Mercury Systems Blog Mercury Systems Blog Wed, 16 Jun 2021 15:37:11 -0400 en-US hourly 1<![CDATA[DAL-certifiable computing for future avionics]]>, 16 Jun 2021 11:09:00 -0400

Mercury partners with Intel to deliver DAL-certifiable computing for future avionics. Hear how the two companies forged a longstanding relationship to help make the latest commercial technologies profoundly more accessible to the A&D industry and deliver trusted, secure solutions that make the world a safer, more secure place.

Learn More:



Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. And today's topic, DAL certifiable computing for future avionics. Joining me today is Greg Tiedemann, mission director of product management here at Mercury Systems, and our special guest today, Yemaya Bordain, director of IoTG global public sector sales at Intel. Greg, Yemaya, good day, and welcome to the show.

Yemaya Bordain:

Thanks so much for having us

Greg Tiedemann:

It's great to be here.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well, thank you both again. Yemaya, you are our guest today, so could you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Intel?

Yemaya Bordain:

Yes, absolutely. It's great to be here. Thank you again for having us here. I lead global public sector sales in the IoT segment at Intel. And we drive defense and aerospace, including safety critical avionics, civilian government at the federal state and local level, and education. And so our team is global in scope, and we have been engaging directly with Mercury now for over three years, maybe longer, on safety critical.

Ralph Guevarez:

Yeah, that's great. Well, welcome to the show. Great to have you. Greg, a brief background on your current role at Mercury, please?

Greg Tiedemann:

Yeah, sure. I'd be happy to. I am leading the product management activities permission systems here in the US, and our focus is working with a business development team as well as working with new customers and technology partners, like Intel, to go out and penetrate new markets. For example, the safety critical space is a big area for us that we've been focused on for a number of years now both in commercial as well as in defense. So it's been a great ride so far.

Ralph Guevarez:

Great. Well, thank you both again for joining me. Let's dive right into the discussion, shall we? How did Mercury and Intel start working together on safety, please?

Greg Tiedemann:

What's interesting, Ralph, is actually our relationship with Intel goes back to the founding of Mercury. We worked with Intel on some of the earlier processors back in the day. And then along the way, about 10 years ago, we started working with Intel as we were transitioning the sensor side of our business from PowerPC over to Intel because of some end of life issues back then.

Greg Tiedemann:

And then most recently I think we got started working with Intel probably a little bit over three years ago, Yemaya. And we were working on... We were getting a lot of requirements from our customers for an upgrade and performance as well as we were facing some end of life issues in PowerPC, very similar to what we went through 10 years ago in sensor processing. And we reached out to Intel. We understood that Intel at the time was working on functional safety in the automotive market, and we were looking to leverage that into avionics.

Greg Tiedemann:

So I don't know. Actually, maybe this is a good transition, Yemaya, to describe how you guys were working on functional safety and the work you were doing towards taking that into safety.

Yemaya Bordain:

Yeah, definitely, Greg, you talked about three years ago. We just celebrated our three year work anniversary together about 20 days ago. And you know, it was, it was quite the experience to kind of think about this journey over the last few years. At the time when we started this pursuit of safety in avionics space, Intel was driving automotive and industrial, and we were really wanting to get this footprint in those markets. And in order to do that, we had to develop some expertise on safety.

Yemaya Bordain:

So we had made an acquisition of a company at Pisa, Italy called Yogitech. And at the time they were leaders in developing tools for the automotive standard, the 26262. And in fact, their co-founder and CTO was the coauthor of the part 11 of the 26262, which focuses on safety guidance for semiconductors.

Yemaya Bordain:

And so we made this acquisition of Yogitech as they were starting to really dig more deeply into automotive in order to enable autonomous driving. Suddenly we had gotten a ton of OEMs that started to contact us and they had recognized that we were getting deeper in safety. And so they asked us if we could leverage that new found expertise in order to support them. And that's kind of how I got involved. I was an engineer at the time, I was a solutions engineer, when we met and my project was to answer the question of whether we could pursue this market. And it just so happened at the same time mercury had just made the acquisition of Richland Technologies and we were getting to know them.

Greg Tiedemann:

Yeah. So it really was a perfect timing, Ralph, of Intel at the same time Mercury was going after this market. And we obviously had a long standing relationship working together and we both were talking to very similar customers. In fact, I think sometimes we were talking to the same customer and they were encouraging us to work together. You could say it was just a perfect win-win combination at the time of we needed a technology partner and Intel was looking for a go to market partner.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you both for your insights. I'm very excited about the partnership that you are both building between Intel and Mercury. Could you do me a favor and build a picture for our listeners, how did it all start the relationship with Intel and Mercury? And talk about the collaborative nature between the two companies?

Greg Tiedemann:

So there were a number of factors going on in industry around this time, Ralph, and actually Yemaya and I ironically just finished up a webinar that you'll get some more details on. But the few major trends that we were both tracking were, as I mentioned earlier, we were faced with an end of life issue with the current product that we had around PowerPC.

Greg Tiedemann:

In combination with that, we had a number of customers in commercial as well as in defense that were looking for a lot more performance than some of the other processor companies could provide. And quite honestly, safety, it's a really intimate market and that you can't jus go to a supplier and buy a product and walk away and it's just going to work. In order to get through a safety analysis requires a really intimate relationship with your technology partner.

Greg Tiedemann:

So as we were looking for a partner to team up with it just seemed like a logical choice to work with Intel. We've done it before, as I mentioned earlier in the sensor processing stuff 10 years ago, and it felt... We had a very trusting relationship at this point. And maybe, Yemaya, you can talk about some of the factors were going on that you're hearing from your customers and parallel to that.

Yemaya Bordain:

Yeah, Greg. During the time we had many OEMs that were coming to us, and for years they had been kind of coming to us and they had been saying, "We want to use Intel for safety application and we need your help and we need your support to do that." And over and over again we couldn't get an answer on defining what help and defining what support meant. And so we didn't understand what we were committing ourselves to.

Yemaya Bordain:

And so the way that we generally operate is that we're a great merchant. We support and we scale our partners, and we knew that we needed some to learn more and then also go to market. And so Mercury had approached us about this. They were already a long-term customer of ours on supporting and driving edge computing on high-performance edge. And it made a lot of sense at the time. Mercury was relatively new to this level of safety and certainly on Intel. And then Intel of course, is our kind of first go around on safety. And we didn't know for certain whether we were going to move forward or not. And we were really just trying to understand what we needed to do in order to meet the needs.

Yemaya Bordain:

And essentially the OEMs were telling us that there is some level of information, some level of detailed documentation about our processors that could provide them with the knowledge that they needed so that they could mitigate all potential failure conditions when they integrated Intel processors. And we actually went to Mercury first as we were trying to learn what does the standard, how does that break down into what needs to be provided to OEM from the semiconductor device vendor. And Mercury provided us with what became a base document of a list of artifacts, a list of questions, a list of information that we needed to provide in order to just get started.

Greg Tiedemann:

I guess just to close on this one, Ralph, Intel was looking for a market business partner. Obviously we were looking for a technology partner, but in both sides, it really requires a very close, intimate, collaborative relationship, or we could share. And in Intel's case they had to share a lot of very sensitive technical documentation to support our certification process. And we were working very closely with them jointly with our customers, sharing a lot of business documentation and business plans and things like that. So yeah, it worked out really well for both of us. And here we are today.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you both for the detailed response. Now, could you elaborate on the collaboration portion of the relationship please?

Greg Tiedemann:

Sure, sure. no, it's a great question because it really required a multilevel collaborative relationship between Mercury and Intel, certainly at the technology level, as I mentioned earlier, but also at the business level and the executive level, quite honestly. It really went up very, very high on the organizations on both sides, because I had mentioned earlier, doing safety certification, things like that, really requires a lot of information going back and forth as well as we're both entering into this market, we're trying to better understand where the two organization can really be adding value. So actually, Yemaya, maybe you can be talking about some of the collaborative discussions at the technology level.

Yemaya Bordain:

Yeah. So at the beginning of this, as I stated, I was still a lonely engineer and it's just jumping in and didn't even have the expertise at the time. And it was awesome to contact Mercury. I found that we started engaging almost on a daily basis. And so I was getting our architects in meetings. I was understanding more of the problem statements and what need to be done for our OEM for the final solutions. We were learning where there were gaps in our product offering. I remember one of the first conversations that we had, and Greg was asking about our bootloader. And the response that I gave him, I was like, "Oh, we have this slim bootloader. You can get it on, on GitHub." But then they're asking questions like, "But are there any binaries?' And it's like, "Huh?" You kind of take for granted what that means and why it's so important in certification.

Yemaya Bordain:

And so we had many of these technical reviews. And also when you are going into a new area and you're working with a different company that's also going into a new area together, you find that you will both go in with many blind spots. And you have to build that trust in order to demonstrate and know that you have each other's backs.

Yemaya Bordain:

And that's what we kind of focused on. We focused on getting to know each other. We focused on getting to understand our management chains. We kind of developed our working model. And at one point we were talking about... We were seeing each other so often we said that we needed badges into each other's offices because we were just constantly hanging out at the office.

Greg Tiedemann:

That's true.

Yemaya Bordain:

And even if it meant that we would be on the board writing out a longterm strategy, or if we were going deep into technical details with some of our experts that are across the globe for both companies.

Greg Tiedemann:

Yeah. You go into these things and you can plan out a strategy on day one and by day 10 it's going to change a little bit. And by day 100 it's changed even more. Really, I think, the essence of the relationship is both sides were really able to honestly, openly, transparently collaborate on all these levels. Like I said earlier, the technology, the business level things change. We got different customer requirements along the way. There were a little bit of a surprise that, "Oh, you want that? Oh, okay. Yeah, we'll get right on that." So it just required a very open and transparent dialogue going back and forth, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

Yeah. Well, it sounds like it took a lot of investment on both companies. How'd you guys make it work?

Yemaya Bordain:

Ralph, that's really a great question because we think about investment so often in terms of money. In this case, we were investing our time. We were investing quite a bit of resources, and we were really committing to each other because it takes so long in this market to get a return. One safety opportunity is anywhere between two to six years. And so there's a long time before you actually see whether you've been successful or not, or if you've you've been able to scale or not.

Yemaya Bordain:

And this was exactly what the problem statement was for Intel at the time and what we were asking ourselves. And ultimately we knew that we could support this technically. We could definitely address technical concerns. A bigger problem for us was the business model and how we would become successful in what is considered a pretty low volume market. And this has required new investment. It had required a new expertise as well. So we've been working on hiring in order to support these. And I know that that Mercury... We talked about our acquisition, but mercury also made some as well.

Yemaya Bordain:

And the defense and aerospace market, generally this is just little volume. And so in this market it's very difficult for us to influence the silicon and make changes in the silicon for a market that for instance, there are only a thousand planes or so that Boeing or Airbus would produce in a given year. And so we understood that we needed to come up with some kind of model such that we would be volume agnostic.

Yemaya Bordain:

And in doing that, we kind of learned from Mercury but we also learned from the market and particularly the software folks, and we are offering this under a licensing fee. And that's what enabled us to capture the initial investment but then also to ensure that whether the opportunity was for 5 aircraft or 5,000 aircraft, that we could support this in the longterm and have the committed resources in order to do that in a sustainable and profitable manner.

Greg Tiedemann:

It's interesting, Ralph, because what Yemaya just described is nearly identical to the same conversations we had going on within Mercury about the investment in our business strategy like she was just saying that she was having those conversations in Intel. So really in the end... well, not in the end, but all the way along the way required a very close executive level relationship and discussions. Obviously, Yemaya and I are working very closely on the technology and the business development with the customers. But when you get into a significant investment and time and resources in the end, there was certainly a lot of financial investment in this too. But getting to that return really got, got both of our executive teams engaged on a monthly quarterly basis and a very open, frank transparent conversations about do we keep going, what should we change, how can we accelerate this. yeah. And it was great to have that support. Honestly, I know Yemaya would violently agree with that, that it was great to have their support to continue to encourage and provide direction along the way. So yeah. Great question.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Both. Let's bring the customer into the equation, shall we? Why is it so important to the customer to have companies teamed up like this, the way that Mercury and Intel have teamed up?

Greg Tiedemann:

No, it's a great question. And at the end of the day, obviously that's the most important piece of the equation is the customer. And I got to say, working with Intel at this level really it's two major factors. It's time and lower risk. As we both, Yemaya and I, have been talking about throughout this discussion is that neither one of us really could have done it on our own. We could've, but I think it would have taken a lot longer. It would have been a number of retries and restarts along the way. But getting into this relationship requires a lot of information going back and forth.

Greg Tiedemann:

So having this close collaborative relationship in the end benefits the customer because we can get a solution out there quicker to them. And we were just talking about investment. Obviously, we need to get a solution out there quicker for our management team, as well as solving some very hard problems. So those are probably the two closest factors that I can think of. Yemaya, do you have some comments from some of what you've heard?

Yemaya Bordain:

Certainly. During the time we were... We had a lot of motivation at the time. We had at least one program that we were both trying to win. And at the time we were kind of engaging with that OEM separately. And we had to ensure that we were saying the same thing when we were talking about our product and about Intel and what Intel provides and what we plan to provide, and then also what Mercury would provide.

Yemaya Bordain:

So there were co-selling engagements. We did some traveling together. And ultimately, I mean, we had one OEM where Mercury wasn't in the room and they were like, "We want to look you all in the eye, Intel, and we want you to commit to this." And also to verify and validate what we had done with Mercury already and what we were working on with Mercury. And it was really meaningful to them, some of the challenges that we were able to discuss with that OEM and how we got through those challenges together.

