRIO switch onboard that ties these processors to the backplane fabric.
Gigabit Ethernet is also part of the mix but the board is essentially two independent processing systems tied together using SRIO. Xeon class processors would be required for a multichip SMP system and AVX equipped Xeons are not availiable yet. Besides, most systems in the target environments already use SRIO to tie everything together to provide scaling by adding more processing nodes.
So why does SRIO make such a difference? There are a number of reasons but small packet size, guaranteed delivery and low power are usually at the top of the list. SRIO does significanly better than Ethernet for these requirements.
The combinationof IDT's chip and Intel's is definitely a game changer. The Power architecture still has lots of support and many advantages but some of them have just disappeared.