Ralph Guevarez:

Great. Thank you both. Now, my last question, and I appreciate all your insights and I'm very excited, as I mentioned before, about the collaboration and the relationship between Intel and Mercury. I have to ask, where does the partnership go from here?

Greg Tiedemann:

Well, we've got a lot of things we started, Ralph. So we've got to finish strong, Yemaya. It's-

Yemaya Bordain:

And we will.

Greg Tiedemann:

We've had a lot of great successes so far. We announced a product about a year ago based on Intel's Atom. And we're working on a new one right now. We've got a number of program pursuits in play for both of us that are really strategic. So it's very exciting, and I'm really encouraged that we're going to build on the success. We've already got customers asking us both what's next. So it's a great question. And we're looking at areas around certifiable artificial intelligence as well as leveraging the Intel's 5G technology and things like that in combination with some of the things that we've been talking about. So yeah, I'm really excited about the future-

Yemaya Bordain:

I'm pretty excited. I'm pretty excited about what we're working on together in urban air mobility. I mean, air taxis. We're going to be keeping up with the Jetsons. We're creating that world. So that's what's next. And that's where I've been pushing Mercury in that direction. And we have some really exciting programs that we're jointly pursuing. And in that leave, we're currently in the design process. So we got to just keep innovating.

Ralph Guevarez:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you both for joining me today. I enjoyed the discussion, and I hope our audience has a better understanding of how Mercury and Intel have teamed up to deliver DAL certifiable computing for future avionics. I wish you both the best of luck moving forward. God speed. And I look forward to having you both on the show again.

Yemaya Bordain:

Thanks so much, Ralph. And thanks, Greg, three years.

Greg Tiedemann:

Yeah, man, time flies. Thanks a lot, Ralph. It was a great discussion. It's good to see you again, Yemaya.

Yemaya Bordain:

Of course.

Ralph Guevarez:

Bye bye guys.

Yemaya Bordain:

Have a good one. Thanks.

Greg Tiedemann:

Alright. Bye.


<![CDATA[Develop once, deploy anywhere: Introducing Rappid]]>, 20 May 2021 15:45:00 -0400
Read the Transcript -

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. Thank you for joining us. Mercury's Rappid platform was just announced, and I have an expert here to tell us a bit more about a new standard of flexibility. My guest and I are going to discuss what Rappid is and what benefits adopters can experience. Joining me is Nick Koranda, the product line director behind this technology at Mercury Systems. Nick, good day, and welcome to the show.

Nick Koranda:

Hi, Ralph. And thanks for having me.

Ralph Guevarez:

My pleasure, Nick. Thank you. Let's start with a bit of a background regarding your area of expertise. Shall we? Could you please briefly tell our listeners about your role at Mercury?

Nick Koranda:

Yeah, absolutely. So I'm the director for our tactical product line at Spectrum Systems. So it's my responsibility to deliver products to our customers and ultimately the war fighter. I like to think of it is if I'm delivering value to them, I'm doing my job right then.

Ralph Guevarez:

That's great, Nick, and I agree with you 100%. Let's get into the discussion. Could you please tell our listeners what Rappid is and more importantly, who did we design it for?

Nick Koranda:

Yeah, sure. So with the introduction of smartphones and apps, the military is really seeing the many benefits of that same methodology. The military wants to use systems for multiple missions. Traditionally, systems are developed with a single focus in mind. So we see much more interest in systems that can serve many purposes with that same hardware set. So Mercury Rappid is a framework that enables our customers and EW application developers to realize systems like this.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Nick. Could you tell me a bit more about those three key components: Open software, open hardware and open firmware please?

Nick Koranda:

Yes, of course. So the industry has made great strides in introducing open solutions in the area of hardware and software. You can see that specifically with open VPX and SOSA hardware. Likewise, there are many tools such as Docker, which provide open solutions for software development. So Rappid embraces the standards I just mentioned and more. In the area of firmware though, I think there's the greatest challenge to being open and that's why we've introduced a framework called Open FPGA, which enables open and reusable development of firmware applications. So Rappid now takes all of the available open standards and adds in open FPGA and so that provides all three areas of openness: Hardware, software and firmware together to provide what I feel is a very powerful solution set for system development.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now that is very impressive. That has to also come with a lot of benefits. Do you mind diving a bit more into what those benefits are?

Nick Koranda:

Yeah, definitely. So Rappid provides benefits in all of the major life cycle areas of system acquisition, specifically development, deployment and sustainment. I believe the best way to illustrate those benefits of Rappid is to leave our listeners with a phrase and to plant a vision in their mind. The phrase is develop once, deploy anywhere. When we enable our customers to reuse their proprietary applications and algorithms and reuse hardware systems for multiple missions, the benefits in the area of reduced development time, risk and cost, those are obvious when those benefits cross all of those acquisition areas I mentioned. With that in mind, if you can imagine the electronic warfare community introducing in a sense an ecosystem of EW iPhones, where they can load applications as needed, load those applications across multiple platforms, you really streamline the delivery of capabilities to the war fighter.

Ralph Guevarez:

Impressive again. Now, I know this was just announced recently, but are there products currently available that leverage this platform?

Nick Koranda:

Yes, we certainly do. We have two products that we've recently introduced in our modular processing system family called the MPS1101 and 1202. They're both platforms that have all of the processing that you would expect in a system like this, specifically CPU, FPGA and RF processing. And those systems are both enabled with the Rappid platform. These are rugged systems that are application-ready and easily taken out into the field or flown on an airborne platform. In addition, we're going to be introducing a third product soon that I'm real excited about in the area of rack mount equipment for lab and semi-rugged use such as a vehicle. All of these products, in addition to what I just mentioned, also leverage a library of middleware applications to reduce development time even further for our customers.

Ralph Guevarez:

Where should we point our listeners who are looking for more information please?

Nick Koranda:

Yeah, definitely. So we have a full, dedicated web page to showcase our Rappid technology on our website. You can go directly to it. It's and Rappid is actually spelled with two Ps, so it's R-A-P-P-I-D. If you see that word, you can see that it actually has the word app in it like the app store. We did a little bit of play on words because like I mentioned before, we're really trying to introduce that ecosystem, the iPhone for the EW community. And so we introduced that word app into the word rappid. In addition to that though, on the webpage, we have a white paper located there. We have an open FPGA tech brief and even more information so I encourage everybody to go there.

Ralph Guevarez:

Nick, thank you for joining me today. I'm excited to see what's next for your team and the Rappid platform. I wish you best of luck moving forward. Godspeed. And I look forward to having you on the show again soon.

Nick Koranda:

Thank you. It was a real pleasure.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host Ralph Guevarez signing off.


<![CDATA[Meet the newly released JTS0100—a turnkey, portable and ruggedized jammer training system]]>, 11 May 2021 09:36:00 -0400

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. Thank you for joining us. Mercury's JTS0100 was created to test and train radar and comms operators using realistic attacks. My guest and I are going to discuss the components that make the JTS0100 work. Joining me is Jerry Jacob, the product line director behind this technology at Mercury Systems. Jerry, good day and welcome to the show.

Jerry Jacob:

Hi Ralph. Thank you. And I'm glad to be here.

Ralph Guevarez:

It's good to have Jerry. Let's start with a brief background regarding your area of expertise, shall we? Could you please briefly tell our listeners about your role at Mercury?

Jerry Jacob:

Certainly Ralph. I started as a systems' integrator for an aerospace manufacturer, which transitioned into technical program management. Gradually, I evolved into program management, covering a wide range of activities, mainly for military programs. Then I came to Mercury as the program manager for the training product line. Now I am the director of the training product line. I am responsible for developing and driving the forward product strategy for the next generation of electronic warfare training products. Start off that forward strategy is JTS0100, which we are discussing here today. I am also accountable for the year over year growth, profit and loss, and the oral operational performance of the training product line.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Jerry. I appreciate that. Could you please tell our listeners what a jammer training system is and more so why is it so important?

Jerry Jacob:

Absolutely. Jammer training system is essentially a rugged full end-to-end system, which incorporates our advanced digital radio-frequency memory technology and comes with a library of US validated reconfigurable jamming and deception threats for accurate and scalable training for radar and comm operators. So, what I mean by an end-to-end system is that JTS is sized for commercial shipping, for the ease of transportation. JTS can be set up in a field, calibrated, and go from a non-operational to an operational mode in a field with a radar system in less than an hour. So, what that is is the user has to bring in the radar and the power that's it. JTS is ready to go. The JTS basically takes in the over the air transmitted radio frequency that is processed within the signal processing subsystem. The JTS0100 also comes with an antenna sub system that provides the signal reception and signal amplification to perform the over the air EW training.

Jerry Jacob:

The instructor can operate and control the system in real time using our extremely user-friendly graphical user interface on a rugged laptop provided by the JTS0100, which forms the human machine interface subsystem. So, all these three subsystems combined together makes the JTS0100. These are also built into ruggedized shipping containers with vibration mountings. So, as I said, all we need is the user to bring in radar and power and JTS0100 is ready to go. Why is JTS important? So as I said, JTS0100 is a turnkey system, which is portable and is ruggedized for field use. It's really easy to set up, set up is less than an hour. It comes with an extremely user-friendly graphical user interface. It has four independent channels across different bandwidths. It has built in calibration and last but not least library of US Government approved electronic countermeasures and electronic attack techniques for realistic contested environment training.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for that detailed response Jerry. I appreciate it. Now I've heard that a customer need was the initial driver behind that product. Now can you tell me a bit about how this came about please?

Jerry Jacob:

Yes Ralph, it was a customer need behind the JTS. So, basically our first customer won a contract against training the TPS-75 radar. Before our customer got the contract they were using a handheld system, which was a one off system provided by Naval Research Labs. They had a system failure and because it was built one off, it was not supportable and had no documentation to support it. And the system itself wouldn't turn on. So, our launch customer for JTS0100 came looking for a capability that has validated techniques by the US Government and they needed the ability to use it outdoors to deploy into the field, to start training under 12 months. So, this presented a unique challenge as our field of airborne subsystem was custom built for airborne applications and our customer needed a system to use in ground extremely fast and they couldn't wait for anything to be developed because development usually takes more than 12 months for a detailed development.

Jerry Jacob:

So, this was indeed a steep curve that we had to overcome really fast. So, what we did was an out of the box solution to develop a system for ground, based on our airborne subsystem. Thus, we launched JTS0100, a portable ruggedized system built into shipping cases. So, as I said earlier plug JTS into the power, bring in the radar, and it's calibrated and ready to use in less than an hour. So, basically in a matter of few months our customer who had no solution previously were able to deploy JTS0100 into the field to execute their contract. We, Mercury, were thus able to close a huge technology gap and provide an optimal solution, well under the extremely compressed time limit.

Jerry Jacob:

This is also where we as a product line, as part of the forward product strategy, started to shift focus where we take a project based sub system, which was custom built for airborne application backed by decades of efforts into different markets. Now we are offering JTS0100 to multiple customers. It is unclassified and can be sold commercially. We, as the product line are also trying to create new variants where the base system and base technology that we developed over the decades at the scene, and it would create an outpoint into different markets and applications.

Ralph Guevarez:

That's very exciting Jerry. Thank you. So, what benefits are there to using the JTS0100 or other challenges that the JTS0100 can help with that you'd like to mention please.

Jerry Jacob:

Certainly the key distinguisher of the JTS, other than the quick setup and the portability, is the extremely user friendly graphical user interface and the US Government validated library of techniques, which is part of the JTS0100 offering. The JTS0100 comes with four independent channels to be used under different bandwidths. Right now we offer two variants of the JTS0100 and the first variant operates under the two to six gigahertz variant, which is the main rata bandwidth. And also there is a seven to 11 gigahertz variant, which is more targeted towards aircraft based radars and the small flying objects like UAVs. So, these two bands gives us a lot of capability in both military and commercial radar environment. JTS0100 also have a scalable architecture that can scale to the frequency that our customer look for to train the operators in the full spectrum, which is the two to 18 gigahertz.

Jerry Jacob:

And that would be the next generation of the JTS0100. JTS0100 is targeted mainly for military and commercial raders. These radars are susceptible to a contested environment and JTS0100 offers the capability to interact with these systems to train the operators more efficiently and effectively against the latest EA attack methods in a contested environment they're looking to operate in. The GUI also allows a point and check capability with a mouse on the rugged laptop, which comes with the JTS0100. And based on all the techniques we have pre-programmed, they will be able to interact with the radar and make changes to the different techniques. They also can provide multiple mission dataset before they get to the actual field of deployment. This is what JTS is all about. So, to summarize what JTS0100 is essentially a rugged turnkey system, which can be easily transported, easily set up in no time, and the user friendly GUI, along with the US Government validated techniques offer the realistic training scenarios for the contested environment. We also offer train the trainer events where our engineers goes to the end users to train them for the use and applications of the JTS0100.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you Jerry. Now where should we point our listeners who are looking for more information on the JTS0100?

Jerry Jacob:

The JTS0100 has its own landing page on the Mercury website under the application ready subsystems. It has the dataset, the product brief, and the case study. That would be the first point where I would encourage everybody to check in to get more information on the JTS0100. And as always, reach out to me if you have any questions, need more clarifications or learn more about JTS0100.

Ralph Guevarez:

Jerry, thank you for joining me today. I'm excited to see what's next for your team and the new jammer training system. Godspeed moving forward. And again, thank you for joining me on the show.

Jerry Jacob:

Ralph, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me to let our listeners learn more about JTS0100. Thank you.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of MercuryNow, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.


<![CDATA[Acquired by Mercury: One employee’s view]]>, 10 May 2021 16:01:00 -0400

Nydia Aizpuru has been with Physical Optics Corporation (POC) for eight years.  A leading designer, developer and integrator of advanced technologies primarily focused on avionics and mission systems for defense applications, POC was acquired by Mercury Systems Inc. in late December 2020. She describes what it was like going through the acquisition process and integrating into the Mercury team.

During my time at POC, my role as Business Development and Marketing Communications Director evolved and I learned to adapt to change in a high-growth company of about 350 people. Due to several high-value production contracts, we doubled in size virtually overnight. Despite our growth, we still operated as a small business with an open door to leadership, transparency and open lines of communication, and the freedom to confidently bring ideas forward. Working as a single piece of the broader Business Development group, my team of three was small, but mighty in trying to find ways to solve problems and do more with less.

The day I learned about the acquisition, I was initially shocked, overcome by a wave of emotion. We knew about Mercury’s remarkable track record from our participation in conferences and events, but new possibilities can be both exciting and intimidating. Knowing things were going to change, but not knowing how they would change, it was reassuring that both companies’ leadership were transparent and positive in their initial communication to us.

After the acquisition announcement, we were welcomed by the Mercury team the next day. We found confidence in the success of Mercury’s prior business integrations – even though the POC acquisition was the largest to date, this wasn’t their “first rodeo.”  Early on, the integration team reassured us that we would all have a place at Mercury. They answered our questions and encouraged us to keep moving forward in our day-to-day operations. Mercury focused on making the process as painless as possible. We were immediately welcomed into the One Mercury family and it solidified a feeling of inclusion, which is a vital piece of Mercury’s culture.

It has only been five months since the integration, and it already feels like I have been with Mercury for a long time. The integration process is structured, which makes the steep learning curve easier to digest. There is a recognition that one size does not necessarily fit all and I was surprised by the degree to which honest feedback is openly welcomed. The culture of Mercury is so similar to POC’s that, were the roles reversed, I think Mercury people would have easily fit into POC without missing a beat. 

It’s exciting to be part of a global team with access to more resources and opportunities to learn, grow and contribute. We now work on projects that we could have only dreamed of before, including expanded potential for international collaboration.

This acquisition and integration occurred during the Coronavirus pandemic, amid distancing and disruption, and yet Mercury was able to keep us informed and make us feel like an essential part of the team. That says a lot about the One Mercury spirit and how effective the leadership team is at operating with its employees in mind.

I believe the legacy of POC still lives on as part of Mercury. Often the case at other companies, you do your job and stay in your lane, without knowing “the why.” The lines of communication are open to ask questions, and I know that my input is always valued. The One Mercury culture helps me do my job better, in a way that matters.

I am excited to see what lies ahead!

Learn more about how Mercury enhances its capabilities through mergers and acquisitions. 

<![CDATA[An agile approach to bring trusted solutions to the defense industry]]>, 10 May 2021 15:54:00 -0400

We live in a fast-changing geopolitical and technological landscape. The convergence of near-peer rivalries with China and Russia, along with a growing array of new threats and technologies from hypersonics to artificial intelligence to cyber, has quickly and radically impacted the considerations and approach needed to uphold American national security.

These trends also necessitate a shift in our ways of working within the defense industry – something that’s long been considered, but must be acted upon now more than ever.

A New, Innovative Mindset

In 2018, then DoD Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin released the Department’s Digital Engineering Strategy, a framework to transform its approach to decision-making that would keep pace with the realities of a new era.

Then, just last year, Dr. Will Roper, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, published a document calling for a disruptive, agile new approach to defense acquisition. In remarks delivered at the AFA’s 2020 Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Dr. Roper noted that given the breakneck pace of technological change and an uncertain geopolitical future, “we have to do our part in acquisition and that means being able to develop war-winning systems at a pace that today's technology, trends and threats require.”

Both documents clearly laid out the need for an evolution – even a complete disruption – to the DoD’s approach to technology development. In Dr. Roper’s article, he calls for a range of new strategies – among them owning the tech stack, shifting and focusing on solutions at the edge, and improving digital engineering capabilities – to revamp our approach to technology development and deployment.

Put simply, as threats to our national security become more digital and agile in nature, so too must the processes and capabilities to mitigate them.

A Digital Transformation for the Next Era in Defense

As an industry leader positioned at the intersection of commercial technology and defense, Mercury Systems is in the midst of a significant digital transformation of our own. From Development, Security and Operations (DevSecOps) to agile edge computing and beyond, our team remains hard at work taking the latest advances in commercial technology and making them profoundly more accessible to the aerospace and defense industry – and doing so faster and smarter. We’re adopting new, more agile and more streamlined processes to bring technology development cycles in line with those in the commercial sector, which has positioned us well to keep pace with changes in global threats and capabilities.

One key element of our digital transformation is ensuring that our common development tools and environments streamline the process of creating and deploying new technologies and solutions. From continuous integration at the development level to digital twins that can simulate adoption on the government customer side, our organization – and the industry as a whole – has vastly more tools at our disposal to develop and implement new technologies more quickly and affordably.

You need look no further than our microsystems business to see firsthand how – and how quickly – ways of working have changed to adapt to this new era in defense. Just a few years ago, we operated in a cumbersome paradigm in which sensors would have to transmit data to another location for processing, which would then analyze, transform and then transmit that data to the user for action. Further, these sensors were upgraded via years-long development cycles.

However, the threats of today have made such a construct all but obsolete. By leveraging new processes and approaches to microelectronics development, we have reduced development cycles from 5–7 years to 12–18 months, in line with development cycles in consumer electronics like laptop computers and mobile phones. Not only that, we’ve also been able to drastically reduce the size of secure microelectronics technology and have solved ruggedization challenges, all of which allow computing to take place at the edge in close proximity to the sensor itself, reducing latency and enabling the rapid action needed to counter the threats we face today.

Delivering Uncompromised for the Future

The digital transformation that we’re currently undertaking at Mercury Systems is just one part of our commitment to Deliver Uncompromised for our customers. At the heart of that commitment, we are making trusted solutions profoundly more accessible to the defense community, all on development cycles that parallel the foremost commercial technologies.

It’s an exciting time to be part of such a dynamic sector, and from our vantage point, there is value for everyone along the supply chain in doing things in a different way than we have in the past. We look forward to continuing to shift that mindset, helping usher our industry into a new, agile future.

For an additional in-depth discussion about open architectures and enduring competitiveness, watch our on-demand webinar.

<![CDATA[Bringing defense into a digital future at The Speed of Mercury]]>, 10 May 2021 15:40:00 -0400

The acceleration of innovation presents those of us in the defense industry with a challenge: How do we embrace the march of digital transformation and allow it to help inform strategic decisions and become an integral part of defense projects to better respond to sophisticated new threats? There is global unity among our allies that a digital transformation in defense is necessary to uphold stability in the international order. But what exactly is digital transformation? The best definition I have found is this:

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It's also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo and experiment.

But it is widely accepted that there is a business mandate behind the term digital transformation – to rethink old operating models, to experiment more and to become more agile in your ability to respond to customers and rivals (or in our case, adversaries). 

According to the Defense News Outlook 2021, there is overriding opinion across industries and nations that continued investments in defense – specifically integral cutting-edge capabilities like AI and big data – are non-negotiable. We must improve relationships between the Department of Defense and suppliers; secure supply chains to prevent counterfeits, malware or the interruption of systems through vulnerable firmware/software; develop new standards for open and secure solutions; and leverage research and development between industry and government – after all, our adversaries are doing it with alarming dollar amounts.

The appeal and the potential of digital solutions for consumer-facing industries are clear, but the need for such advancements in the defense industry is often overlooked, which can be detrimental to national security. Our defense landscape is continually changing, and sophisticated new threats demand sophisticated, new digital capabilities to protect against these threats.  

As the leader of a technology company positioned at the intersection of high tech and defense, I believe our digital future in the aerospace and defense industry starts now, with an unwavering commitment to the cultural and technical innovations we need to succeed.

At Mercury, we have focused on precisely that: fostering a digital-first mindset and introducing flexible solutions that fundamentally change the way our industry views high-tech defense technology. We’re taking on the digital transformation age at The Speed of Mercury.

From our investment in trusted advanced microelectronics to open-architecture solutions to end-to-end supply chain management and traceability, we are continuously experimenting and challenging the status quo.

Accelerating innovation at The Speed of Mercury enables us to make the world’s most sophisticated technologies profoundly more accessible to the defense industry; our promise to deliver innovation uncompromised underscores our commitment to protecting the advancements our industry and nations endeavor to realize.

<![CDATA[What The Speed of Mercury means to me]]>, 10 May 2021 12:28:00 -0400


Businesses are always talking about evolution. There is a classic Harvard Business Review article from – believe it or not – 1972 that has been republished many times over and even updated more than 15 years later, but the crux of the story remains true today. It’s about how companies develop and grow, and what sticks with me from this enduring article is the concept of not only evolution, but revolution. The author says that as organizations age and grow, they reach a quiet evolutionary period of prolonged growth “without a major economic setback or severe internal disruption.” But it goes on to say that this is not indefinitely sustainable; companies will see times of upheaval that involve organizational changes: periods of revolution. What used to work no longer does. It is within these revolutionary periods that successful companies must find new organizational practices that “will become the basis for managing the next period of evolutionary growth.”

Mercury’s strategy has worked well over the past six years, and we anticipate yet another strong year as we approach our 40-year anniversary. Evolution. For me, Mercury has reached an inflection point, and it is time to both celebrate our past and take a fresh look at how we can accelerate our growth and continue to create value for all of our stakeholders. It’s time for revolution.


We are developing a blueprint for ongoing value creation to ensure Mercury is well positioned for what’s next: the right processes, practices and mindset to serve customers, attract and retain the right talent and prepare us for our next phases of growth. Many companies wait too long to address changes that come with high growth. We intend to take full advantage of our position of strength and the opportunities at hand to truly scale Mercury to create value as we look toward the next milestone in revenue.

Our industry is changing. We know our business has the potential to be bigger, stronger and more valuable. Mercury’s recent growth has already demonstrated our remarkable ability to come together to deliver superior results. We are a team that lives and breathes our Culture, Values and Purpose: Innovation That Matters, By and For People Who Matter.

The Speed of Mercury

We’re not just leaning into the future, we’re investing in it: developing innovations that deliver trusted, secure, high-performance sensor and processing solutions that are open, relevant and positioned to change the world for the better; adopting new and agile processes for our technology development cycles to better match the revolution in the commercial sector; creating common development tools to quicken the deployment of new technology solutions.

We have only scratched the surface and have even greater growth and value to unlock. I am certain this journey will accelerate our ability to realize our full potential as individuals, as teams and as One Mercury. Accelerating innovation at The Speed of Mercury enables us to make the world’s most sophisticated technologies profoundly more accessible. But our reason for doing it will always be profoundly human: to make the world a safer and more secure place for all.

The Speed of Mercury page will continue to deliver content relevant to this phase of our growth. Follow the page and subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to date on the latest conversations, articles and thought leadership from Mercury.

<![CDATA[Supporting growth and scale through full-funnel digital marketing]]>, 10 May 2021 08:57:00 -0400

The Speed of Mercury started out as a marketing campaign designed to celebrate and communicate Mercury’s new wordmark and website, both launched late in 2020. However, it has become so much more. The campaign links our new wordmark to specific themes highlighting how Mercury is accelerating innovation, bringing forward new commercial technologies and capabilities, and making them purpose-built and profoundly more accessible to our aerospace and defense customers today. In his message, Mercury CEO Mark Aslett talks about what The Speed of Mercury means to him: accelerating growth, building scale and creating value to meet the needs of all of our stakeholders, especially our customers.

From a marketer’s perspective, The Speed of Mercury is about how we can best support that growth, scale and value creation, with the key “how-to” threads being full-funnel marketing and digital transformation, including measurement. While the campaign is designed primarily to drive broad awareness, it also serves as a full-funnel marketing campaign, which means engaging with our target stakeholders throughout the customer journey. Full-funnel marketing has become essential in generating the best return on marketing investment. Our approach includes building awareness of the Mercury brand at the top of the funnel, including: communicating our narrative of Mercury as a technology leader at the intersection of high tech and defense and a great place to work; engaging with stakeholders at the middle of the funnel through specific product and thought-leadership campaigns, and ultimately driving leads, purchase and loyalty at the bottom of the funnel. Our campaigns are integrated across media channels – owned, earned, paid and social. In addition to typical digital metrics of click-through rates and cost per click, we are building a measurement dashboard that tracks the stakeholder journey through conversion to leads and, ultimately, revenue (or new hires in the case of talent attraction).

Digital transformation is integral to The Speed of Mercury and our ability to scale our marketing organization and capabilities successfully. Over a year ago, even prior to the pandemic, we made a hard pivot to digital, which has only accelerated the transformation.  We continue to build out our marketing toolkit and tech stack with platform scalability in mind (think “Marketing as a Service” for our internal customers). This involves: our website as our primary owned media channel; our digital paid media capabilities such that we can generate a calendar of multiple campaigns that drive measurable awareness, engagement and revenue growth; a hybrid trade show and event system, including physical and virtual events; campaigns designed specifically to attract talent; and scalable investment in software that enables greater visibility to pipeline, demand generation and talent attraction. The Speed of Mercury campaign plan includes an immersive web experience, engaging content and a call-to-action through targeted media placement to drive demand in our focused growth areas and support for our new product introductions.

Our full-funnel integrated marketing strategy and digital transformation continue to be the core of efficiently and effectively building awareness of our brand by customers and other stakeholders, and driving growth, scale and value-creation for Mercury, including supporting our employer brand.

The Speed of Mercury page will continue to deliver content relevant to this phase of our growth. Follow the page and subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to date on the latest conversations, articles and thought leadership from Mercury.

<![CDATA[Are we ready for a flying car?]]>, 29 Apr 2021 12:20:00 -0400

As time passes, inventions tend to become ingrained in our everyday lives and less magical once the novelty wears off. I imagine people from the 1920s considered inventions and innovations of that time pretty amazing. Widespread availability of electricity brought to life radio broadcasts, traffic signals and television. As these wonders of technology have always been a part of my life, admittedly, I take them for granted and don’t have the same level of appreciation for them as someone seeing or hearing them for the first time.

Fast forward to present day. I very well may become one of those who marvels at what will be one of mankind’s greatest achievements—a truly autonomous flying vehicle. Like many innovations of the past, there are a lot of moving parts that must work seamlessly to successfully—and safely—produce a flying vehicle.

From a technology standpoint, the processing capability to capture, store, manipulate, and disseminate the sensor data necessary to launch, maneuver, land and park an autonomous vehicle is available today. It’s when introducing other elements—passengers, stationary object avoidance, other flying cars—that safety-critical performance becomes a focus. The onboard processing demands of smarter, more integrated avionics applications such as urban air mobility (UAM) platforms (e.g., a flying car) are overloading the single-core processors traditionally used to meet safety-certifiable computing requirements.

Multicore processors, first introduced in 2001, have found footing in virtually every aspect of computing applications, yet their adoption has been slow in those applications requiring safety certification. Moving from a single-core processor to a multicore processor can expose a system to hidden non-determinism due to invalid assumptions about resource availability. Designed by silicon vendors to improve average core performance, multicore processors are designed to share resources, which introduces control interference and non-determinism. (A non-deterministic algorithm can exhibit dissimilar behaviors on different runs even with the same input.) Flight safety is reliant on computing systems performing the same action every time within a given timespan when the system encounters a specific scenario. Unreliable behavior from your pet is annoying; unreliable behavior from the computer controlling your flying car can be catastrophic. Injecting disruption and complexity into the safety decision process is why achieving DO-254 (RTCA) or DAL (Design Assurance Levels) certification with multicore processors is so challenging.

Mercury solved this challenge by working closely with Intel to design the award-winning CIOE-1390 COM Express module: a powerful DAL-certifiable multicore processing solution with deliverable design assurance level artifacts that addresses the increasing application performance demands for higher-definition displays in mission-critical, flight-safety applications. Powered by an Intel Atom® multicore processor, the CIOE-1390 provides a full x86 processing architecture and integrated GPUs featuring Intel’s latest graphics. Supported with BuiltSAFE™ technology, the CIOE-1390 modules are available initially with DO-254 DAL-C flight safety certification evidence for the circuit card assembly and DO-178C DAL-C evidence for the highly optimized custom BIOS and bootloader software, with plans to offer higher DAL levels. The availability of these artifacts enables system safety certification to be performed faster, at a lower cost and with less risk than by other approaches. Only the size of a credit card, the rugged CIOE-1390 module delivers the processing power required to solve complex mission-critical compute problems that help ensure an autonomous flying vehicle and other graphic-intensive avionics applications have the onboard processing muscle needed to perform, flawlessly.

I’m intrigued at the prospect of witnessing a sky highway populated with driverless vehicles. Even more so, knowing that through Mercury’s commitment to Innovation That Matters® we are delivering the technology solutions critical to making the world a safer, more secure place for all. Beep, Beep.

Learn more about Mercury’s:

Safety Certification Services

Intel Partnership

Avionics Safety-Certifiable Subsystems

<![CDATA[How disruption to the “office” paradigm is bringing business closer to authenticity]]>, 14 Apr 2021 12:48:00 -0400

It’s been a couple of weeks since I convened with 6000 leaders from around the globe at the Simmons Leadership Conference to share thoughts and engage around the theme of authenticity and resilience and what that means in our personal and professional lives. The conversation has remained at the forefront of my mind.

I’m not sure that years ago authenticity was so highly desired, but today I believe that people’s receptivity to authenticity is changing. And work from home has wildly accelerated that. Although working remotely seems, well, remote, through this process, we tapped into something extremely powerful—an opportunity to help build a more equal and inclusive culture.

In our unveiled spaces, we have been forced to acknowledge the chaos in each of our worlds. Through video conferencing, we are getting a glimpse into our coworkers’ lives, seeing a whole other part of who they are and an appreciation for their authentic selves. I’m sure everyone who has been working from home has a story about a child, family member or pet making an unexpected guest appearance in a meeting.

Because my coworkers see me working in my home, everyone on my team knows that, among other things, I’m a caretaker for my three children and for my 84-year-old mom with Alzheimer’s, and the struggles that go along with that. This is my authenticity; it informs who I am.

As we are all seen in living color, there is a shared communion – an awareness of the variety of our individual circumstances. That acknowledgement of diversity has allowed us to be more vulnerable and, therefore, authentic. And while we may be still early in the journey, I am optimistic that this will add a new and valuable dimension to our corporate culture—a culture that values empathy and embraces people for who they truly are.

I believe flexibility is here to stay in one form or another. An article in Forbes says research points to a more flexible work model, with the majority of time spent remotely, as the most promising direction for returning to work. And, according to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, the next great disruption is hybrid work. I believe that we are witnessing a surge in the need for community and collaboration with the flexibility that people have now come to expect. Whether we call it hybrid or flexible work, there is no doubt the “office” paradigm has dramatically changed.

Disruption can be a good thing. At Mercury, disruption is usually positive—a technological innovation that significantly alters or improves the way that consumers, industries and businesses operate. COVID-19 will surely be known as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, disrupters of this century. Throughout the world, everything has been disrupted at home and at work and the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of a digital way of life.

When the pandemic hit, Mercury pivoted and was an early adopter of work-from-home measures to help protect the health, safety and livelihoods of our team members. We were resilient and quickly seized the moment of challenge and adapted it to what worked for our business. And while the Microsoft statistics show the past year saw productivity remaining the same or increasing, the downsides of prolonged work from home can’t be ignored. The digital loads in workers’ days – meetings, chats, emails, online documents – only seem to increase. We need to safeguard our team members from some of the isolation, boundary issues and burnout that can be associated with working from home.

As businesses continue their transformations to connect the physical and digital worlds, figuring out which approach works best for their particular needs, I hope leaders will best consider how to honor the value of authenticity, place their people at the center of their future workplace strategies, and foster a work environment where people feel safe being themselves. Numbers don’t lie – people who can be authentic at work interact more closely with coworkers and report higher productivity and overall well-being. By infusing our work culture with authenticity, we can tap into that “disruption for good” and digitally transform our workplaces for the better.

<![CDATA[Reflecting on the power of our Mercury women]]>, 13 Apr 2021 10:30:00 -0400

Although Women’s History Month is over, the commitment to challenging gender stereotypes and creating an inclusive workplace culture for all continues to accelerate at Mercury.

Throughout March, Mercury focused a lens on several initiatives for advancing the roles of women in business, including our own International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration, our involvement in the annual Simmons Leadership Conference, and a unique sponsorship of a predominantly female Capstone team at Brigham Young University (BYU) school of engineering.

Mercury’s internal IWD virtual event, hosted by the newly formed Women at Mercury group and led by our vice president of Human Resources, Stephanie Moody, featured a panel of women and men across the company who shared their personal stories of triumph and challenges, advice for juggling career and homelife, and how COVID has impacted the fight for equality in the workplace.

Our chief human resources officer, Emma Woodthorpe, opened the day with a renewed oath to continue creating a culture where access and opportunity exists for all. “We’ll continue challenging ourselves to make sure we don’t have glass ceilings and striving to create a culture where women can thrive and grow.”

Standout discussions included Kim Allen, an account management director at Mercury’s UK and France locations, who spoke about frequent work-related travel throughout her career leading people to call her a “bad mother” for leaving her children behind. “You’d never hear someone ask a man, ‘who is taking care of your children while you travel?’”

Nelly Umeh, a program manager in Andover, MA, has spent her entire career in the defense industry and knows what it feels like to be “the only one of something” in a space. She discussed “othering” and the marginalization of certain groups, unfairly categorizing and judging based on gender and racial stereotypes. “You’ll always have people who will ‘other’ you,” she said. “But we need to find the bits of community who support you.” She also pointed out that COVID has actually helped build a more inclusive work culture with so many people now working from home and sharing their authentic selves, not just the persona in the office. “COVID has really freed us to look at each other from all sides and we need to embrace that, both men and women.”

Other highlights included the perspectives of men at Mercury who discussed the challenges they have seen their spouses experience as women balancing careers and families, prompting them to become visible supporters of women in the workplace. They encouraged other men in the audience to do their part and make a conscience effort every day to impact inclusivity.

Simmons Leadership Conference

As a gold corporate sponsor, several Mercury women attended the Simmons Leadership Conference, the preeminent women’s leadership forum. Mercury CMO Stephanie Georges was a featured speaker on a business panel about this year’s theme, “leading with resilience and authenticity.” At the conference, Stephanie was joined by two other women business leaders to talk about what it means to be authentic in the workplace. Our CMO summed it up by saying, “I believe that at the core of authenticity, you need to know who you are, know what you love to do; and stay true to yourself.” These three core principles, she says, also apply to companies—know who you are as a company, what it is that you do best (what makes you stand out from the competition) and, most importantly, a brand must be true to itself to achieve success. Leading up to the event, Stephanie and SVP Dr. Amela Wilson shared more of their thoughts on empowering female leadership at Mercury in an impactful Q&A blog.

We were also inspired this month to have a discussion with three other women leaders at Mercury who discussed their experiences and shared insights as they work to cultivate hope, build confidence and raise optimism for other women in business. Watch as they tell their personal stories on the MercuryNOW vodcast.

Supporting Women in STEM

Mercury’s dedication to closing the gender gap for women in technical roles is brought to life through our sponsorship of a predominantly female Brigham Young University (BYU) Capstone team. Watch and listen to another MercuryNOW vodcast that discusses this important topic and how we can all work together to advance the roles of women in STEM through innovative programs such as this.

As we end a month of celebrating women’s achievements, we’re excited to begin a new month committed to taking an active role in supporting women in the workplace. We’ve come a long way in the last five years, but we must continue to #ChooseToChallenge ourselves and work to drive positive change.

<![CDATA[A closer look: Mercury is a case study for business continuity during COVID-19]]>, 12 Apr 2021 13:15:00 -0400

A year has passed since more than half of Mercury employees transitioned to a work-from-home environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the outset, Mercury took a people-centric approach to its COVID-19 emergency response, swiftly implementing several mitigation measures to help protect the health, safety and livelihoods of its employees. In addition to the early adoption of mandatory work from home, Mercury employed several other health and safety strategies for work that required face-to-face interaction, including on-site screening and COVID testing. At the personal level, Mercury established a $1 million relief fund for employees and their families, increased overtime pay and sick-leave allowances, provided on-site workers with Uber Eats credit, and offered several wellness benefits. Above all else, Mercury continually focused on educating its entire workforce on the importance of staying safe at work and at home. To date, all Mercury facilities have remained open and productive through the pandemic.

Early COVID testing data prompted Mercury’s chief fellow technologist Karen Haigh, PhD, to take a closer look the company’s response. To help with the research, Dr. Haigh enlisted Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. The pair co-authored a study detailing these measures, which has been recently published by Oxford University Academic Press in the medical journal, Open Forum Infectious Diseases. Since publication, the article has garnered considerable media attention, including Bloomberg who stated, “Business leaders plotting ways to bring their employees safely back while awaiting protective COVID vaccines might turn to Mercury for guidance.” (link to Bloomberg)

 We sat down with Dr. Haigh and Dr. Gandhi to talk about their research and how this study came about in the following Q&A.

Question: Dr. Haigh, can you give us a brief history of your initial research on Mercury’s COVID-19 mitigation and what led to the creation of your article?

Dr. Haigh: Part of my role at Mercury is to provide data analytics for our COVID-19 response. I analyze what’s happening in the community and what’s happening with our on-site testing; I predict when an outbreak may hit a site; I look at factors impacting why people are getting sick; and I make recommendations for mitigations and how we should be testing. When we got our first COVID testing results in July, we had a high number of asymptomatic positives, and “inconclusives.” This didn’t fit any of the academic or community statistics, so I went looking for academic hypotheses that might explain the results. In my search through academic journals, I came across Monica’s research and emailed her, asking whether she thought these results fit her reduced inoculum hypothesis. She was enthusiastic, so we pulled the paper together, being very careful to track exactly what procedures Mercury implemented and the timeline for those actions. I spoke to probably 50 people around the company to figure everything out.

Question: How did you collect and examine the data?

Dr. Haigh: From a data-science perspective, I’ve been working on different visualizations that explore the data – for example, a radar plot that shows how individuals track the disease. I’ve spent a lot of time educating our employees on how to look at data, what you can legitimately throw out, for example.

Question: What was Mercury’s biggest value for taking this people-centric approach as early adopters of several mitigation measures?

Dr. Haigh: Putting people first and taking the necessary proactive steps to prepare for and respond to the pandemic has proven to be the right thing to do for all Mercury stakeholders. I think that one of the important things we did was educate people about their own behavior. By sending people home, enforcing social distancing and mask wearing for on-site workers, weekly testing, paying for sick leave—all these actions—showed that we care about our employees. That is reflected in Mark’s GlassDoor award, naming him the highest-rated CEO during the COVID-19 crisis.

Question: Dr. Gandhi, why did you decide to partner with Dr. Haigh and contribute to the research?

Dr. Gandhi: For me, as an infectious diseases doctor, I have been very interested in the impact of masks, ventilation and distancing (the three major non-pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate COVID-19 transmission and disease severity) from nearly the beginning of the pandemic, when we had understood how effective each of these strategies were for safety. I was particularly interested in seeing these strategies at work in settings that stayed open since I was concerned about the impact of indiscriminate closures (like of schools) and the collateral damage that could result.

Therefore, when Karen contacted me to tell me that Mercury had never closed but had deployed successive mitigation strategies to keep their employees safe—and had great results with these measures—I was intrigued and wanted to help her write this study by adding in the literature how these measures work. Even though Mercury used testing campaigns, which verified that their employees were not contracting COVID-19 at work, I think Mercury has shown that the universal precautions they employed (masks, distancing, ventilation), along with providing the necessary PPE, were enough. 

Question: What is the lesson for other businesses?

Dr. Gandhi: I think more of the U.S. could have adopted Mercury’s approach to keep their employees safe, instead of completely shutting down. One of the most important business-related strategies was encouraging employees to stay home when ill and providing sick leave support. This is something we should adopt moving forward (even when the dangers of COVID-19 have passed with vaccination) for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza, to keep our workers safe.

As the vaccines continue to rollout, Mercury’s actions are a great example of how other businesses can bring employees safely back to the workplace.

Karen Haigh, PhD, is an energetic innovator with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for physical, embodied systems like robots and smart homes. At Mercury, she tracks market trends and develops technology strategies and implementation plans, specifically related to AI, ML, autonomy, analytics, and data science for products and companies. She thrives in finding new ways to solve problems. In addition to over 100 publications, she is currently writing a book called Cognitive Electronic Warfare: An AI Perspective and holds numerous patents.

 Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH is an infectious diseases doctor, Professor of Medicine and associate chief in the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is also the director of the UCSF Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and the medical director of the HIV Clinic ("Ward 86") at San Francisco General Hospital. Her research focuses on HIV and women and adherence measurement in HIV treatment and prevention and, most recently, on how to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.



<![CDATA[Mercury is helping close the gender gap by supporting women in STEM]]>, 24 Mar 2021 10:33:00 -0400 THE TRANSCRIPT -

Ralph Guevarez:                Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic; women in STEM and Mercury sponsorship of a predominantly female Brigham Young University capstone team called, Cognite. Now, for the benefit of our listeners, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We did some research on the topic of women in STEM, and the findings were very surprising to me.

According to Catalyst, a nonprofit group that helps build workplaces that work for women, STEM occupations are expected to experience rapid growth in the coming decades. However, despite this, there were still a gender gap in STEM, which persists across the world. Men, continue to make up the overwhelming majority of students studying STEM in higher education and dominate the STEM workforce in many countries. Why is this the case, and when will we begin to see more women emerging in STEM roles? Well, my guests and I, we're going to have that very discussion, right here, on Mercury Now.

Joining me today are Allyson Gibson, external relations manager and capstone coordinator for the Electrical and Computer Engineering School at Brigham Young University, a return guest, Sabrina Pina, Mercury senior manager of software engineering, and Chris Opoczynski, VP and GM for Mercury's Data and Microsystems Business Unit. Allyson, Sabrina, and Chris, good day and welcome to the show.

Allyson Gibson:Great to meet you, Ralph, and thanks for having me on the show.

Sabrina Pina:                    Hi Ralph, glad to be here.

Chris Opoczynsk...:           Hi Ralph, thanks for having me on the show.

Ralph Guevarez:               Well thank you all for your time. Before we begin, can each of you please give our listeners a brief background on your current roles?

Allyson, let's begin with you, and also please tell us who Team Cognite is.

Allyson Gibson:                 So, in my role, I'm responsible for bringing in up to 60 unique real-world industry projects for our senior level engineering students. This year, three students from electrical engineering, two from mechanical, and one from computer engineering form Team Cognite. Who's been tasked with developing a DDR memory module tester for Mercury Systems. The team is mentored by Sabrina and coached and day-to-day operations by a Faculty Coach. I'm particularly excited about Team Cognite this year, because this is our first female majority capstone team: five of the 16 members are women.

Ralph Guevarez:                Thank you Allyson, this is very exciting indeed. Sabrina and Chris, tell us a bit about your current roles? So, let's start with you Sabrina.

Sabrina Pina:                      Sure, I'm one of the engineering managers for Mercury's Data Division in Phoenix, Arizona. I manage a cross-functional team of engineers and act as a mentor and technical liaison for Team Cognite.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you, Sabrina. Chris, please, brief background?

Chris Opoczynsk...:           Thanks Ralph, as you've mentioned, I'm the VP and GM for the data and microsystems businesses in Phoenix. Now, I'm really excited to be the executive sponsor for Team Cognite.

Ralph Guevarez:               Well, thank you again all for joining me today, very exciting indeed. Let's begin our discussion, shall we?

Allyson, let's start with you. What have your own personal experiences been like as a woman engineer, and also how can we begin to balance the inequities we are seeing in STEM today?

Allyson Gibson:                 Ralph, I think the reason we have fewer women in STEM is because of the social conditioning of girls at a young age. Many very young girls are so interested in STEM topics, but they lack that support to forge through the cultural bias in the middle school and junior high years. So often the bias sadly comes from their own parents and even school teachers. Personally, I grew up with two brothers and just jumped into whatever they were doing, and I was totally fascinated by The Jetsons. So for me, engineering was a pretty natural fit. My high school Physics teacher really sealed my fate for me when he talked to us about what engineers do. It was a short lesson in Physics class, but it truly impacted the trajectory of my life.

I think that the first step in bridging the gap is acknowledging our role in it. What messages are we sending to the young girls in our lives? Are we supporting them as they face the difficult junior high years? Do we try to remove their hardships or do we let them learn how to really truly tackle those challenges head-on? Do we encourage their love of STEM early on by providing opportunities and experiences for them to do things, like coding and robotics and even digging in the dirt. These days, it's often benevolent sexism that drives girls and young women away from STEM.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you Allyson, and that's a great point. There are a lot of ongoing conversations regarding the quiet cultural influences on this issue. Thank you again.

Sabrina, what has your STEM journey looked like? What have your challenges been and how are you helping to elicit change through programs such as Capstone Team?

Sabrina Pina:                      I faced the biggest challenges as a woman in STEM in college and early in my career. I feel I had to prove myself over and over again, and would often find my success discounted or my expertise questioned. There were many times when my ideas were dismissed without consideration or I was overlooked for my technical contribution. These challenges, however, simply turned into extra motivation to work harder and help change the perception of women in STEM. My journey was not easy which is why I worked to elicit change by volunteering and supporting organizations that promote women in STEM, speaking at school career days, mentoring college students; basically, anything that I can do to make a positive impact.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you Sabrina, your determination is certainly inspiring. Let's get Chris's perspective as the only male in this panel.

Chris, as I understand you are the Mercury sponsor for the BYU Capstone Team. What motivated you to get involved? And, Why was this so important to you?

Chris Opoczynsk...:          It's been quite a journey for me, Ralph. At first, honestly, I didn't give it much thought. My mom was an engineer, I've worked with women like Sabrina and Allyson for the majority of my career. So, women in STEM was just part of doing business.

It wasn't until I started dating and then ultimately marrying my wife, Connie, that I saw first-hand the bias and discrimination that she faced as a female physician. And that's really what got me passionate about the topic. I quickly realized that not being part of the problem is not the same as being part of the solution, and that there was no guarantees that there wasn't bias or discrimination elsewhere in my organization if I didn't take an active role.

When I joined Mercury, I wanted to do something to set the right example for the women in my organization, that we supported them, and also supported all core focus diversity. The Capstone Project was a really fun way to do that. By enabling these five highly capable women to do this project and show that they are just as good as the boys, sets a clear message to the organization as a very visible way for me to come out in support of women in STEM.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you, Chris. I hope more men will take your lead in being a supporting voice for women in technical roles. So, let's talk about the capstone program itself. What is Team Cognite working on and what has it been like working with the team?

Sabrina, let's start with you.

Sabrina Pina:                      Team Cognite is working on a prototype low-cost tester to validate the assembly of a Mercury DDR four memory module. The team is currently in the schematic and PCB design phase working to complete the prototype within the next few weeks. It's a very, very impressive team of students, many experiencing the product development lifecycle for the first time.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you Sabrina, it sounds like an incredibly valuable real-life work experience.

Now, Allyson, how did the students like the program? What type of feedback have you been getting specifically about working with the Mercury team?

Allyson Gibson:                 The team is so grateful to be working with Mercury, and in particular with Sabrina. They're currently in the throes of the project with just a few weeks left, and they are really, really recognizing the tremendous value of Sabrina's mentorship and experience; as well as the value of the assistance of other engineers at Mercury. At the beginning of these projects, students often underestimate the level of difficulty and the time that it's going to take to do these projects, and Team Cognite is no exception to that. This really is their first foray into the world of engineering design. So to have the valuable guidance of Sabrina and others at Mercury, is just invaluable. My experience has been that overtime students look back on their capstone project as one of the most valuable crucibles of their college career. Right now though, the only thing they're thinking about is how to get their PCPs laid out correctly and how to found time to program an FPGA.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you for that Allyson, that's great news. Way to go Team Cognite! Finally, what can you tell our listeners about the importance of companies like Mercury, to continue sponsoring capstone programs that give students real-life engineering experiences, to help set them up for success in the workplace?

Allyson Gibson:                 Ralph, simply put, I think there's just no way that we can produce, in the classroom, what our students are learning with real-industry professionals working on real projects. The support of companies like Mercury enables us to help prepare a new generation of engineers, who truly have the potential to change the world. The added value of Mercury's focus on diversity, which is reflected in the team and the mentors, is something that I personally consider to be a beacon to the future. We're honored to work side by side with Mercury Systems in educating our students.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you again Allyson, that is great to hear.

Sabrina, do you plan on supporting additional initiatives, such as a capstone program? Are there any other workplace programs you are involved with, specifically for women in STEM?

Sabrina Pina:                      Absolutely, I'm a believer that women must support women and I'm committed to devoting my time to any such initiative. Other than the capstone program, we have an unofficial society of women engineers in Phoenix, where we offer support and advice to one another. We all benefit from participating, but I feel this is most useful for the new women engineers that come on board. It helps provide a sense of community from the start of their career journey here at Mercury.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you, Sabrina.

Now Chris, what does the future hold for Mercury supporting more capstone teams and women in STEM, in general? And, are we hiring any of these amazing students that are graduating in May?

Chris Opoczynsk...:          First, let me say the program has been a resounding success. We definitely hope to continue this program with BYU next year, as well as expand to other universities and have multiple capstone teams. Ralph, I would hire every one of these students if I could. I just hope they feel the same way about Mercury as we do about them.

Ralph Guevarez:               Thank you, Chris. Mercury has made many inroads to advancing the careers of women in STEM. We have many successful women who are thriving in technology roles throughout all levels of the company, and we look forward to welcoming a new generation of women to the fold. And who knows, perhaps, from this amazing team: Team Cognite? Allyson, Sabrina, Chris, thank you again for your time.

Allyson Gibson:                 [crosstalk] Thanks Ralph, it's been great.


<![CDATA[Empowering female leadership: A conversation with Mercury’s CMO, Stephanie Georges, and SVP Dr. Amela Wilson about resilience and authenticity]]>, 18 Mar 2021 09:45:00 -0400

For 42 years, the Simmons Leadership Conference has engaged, impacted and inspired over 100,000 leaders from around the globe as the preeminent women’s leadership forum. This year, the conference will be exploring resilience and authenticity and bringing to life the best understanding of these concepts. Mercury is proud to be a gold sponsor of the 2021 Simmons Leadership Conference and hopes it sparks a larger conversation about empowering the female leader, as it did for us.

Inspired by this theme, two of Mercury’s female leaders, CMO, Stephanie Georges, and SVP Dr. Amela Wilson, share their personal insights and experiences as they work to cultivate hope, build confidence and raise optimism for other women in business.


Stephanie Georges, Chief Marketing Officer

Q. The theme of the conference is “authenticity and resilience.” Why do you think this conference has tied these two ideas together?

There has been a dramatic shift in the way we work. And I, for one, don’t believe we will go back to the way it was, even as we return to the office. We now live in a world where connection has been redefined, Zoom is a verb, and video is ubiquitous. This change has required us to be more authentic. You may dress up (at least from the waist up) to go to work when you are working from home, but the dog will bark, your toddler will walk in, your cat will sit on your keypad, the UPS woman will ring the doorbell. Even the background on your screen can be a window you never shared in your curated office at work.

But I think the increased transparency – the requirement of authenticity – is forcing us to practice resilience. This has been a year of change and we have had to adjust accordingly. Resilience requires both self-awareness and an awareness of those you work with. And it means learning or exercising humility while engendering optimism for what lies ahead.

Q. So how do you create that environment where people feel safe psychologically, emotionally to be their authentic selves and bring their perspectives to the table?

Video if possible. In our current work environment, when at all possible I try to have video calls or meetings rather than communicating via email. This way I can see the person, have a more fluid dialogue and assure them I am engaged and listening carefully.

Don’t interrupt. I make a conscious effort to not interrupt or finish a team member’s thought. And, once they are done speaking, I wait a few seconds more and offer the silence.

Embrace diversity of thought. I recognize that our diversity of ideas leads to better outcomes, and I acknowledge, absorb and incorporate the team’s feedback into our work as best I can.

Q. Do you believe the need for authentic and resilient leadership has grown in importance? Or has it always been necessary?

I do believe it has always been necessary. However, it is hard to ignore the impact of the unprecedented times in which we live. There is racial divide, economic divide, political divide –all accelerating a trend toward a lack of trust in institutions and leaders. According to the 2021 Annual Edelman Trust Barometer, employers are now seen as a mainstay of trust, accentuating the need for more authentic leadership. And I think the last year has heightened any resilience we already needed to survive in the business world, not just for women.

I am not sure that years ago authenticity was so highly desired; but these days, it is what singles us out.  Reflecting on when I was a younger woman in business, fitting in was more important, where now I think personal authenticity has become a hallmark of leadership. It’s a balance for sure.

Q. What advice do you have for emerging female leaders to gain the respect of colleagues without compromising their authenticity in any way?

I think there are a few ways: Compliment a job well done—it could make all the difference; resist the temptation to always say I’m sorry or apologize—reserve it for when you really are; lean on a mentor, ideally a woman, who you can trust and vent to; and stand up for yourself.

And, perhaps most importantly, I would say to understand that no permission is necessary for you to achieve what you want and be respected at the same time. I’m reminded of what Serena Williams said, “The world tells you to wait. That waiting is polite, and good things will just come. But if I waited to be invited in, I never would have stood out. If I waited for change to happen, I never would have made a difference.”

Dr. Amela Wilson, Senior Vice President, Mission

Q: You’re a female leader in not only STEM but also the defense industry, a double whammy of male-dominated fields. Was there an awareness on your part at the beginning of your career that you were going to face more challenges than your male counterparts? If so, how did you steel yourself for that and continue to advance your career?

When I first embarked on a career in technology, I knew I would have to overcome many challenges being a woman in a male-dominated field and male-dominated industry. One of the first steps I took to prepare for this was to find and build a support network with people whom I trusted and relied on for career advice and would act as a sounding board for challenges that I was facing. Over the years, I realized this was true for many other women as well. Finding your support network is key to finding your success.

Q: Did you ever find yourself hesitant to speak up because you were the minority voice?

Yes, most definitely. When I first started out in this industry, I was hesitant to use my voice, but at the same time, I knew that MY voice was needed to help bring diverse talents together to work toward a common goal. I persevered to find the confidence I needed to succeed in a technical role, while also expanding my talents in other areas, including how to understand my customers to make a greater impact.  

I remember one time, my team had an opportunity to demonstrate a patent, but my task leader wasn’t sure the solution was ready and was not on board with moving ahead with it. The problem was, if we didn’t take that opportunity, we wouldn’t have been able to get our solution tested and qualified. So, I went ahead and garnered support from the team and confided in my network, who encouraged me not to take no for an answer. I had complete confidence in our solution and our readiness to present it, as well as the confirmation from others who also supported moving forward. So, I did. We ended up getting our solution tested, and qualified, we scored exceptionally well and proved uniqueness of the approach that ultimately resulted in the patent.

Q: What advice do you have for the up-and-coming female leaders in STEM to help them find success and a sense of fulfillment?

First, find your support network you can rely on for advice, share ideas with, and help you to think critically and self-reflect. Also, don’t be too consumed with your career trajectory. Career growth shouldn't be measured with the level or the pay you may seek, but rather in finding the path that’s right for you, one where you are able to use your strengths to add value. Every route or re-route you take is its own learning experience—an opportunity to diversify your skillset, gain courage and learn something you would otherwise not know. 

For example, earlier in my career I was a leader of programs, and I was offered an opportunity in business development and strategy. I wasn’t sure if it was a growth opportunity for me. It was a promotion, but at the same time it didn't seem aligned to my career trajectory. However, I took it and it ended up being the best thing that happened to me. I was able to grow the business, expand my network, advance my leadership skills, and learn from other great leaders. This helped me become a more well-rounded and influential leader who could successfully collaborate and guide cross functional teams of different reporting structures. This experience forced me to practice listening, collaboration and persuasion above all.

Second, as you evolve into a leadership role, you must think about your team as a whole. Take the time to mentor and encourage other women and help them grow, as well as the men on your team. But recognize that sometimes women are afraid to ask for help or to speak up and need that little bit of extra encouragement to help them along in their journey.

Finally, I would say to every woman, continue to push yourself, believe in yourself, and do not get discouraged with any challenges that come your way. By believing in ourselves and our abilities, working together with confidence in what we do, and offering each other support and hope, we can accomplish all we set out to achieve and more.

<![CDATA[Five things to ask before buying a server cluster for edge computing]]>, 17 Mar 2021 14:38:00 -0400

High-performance compute infrastructure is breaking free from the confines of the data center and moving closer to the rapidly expanding volumes of data at the “edge.” But the environment at the edge can be unforgiving, presenting unique challenges when deploying edge-ready server clusters—rugged systems that can operate in the field with limited space, unreliable power sources and the ever-present exposure to physical security risks. Before building your edge-ready computing platform, ask yourself the following five questions to save time and money, and mitigate risks. 

1. What are my performance requirements not only today, but also, tomorrow?

It is important to consider your current and future computing requirements.  Edge applications are constantly evolving while maintenance costs are ballooning. This has the potential to dominate your IT budget if not planned for.  Buying the latest technology ensures equipment will remain current years after deployment – eliminating the need to “rip and replace” on an ongoing basis. A knowledgeable server manufacturer will help you leverage the latest technology and get the most performance for your IT dollar.

Also, remember that serviceability and upgradeability are vital for edge systems. Modular blade servers are an ideal fit for fast-evolving compute requirements since they allow architectures to evolve incrementally. These servers also eliminate the need for complete system replacement, lowering cost of ownership with easily upgradeable individual lightweight blades. 

2. Where am I operating?

Edge servers can be deployed in a wide range of settings and platforms, including farms, oil fields, factories, naval surface and submarine vessels, aircraft, and armored vehicles on the battlefield. In every location, edge-ready servers must be rugged and secure, delivering unhindered, reliable functionality over their expected lifespans. Environmental considerations should include operating in extreme temperatures, humidity, shock, vibration, sand, salt and dust. And because many mission-critical applications require that computing infrastructure be tested and certified to rigorous standards, edge-ready systems must be designed to survive in these unique field environments. Failure to perform can result in significant business losses or mission failure. Each edge application is unique. Make sure you work with an experienced partner with a successful track record of designing and testing systems for edge deployment.

TIP: Ask your rugged server manufacturer if they have designed systems for field-proven standards such as MIL-STD, MIL-DTL, IEC, DO-160, EN 50155 and TEMPEST

3. What are my space and power limitations?
Edge deployments are often constrained by available space and limited power. Servers specifically designed for the edge are optimized for transport and deployment in small spaces. Transit cases and small form-factor housings can simplify logistics for mobile computing applications, while flexible AC/DC power supplies allow equipment to operate in areas inaccessible to standard server power sources found in the data center. 


Optimizing for size, weight and power (SWaP) is a complicated game of trade-offs. When choosing SWaP-optimized servers, consider partnering with an experienced provider with the requisite thermal, kinetic and mechanical expertise.

4. Will my confidential or sensitive data be safe?

At the edge, secure premises may not be available and software-level cybersecurity measures can be insufficient to secure hardware containing sensitive information.  Systems exposed in the field are subject to attack, offering an adversary the opportunity to extract sensitive data or reverse engineer critical system details. While securing a data center may be as easy as locking a building, protecting servers in the field from theft, loss or compromise is far more difficult. Built-in secure boot, secure processing and physical protection technologies can offer design protection and cyber resiliency to maintain system-wide confidentiality and integrity. 


Ask your server supplier if they can help you deploy a secure boot server as part of your edge-ready cluster. This specialized server has built-in security that protects against unauthorized modification of your cluster configuration or software stack. It maintains data integrity even when offline or remotely accessed. System security exists on a spectrum; each application must tailor security needs to mitigate the risk and cost of compromise.

5. How does my server stack fit into my existing IT ecosystem?

Rugged servers featuring commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components and technologies are affordable and easier to integrate than proprietary edge computers because they are pre-certified to run a range of software and applications out of the box. They seamlessly plug into existing IT infrastructure, simplifying management across cloud and edge layers, and can be quickly deployed. While rugged servers designed and built with proprietary or custom components do not deliver these capabilities, they may deliver security advantages.  Working with a rugged-server expert with experience in both design approaches will allow you to explore the trade-offs and understand the costs and benefits of both.

The challenge is to build an edge computing infrastructure that delivers data-center performance in a rugged, compact and secure design. Mercury’s server experts are ready to help architect a rugged server cluster that works for you – contact us today. 

•    Watch Video: Servers Built for Every Inhospitable Corner of the Globe
•    View Product Offering: Rugged Edge Servers

<![CDATA[Women leaders at Mercury: Cultivating hope. Building confidence. Raising optimism.]]>, 15 Mar 2021 12:02:00 -0400

For 42 years, the Simmons Leadership Conference has engaged, impacted and inspired over 100,000 leaders from around the world. For 2021, the conference explores resilience and authenticity. Three women leaders at Mercury join us to discuss their experiences and share insights as they work to cultivate hope, build confidence and raise optimism for other women in business.


Ralph Guevarez:              Hello and welcome to Mercury Now. I am your host, Ralph Guevaras. Thank you for joining me. For 42 years, the Simmons Leadership Conference has engaged, impacted and inspired over a 100,000 leaders from around the world. This year, the conference will be exploring resilience and authenticity and bringing to life the best understanding of these concepts for practical and inspired applications. Mercury is very proud to be a gold sponsor of the 2021 Simmons Leadership Conference. Our guests today are three women leaders at Mercury who joined us to discuss their experiences and share their insights as they work to cultivate hope, build confidence, and raise optimism for other women in business. And they're going to do that here on Mercury Now. Joining me today are Michelle McCarthy, Stacy Spencer, and Lynne Currier. Ladies, good day, and welcome to the show.

Michelle McCart...:         Hey Ralph, Thanks for having us.

Lynne Currier:                  Hi, Ralph. It's great to be here.

Stacy Spencer:                 Hi Ralph. It's good to see you again.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you all for your time. Now, before we begin, can each of you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Mercury. Michelle, let's start with you.

Michelle McCart...:         Sure, Ralph. I'm currently the vice president and chief accounting officer here at Mercury. I've been with the company three years. I oversee the accounting and global order services function, which is made up of about 50 incredible team members. My team and I are responsible for filing our quarterly financial statements. In order to do that, we perform a quarterly close internal controls testing and work closely with our auditors. My team and I are also responsible for the administration of payroll stock plans, treasury, insurance, taxes, and customer orders.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Michelle. Lynne, please a brief background.

Lynne Currier:                  I'm currently the vice president of engineering, responsible for approximately 350 engineers across the mission division. And our engineers are located around the world, Toronto, Alpharetta, Mesa, Torrance, California, Geneva, Switzerland, and Madrid, Spain. Emission has three product lines, displays, systems, and computing.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you. And Stacy, please, a brief background.

Stacy Spencer:                 Sure. I'm vice president of strategic and global accounts within our global sales organization. I've been with the company for almost 11 years now and I manage a team of sales and business development professionals who are focused on driving growth and customer satisfaction within our most strategic customers.

Ralph Guevarez:              Very impressive. All backgrounds. Thank you very much for your time. Let's begin the discussion shall we. Lynne, let's start with you. You're a female engineer and a leader in not only STEM, but also in the defense industry, both predominantly populated with men. At the beginning of your career, did you think you were going to face more challenges than your male counterparts? And if so, how did you prepare for that and continue to advance in your career?

Lynne Currier:                  It's funny when I was in college, my advisor was also my professor. In the first month of my freshman year, he told the class that he selects one student to answer every question for the entire lecture. And I was the only woman in the room and he selected me. And I was terrified, but I was able to answer most of the questions. And so this help me to have more confidence and it broke the ice for me for the future, with my male classmates. By the way, he never picked another person to answer all the questions again.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Lynne. Great story. I'd like to pose another question to you. In your professional career, did you ever find yourself hesitant to speak up because you were the minority voice and if so, what did you do to overcome that?

Lynne Currier:                  Well, I was blessed with many good managers over my career who supported me and gave me opportunities to have my voice be heard. In my first software development job out of school, my manager at Honeywell, he asked me to represent the team for processes and internal audits. And I had to go to all the training to learn about these things. Give updates every week to the team and then teach everybody else on the team. So this quickly taught me to speak up and make a difference.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Lynne. Let's go to Michelle next. Now the theme of the Simmons Conference is authenticity and resilience. Now as a veteran in corporate finance, can you give an example of how you as a leader, bring authenticity to life in the workplace?

Michelle McCart...:         Sure, Ralph. Authenticity is a critically important trait in finance and accounting. Investors have to trust the organization and the management team where they're investing their capital. So exercising, the utmost integrity in my organization is non-negotiable. You have to apply consistent and unbiased judgment in our decisions and ensure our financial statements are compliant and correct. But equally important is authenticity from a people standpoint, being honest and real with one another builds trust, which leads to building strong relationships. And it's those relationships that yield extraordinary outcomes. And we see that all the time at Mercury. Whether it's a technological breakthrough, exceeding our financial targets, or implementing a system initiative. A leader doesn't evolve by doing everything themselves, they empower others and they create a sum of parts that's greater than the whole. Creating that value stems from authenticity.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Michelle. Now I'd like to ask you the same question. Did you ever find yourself hesitant to speak up because you were the minority voice? And if so, what did you do to overcome that?

Michelle McCart...:         So surprising as it may be to my team and others that I work with, the answer is yes. Aside from being a female, that's constantly worked in male dominated industries, I've also consistently been one of the younger and therefore less experienced people in the room. And so I set a very high bar for speaking only when I feel I had something really valuable to say. So over the years though, I was told I should speak up more and that my questions and my ideas were highly valued and that my diversity of thought was welcome. I also learned that others were often thinking the same thing, but didn't have the courage to speak up either. And that's what triggered me to change. To try to serve as a voice not for myself, but for others until they were ready to use their own voice. There are some settings that I still find really terrifying, like investor conferences, which I have to work on when I grow.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Michelle. Now, Stacy, you've spent a lot of years traveling and selling alongside male counterparts. Now, is there a different standard for authenticity for women than there is for men? Are women held to different standards of authenticity to men? Your thoughts, please.

Stacy Spencer:                 Ralph, I've spent all of my career in male dominated companies and industries, and I wouldn't change a thing. I've worked with great men and women. I wouldn't say that women are necessarily held to a different standard, but as a professional woman, I'm always aware of how I come across and perhaps I'm more guarded at times.

                                           I'll give you a specific example that happened a few years ago. I remember a time where I was the only woman in the room and it was a meeting of C-level executives. During this meeting, a man used humor to open his briefing. And his humor, it was appropriate, it was funny, and it was sort of a clever way to get the people in the room to engage. But in that moment, I wonder, could I tell a joke like that as a 40 something year old woman? Or does that only work for a 60 something year old man? They think he's funny, but would they think that I'm a ditz? And while I do my best to be authentic, particularly as a people manager, I admit that there are times when I've held back some of my own authenticity.

Ralph Guevarez:              Now, that's an interesting point, Stacy. And thank you for sharing that. So did you ever find yourself hesitant to speak up because you were the minority voice? And if so, what did you do to overcome that?

Stacy Spencer:                 Well, Ralph, I've never found myself hesitant to speak up. Part of that is just my wiring as an outgoing, passionate extrovert. With that said, I think there have been times that I spoke up too loud, too often, too passionately, probably out of fear of not being heard. And perhaps there've been times when I argued my point too much because I felt like I was being dismissed. Or I felt like I had to secure my seat at the table. As I progressed in my career, I'm more aware of these feelings and behaviors.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Stacy. Now going around the horn, what advice do each of you have for emerging female leaders to gain the respect of their colleagues without compromising their authenticity in any way? Let's start with you Lynne.

Lynne Currier:                  Stay true to who you are and keep your priorities in livestream. It's hard to juggle a career, children, and taking care of yourself. So set some boundaries to make sure that you have time for all of them. And be honest in constructive way if there's a challenge or a conflict.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Lynne. That's great advice for all of us. Michelle, same question please.

Michelle McCart...:         Sure. So authenticity is defined as being true to your own personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure that you're under to act otherwise. So my advice to female leaders is to know yourself, know your strengths, take confidence in them. But also know your weaknesses, your blind spots. And accept support or feedback from others. Know your moral principles and values that you never want to compromise. Write them down and review them when you're faced with a difficult decision that may bring them into question. Know what you don't know, and don't be afraid to admit it. When I joined Mercury, I was asked what makes a great leader. My response was something I'd love to share. A great leader is humble enough to never presume to have all the answers. Courageous enough to make decisions with less than perfect information. And curious enough to maintain a constant desire to learn. A great leader instills knowledge, confidence, and faith in the people she leads in hopes that they will become even greater leaders.

Ralph Guevarez:              Another piece of great advice. Thank you, Michelle. Stacy, please. Same question to you.

Stacy Spencer:                 Yeah. So Ralph, I think that if you want to gain the respect of your colleagues, you can't just be excellent at what you do. Relationships matter. You have to be yourself and take time to invest in the relationships around you. People think of networks as things you do outside of your current employer. I encourage folks to build a network inside of Mercury as well. There's a lot to be learned from one another, whether it's about work, or life, or hobbies. And having a diverse internal network will help you see situations more broadly. And it can also be a great sense of connection and support. I've spent over a decade at Mercury and I'm so grateful for the dedicated, smart, and diverse group of people in my network. And I'm also inspired by the talented people who are joining Mercury today.

Ralph Guevarez:              Thank you, Stacy. I agree with you completely. We are certainly fortunate to have a great group of talented team members who inspire, support, and really care about one another at Mercury. And we are exceptionally lucky to have so many accomplished women like all of you who continue to rise to the challenges and emerge more powerful and resourceful and successfully delivering on our purpose. Innovation that matters by and for people who matter. Stacy, Michelle, Lynne, thank you for your time.

Michelle McCart...:         Thank you.

Lynne Currier:                  Thank you.

Stacy Spencer:                 Thank you.


<![CDATA[I’ll take my data center to go, please: Celebrating 10 years of deployable data center performance]]>, 02 Mar 2021 15:18:35 -0500

Just over a decade ago, Mercury's HDS6600 module was (and still is) an industry first:  an OpenVPX module built on the server-class Intel® processor. At a time when the vast majority of single-board computers (SBCs) were built using the mobile processors found in laptop computers (primarily Core i7 processors), Mercury saw the need for deployable high-performance systems, and the high-density server  (HDS) line of OpenVPX modules was founded. Ten years later, reflecting on recent technological developments, I felt compelled to put into writing the history of this product line; I’m lucky enough to have managed it over the last decade, and the disruptive value these products bring to the market and our customers continues to astonish me.

The challenge associated with ruggedizing and deploying server-class processors was daunting– not only did the CPU itself come in a socket-requiring land grid array (LGA) package only, but the size of that package, as well as the memory requirements needed, ate away the real estate available in OpenVPX-compliant module layouts.

Back in 2010, cloud computing hadn’t yet hit the mainstream. Amazon Web Services was only a few years old, Apple’s iCloud didn’t yet exist, and the “as -a-service” markets (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) were still in their infancy. Servers were typically larger, remote versions of desktop computers. Originally, the HDS product line was just delivering MORE – more compute, more memory, more pipes for I/O to flow into the OpenVPX system. Since then, however, the commercial market has evolved, and so has the HDS product line and the modular building blocks that operate alongside it.

Currently, server-class computing is focused squarely on the data center and the hurdles that come with deploying it -- power, thermal management, security and software compatibility considerations. Mercury’s HDS product line has overcome those obstacles to deliver data center capability to places where AWS, the Microsoft Azure cloud, and the rest of the web simply can’t reach. The HDS product line is the heart of the EnsembleSeries™ OpenVPX data center portfolio, and without it, the storage, I/O distribution, networking and GPU architectures would just be a collection of parts. With the HDS module, Mercury delivers all the pre-integrated, complementary modular blocks to put a data center onto any rugged platform, from ground mobile radars to airborne image-processing pods, where size, weight and power (SWaP) determine the solution. And because the entire data center portfolio uses the same silicon, interconnect and software building blocks, any enterprise-class application running today on commercial servers can be “picked up and put down” on these rugged processing subsystems – often without recompiling the code.

Ten years ago, the idea of bringing the data center to the tactical edge was only a concept. With today’s OpenVPX product line from Mercury, rooted in the evolution of the general-purpose processing power from the HDS line, that concept is now a reality for anyone who needs their own personal data center on land, sea or airborne platforms.

<![CDATA[Bringing custom capabilities to a standard radar environment simulator: Meet the ARES3100]]>, 25 Feb 2021 15:09:00 -0500

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic, bringing custom capabilities to a standard system with a new advanced radar environment simulator. Joining me is Joe Styzens, our subject matter expert out of Spectrum Systems Group at Mercury Systems. Joe, good day, and welcome to the show.

Joe Styzens:

Hi, Ralph. Thank you for having me.

Ralph Guevarez:

Let's start with a bit of a background, Joe. Can you please tell our listeners a bit about your area of expertise, please?

Joe Styzens:

Sure. I started in the packaging industry and helped to develop the first beam steered laser marking system. I worked in this industry for 16 years and moved from R&D to product line manager to the worldwide sales and marketing manager.

Joe Styzens:

I decided I wanted to start my family, and traveling six months out of the year wouldn't work. So I switched industries to defense and got involved with the radar environment simulators as a program manager.

Joe Styzens:

Recently, Spectrum switched from a program-based approach to a product-based approach, and I was made the product line manager for the radar environment simulators.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for the background, Joe. Now let's dive right into the questions, shall we? Can you tell our audience what a radar environment simulator is, please?

Joe Styzens:

A radar environment simulator is a generic radar target generator developed for radar testing and comprehensive radar performance evaluation. Think of it like a high-end flight simulator for a radar. It can support applications ranging from anechoic chambers, open air ranges, to laboratory-based production testing, and comprehensive radar performance evaluation.

Ralph Guevarez:

That sounds really interesting, Joe. Now this new product is an advanced radar environment simulator. Could you explain what the difference is, please?

Joe Styzens:

This advanced radar environment simulators brings in the capabilities that historically only a fully-customized built system had to offer. It brings these capabilities to the user in a more standardized option. The system is a baseline system that is designed to be modular and scalable. This offers the benefits of a lot of the technology needed to effectively test a radar and bring it to the customer faster without compromise. The system can then be scaled over time.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thanks. That sounds like there's a safety aspect to this as well. Now, are there any other benefits you'd like to mention?

Joe Styzens:

Absolutely. The ARES 3100 does support a safer end product, and really the pilot as well, with the ability to better test, validate, and optimize the radar systems in a controlled environment, as opposed to the range. The risks are minimized. It also allows pilot training for tactics.

Joe Styzens:

This doesn't stop at safety. There are benefits in regard to budget as well. Users can control environments and repeat them without a field test, which can be incredibly costly.

Joe Styzens:

Speaking of that field test, there's a security aspect as well. Users can test in an anechoic chamber farther from potential threats working to acquire sensitive waveform information.

Ralph Guevarez:

So Joe, am I understanding this correctly? Are you suggesting that the ARES 3100 can replace field testing?

Joe Styzens:

Yeah, with incredible reliability. We use suites of target modulations, weather effects, and validated EA techniques to ensure the system being tested truly believes it's out in the field experiencing these threats real time.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, I'm excited to hear more success stories coming from ARES 3100. Is there anything else you'd like to add for our listeners, please?

Joe Styzens:

I think it's important to mention the ease of use. We got 20 years of experience and advancements built into this system. This provides us a large toolkit of options that can be added to the system. That extends to the graphical user interface as well. It's simple, user-friendly, and really brings the system together by offering high performance right out of the box. Offering a robust system like this with a short development timeline is really unparalleled.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for that, Joe. Now, where can our listeners gather more information on the ARES 3100?

Joe Styzens:

I suggest referring to the podcast description for links to additional reading.

Ralph Guevarez:

Joe, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me today. I'm excited to see what's next for your team and the new ARES 3100. I wish you and the Spectrum Processing Division the best of luck with your ever-expanding product portfolio. Thanks again.

Joe Styzens:

Ralph, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.


<![CDATA[Strengthening cybersecurity at the edge: Intel and Mercury talk multilayered security]]>, 25 Feb 2021 13:17:00 -0500

Taking secure computing to the tactical edge requires a built-in multilayered security approach from system startup to system availability. Listen in as experts from Mercury Systems and Intel discuss how they work together to safeguard confidential data and IP against adversarial threats and deliver uncompromised cutting-edge data center-caliber systems that are both affordable and familiar.

Discover how Mercury and Intel are delivering secure solutions to make the world a safer, more secure place.


Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Mercury Now. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic, why data security matters at the edge. Now, as bad actors continuously look for ways to exploit vulnerabilities, technology leaders must employ various strategies to prevent these harmful effects. Now, today we're going to discuss the use of multilayer security to significantly reduce the attack surface area. We're going to have that discussion right here on Mercury Now. Joining me today from Mercury Systems is Scott Miller, expert scientist, and Shaun McQuaid, director of product management for our embedded division, and a special guest, John Brynildson, sales manager of military, aerospace and government markets within Intel's IOTG business unit. Gentlemen, good day and welcome to the show.

John Brynildson:

Thank you, Ralph.

Scott Miller:

Happy to be a part.

Shaun McQuaid:


Ralph Guevarez:

John, you're our guest today. Could you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Intel?

John Brynildson:

Yeah, so I am part of Intel's Internet of Things group, which is the team, the business unit within Intel that focuses on embedded compute applications. Within that team, I focus on our military, aerospace and government markets. My primary responsibility is as a liaison between our business unit team that's creating products for this market as well as our field sales teams, and more importantly with our ecosystem partners like yourself, Mercury Systems.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, John, and welcome. Scott, a brief background, please, if you will.

Scott Miller:

Sure. So after about 15 years in security technology R&D, I've kind of come to the dark side as the product manager for the secure products group. We're primarily responsible for driving security requirements into Mercury's hardware and then producing the capabilities that make use of the features enabled by those requirements. So we work pretty closely with the hardware teams, particularly Shaun's team in the embedded group to really help define Mercury's security enabled hardware architecture.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Scott. Shaun, a return guest, if you please.

Shaun McQuaid:

Great to be back. My name is Shaun McQuaid. I'm the director of product management for Mercury's embedded business unit. So I've been on the dark side for quite a while now. My focus is on the product lines that deliver ruggedized size, weight and power constrained processing subsystems to the tactical edge. And so that includes OpenVPX products as well as the chassis level solutions that deliver them.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well, thank you all for joining me. I appreciate your time. Let's begin by discussing why security is important at the edge. John, could you please give us Intel's perspective on addressing security, if you will?

John Brynildson:

Yeah, absolutely. So the attack surface, and I think most listeners would agree with us, but that attack surface is really continuing to expand and leaving data unprotected. In part, it's really due to the growing number of IoT devices or edge sensors that are connected to a network. But I think just as importantly is our cyber criminals are increasing in sophistication. They're beginning to skirt firewalls and security software that in the past might have been effective. Although no single security solution really can be completely protective of a computer system, from these different challenges we do believe that a multilayer security approach is necessary to protect those critical processing systems and that government and public sector technology must be designed with these security issues in mind.

Scott Miller:

Yeah. I agree with John. That need for multilayer approach, particularly when you migrate hardware out of the data center out to the network edge, the attack capabilities grow quite a bit when they can put physical hands on a device. That doesn't mean cybersecurity goes away. That means adversaries really gain a lot more entries into the system. So it adds to that cybersecurity need.

                Within my group and Mercury, we view physical security as the anchor of all other kinds of security. The reason for that really is physical security protects the keys that enable you to use cryptography, which in turn is used to build the capabilities such as secure boot or the data integrity that really protects modern data intensive applications like artificial intelligence or the emerging edge sensor use cases.

Shaun McQuaid:

As Scott described, that physical security anchor is critically important. To take secure boot and secure computing to the edge, Mercury takes readily available commercial technologies and designs our own computing hardware from the ground up and then secures and ruggedizes it for field deployment. Think of it this way, there are many computer hardware companies out there, Dell, HP, Acer, for example, that make motherboards for laptops, desktop PCs, or servers. Now, if you narrow those down to those who actually make hardware using server class CPU's like the Xeon class from Intel, Dell, HP and the like, how many of those are US-based companies? How many have US-based designers? How many do that manufacturing in the US as well?

                With the combination of Intel and Mercury Security Enablement, we can bring a unique value here in the security that can be deployed to the field or the edge, as the phrase goes. At the edge, value technology, critical IP and confidential data can be lost, altered or captured and therefore must be protected from attack. Intel security features are built into their silicon. Our BuiltSECURE technologies are built into our hardware, not bolted on. They safeguard this confidential data and intellectual property against adversarial threats even when a system might've been compromised, which you can imagine could happen when you're deployed at the tactical edge.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for your insights, gentlemen. You mentioned secure boot. Can you please expand on what secure boot is and why it's so important? Scott, we'll start with you.

Scott Miller:

Yeah. So secure boot is the process that takes us from power on to the system to running a known verified configuration. So it's really a step-by-step process that establishes the integrity of each piece of software or firmware before we allow it to run on the system. So if you think about what a malicious actor is going to try to do, yep, in some cases they'll get malware or a virus running on a system. Secure boot's role in that case is to really make sure that that malicious software that makes it onto a system can gain no persistent foothold, right? We want to know that every time we power cycle, the system is going to come up to a clean known state every time.

                One of the other key pieces of secure boot is really about making sure a system comes up in the configuration it's supposed to be. In modern systems, we tend to build security on a basis of a specific configuration of the built-in security features of the hardware and then on that we build the rest of the security platform. And so if someone can get in, change security configuration, right, some of the assumptions we're depending on could be violated. So secure boot's there to make sure, obviously, the system comes up in the configuration that the rest of the security system is built upon. So we've been happy to see the growing interest in security in the commercial space. We work pretty closely with Intel to make sure that as the security technologies come off the line from Intel, we know how to make best use of them in Mercury's products.

John Brynildson:

So, Ralph, just to add in to what Scott said, if you can't trust the system, you can't risk exposing critical software to it. We see a trusted boot sequence really providing that foundation from which you can build your multilayer security approach on. So it's really your start point. There are two technologies, if I could just real briefly, Intel Secure Boot with Converged Boot Guard and Trusted Execution Technology. That is a fusion of two powerful boot sequences, Intel Boot Guard and Intel Trusted Execution Technology or TXT.

                The Boot Guard's a technology that determines whether the firmware booting the platform can be trusted or is inappropriately modified. And with the Intel Boot Guard, the system manufacturer like our partners, Mercury, will create a digital signature for the firmware that must be validated before the boot sequence can be completed. Then combining that, as I mentioned previously, Intel TXT. So it offers a little extra control beyond the firmware where TXT creates a cryptographic unique ID for each launch enabled component, and it will terminate the launch of code if it doesn't match your approved code. So this technology really establishes what we call a measured launch environment and it compares all critical launch environment elements against a known good source. So we believe that these technologies really help establish your secure boot and will build that foundation from which to build upon your additional layers of security.

Shaun McQuaid:

Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, having that secure boot on a boot server that can then serve the operating system and the application to a deployed cloud computing cluster can really only secure that hardware if it can be trusted from power on through boot, application, loaded, and then delivering that known good content to the rest of the processing elements that make up the cloud.

                So leveraging Intel's technologies ensures that we can deliver cutting edge data center caliber systems that are both affordable and familiar. The key is to ensure that security is in place ahead of time and built-in. That allows standard hypervisors, containers, operating systems and applications to run in the same manner as can be found on the commercial data center that lives behind closed doors, active firewalls set with constant human and machine oversight.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, gentlemen. Now, when I read about security, it seems cryptography is the central theme. Scott, can you speak to cryptography in the context of secure processing, please?

Scott Miller:

Sure. So cryptography really provides the basic toolkit for detecting unauthorized changes and for denying access to software and data to unauthorized parties. But cryptography, really, it's not a silver bullet, right? Its security guarantees are mathematical in nature, and so there's a lot of care has to be taken on meeting the assumptions that provide the security guarantees of cryptography. And that's before you get to considerations like, how long do you use your crypto keys before changing them? Or making sure you're doing good, what we call buffer hygiene, right? Removing data from memory once you're done using it.

                All that aside, though, cryptography is still one of the most important tools. It just means or those considerations just mean that a lot of care has to go into using cryptography. That's part of the best practice guidance you see in the industry of, "Don't invent your own cryptographic solutions," or at least most application developers shouldn't be rolling their own solutions. That's one aspect where our customers have found a lot of value in our Intel-based products. The processors offer both access to high-speed low-level cryptography like the AES-NI instructions, but also offer sort of integrated higher level features like transparent memory encryption, things that take care of all of the crypto details and let customers really focus on their application development.

John Brynildson:

So agreeing with what Scott said, cryptography really plays a key role within many of the hardware-based security technologies. So Intel use encryption techniques, a couple of security technologies in particular, Total Memory Encryption and Software Guard Extension. Two examples where it's used, Intel Total Memory Encryption will encrypt the platform's entire physical memory and it helps ensure that all memory access by the CPU is encrypted. The encryption key is created during every boot sequence by a hardened random number generator within the CPU and it's not exposed to the software. Intel SGX will also use encryption techniques. It encrypts specific application code and data to create private regions in the external memory called enclaves. These enclaves are protected from malicious processes writing at higher level or higher privilege levels. So it would protect it from, examples include, rootkit malware and physical access rights.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, John. Now, Shaun, we're talking about the importance of confidentiality and data integrity. What are other aspects important to security?

Shaun McQuaid:

So system availability is another key pillar of overall system security. The concept is that services, whatever they might be, are reliably available when you need them. You can imagine how critical this is when your server cluster is at the edge. In the commercial world you may have heard of denial of service attacks, where someone coordinates a large number of computers on the internet to simultaneously make requests from a target business. This effectively shuts down their website. This is a good example of poor or compromised system availability. Now, at the edge, availability is critical to folks who depend on those servers for situational awareness, to sift through the data, to extract actionable information. Because these decisions need to be made in real time, a gap in availability cannot be tolerated. Luckily, Intel and Mercury work together to offer protections in this area as well.

John Brynildson:

So Shaun's response about denial of service attacks and system availability is really a key point. One of the capabilities or technologies that Intel also offers within the hardware is a technology called Resource Directory Technology. What that allows is it provides visibility and control over some of the shared resources like your cache or memory bound with bandwidth and how they're used by the different applications, or virtual machines, or containers.

                The Intel Resource Directory Technology really can provide many insights to system administrators that they can gain. But with respect to security, designers can use this tool to dedicate certain regions of cache to critical threads or applications and ensure that a denial of service attack cannot commandeer or interfere with the cache and memory bandwidth that's been assigned to priority applications. So, that's a really good example of another type of security threat you need to prepare for.

Ralph Guevarez:

Gentlemen, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me today. I enjoyed the discussion and have a better understanding of Intel's world-class data center security features and how Mercury further augments Intel's technology to deliver trusted and secure solutions to the edge. I wish you best of luck moving forward. God speed, and I look forward to having you all on the show again soon.

John Brynildson:

Thank you very much, Ralph.

Scott Miller:

Be safe.

Shaun McQuaid:

It's always a pleasure to be here.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you.


<![CDATA[Taking the Black Magic Out of RF Down Conversion]]>, 04 Feb 2021 14:41:00 -0500

There’s a reason so many people use the term “black magic” to refer to RF and microwave engineering. Whether it’s an RF downconverter that works perfectly until you attach the cover or a power amplifier that only meets spec when held sideways, RF engineering is often full of surprises. For me, this unpredictable element has always been part of the attraction. However, when these surprises result in a schedule slip, the fun quickly turns into stress.

As I studied RF and microwave engineering in school these “black magic” concepts were gradually replaced with Maxwell’s equations and transmission line theory. However, it wasn’t until years after graduating that I started to really understand microwave frequency conversion, one of the key concepts for translating between the worlds of high-frequency electromagnetics and digital electronics. I’d like to shine some light on this complex topic and discuss the future trend of direct digitization.

What is a Microwave Downconverter?

A microwave downconverter is a piece of equipment that takes a radio frequency (RF) signal and converts it to a lower, intermediate frequency (IF) signal that is suitable for digital processing. This functionality is critical in many receiver systems that support applications ranging from wireless communication to radar.

For the reverse operation, a microwave upconverter takes the IF signal and converts it to an RF signal that can be transmitted over long distances with minimal loss. Additionally, a microwave transceiver integrates the functionality of up and downconverters into a single piece of hardware.

While at first glance this process of shifting between high and low frequencies may appear mundane, upon closer examination we find it is a key link between the physics that govern the radio waves transmitting information through the air and the electronic systems that process them. Over the years, this technology has led to countless applications from broadcast television to weather radar.

Depending on the application, microwave frequency converters come in a wide variety of form factors and open standards, including SOSA-aligned, rackmount and compact.

Microwave Tuners

One challenge of sending and receiving these high-frequency signals is the wide range of possible frequency bands. A microwave tuner is a downconverter that can be adjusted to focus on a specific RF band. For example, you tune an FM radio to select a specific station. This type of architecture is called superheterodyne, and even though it was invented over a century ago, it is still commonly used today. With this technology, the receiver uses a tunable downconverter to select a specific RF frequency band and converts it to a lower frequency that can more easily be digitized and processed. The size of the band of frequencies it can capture at once is referred to as the instantaneous bandwidth (IBW) and is a key metric for the hardware designer.

For example, a microwave downconverter might be able to tune over an RF band from 2–18 GHz with a 2 GHz IBW and a fixed IF range of 1–3 GHz. This microwave tuner could select any 2 GHz frequency band in the 2–18 GHz range and convert to 1–3 GHz so it can be digitized and processed.

Adjustable Intermediate Frequencies

In the above example, the IF range was fixed from 1–3 GHz. However, in some cases it is preferable to tune not only the RF but also the IF. By adjusting the IBW (for example, from 2 GHz to 1 GHz), the user can zoom in on a specific signal while reducing the noise from interfering signals. By reducing this noise, a receiver system can detect very faint, distant signals, such as the radar from an approaching aircraft.

Additionally, a downconverter with an adjustable IF range maximizes compatibility with downstream equipment. For example, a more flexible downconverter could be paired with a digitizer that requires an IF input of 1–2 GHz as well as one that requires a 1.5–3.5 IF input range.

Tuning Speed

With an old-fashioned radio, the tuning speed is set by how fast you can turn the dial. However, with modern tuners, digital electronics jump between frequencies. The tuning speed is especially critical for electronic warfare applications. These systems typically operate on signals originating from the adversary’s radar and communication equipment. Since the adversary wants to prevent their systems from being impacted, they often will quickly shift frequencies. To keep up, the electronic warfare systems must switch from one frequency to another very quickly.

Direct Digitization

Now that we’ve converted the RF to a lower frequency, what happens next? In order to process the signal, a digitizer converts it from analog to digital. Since these digitizers typically operate over a lower frequency range, they require a microwave frequency converter to translate between RF and IF. However, new technology is increasing digitizers’ frequency ranges, which in some cases allows for direct digitization of an RF signal without the need for microwave up and downconverters.

These direct-digitization solutions often leverage innovation at chip scale, such as RF system-in-package devices that bring high-frequency, multi-channel operation to a product small enough to fit in the palm of a hand.

RF Mystery Solved

As we peel back the layers behind the “black magic” of microwave frequency conversion, we find more technology innovation and less sorcery. By understanding these key concepts, we can select the ideal frequency conversion solution and minimize unwanted surprises. To learn more about Mercury’s portfolio of frequency converters and direct digitizers visit the pages below.

Microwave Frequency Converters

Direct RF Conversion

Chip-Scale System Development


<![CDATA[Mitigating Risk With IPC-1791 Qualified Manufacturers Certification]]>, 02 Feb 2021 13:23:00 -0500

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello. Welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic, mitigating risk with IPC-1791 Quality Manufacturers certification.

Ralph Guevarez:

Joining me today is Joe Scalfani, Mercury's senior manager of quality systems, and our guest, Randy Cherry, IPC director of validation services. Joe, Randy, good day and welcome to you both.

Joe Scalfani:

Hello, Ralph. Thank you for having us.

Randy Cherry:

Good to meet you, Ralph. Thank you for having me on as a guest.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you both for your time. Joe, before we begin, can you give our listeners a brief background on your current role here at Mercury?

Joe Scalfani:

Sure, Ralph. I'm currently the senior quality systems manager for the compliance department, and I'm going on my 15th year as a Mercury team member. I'm responsible for the oversight of the compliance standards for the organization, and have over 25 years of experience in quality.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Joe. Randy, tell us a little bit about your role and what IPC does, please.

Randy Cherry:

I am currently the director of IPC validation services. I manage this department that provides auditing and certification services; IPC standard gap analysis; and technology solutions, which includes industry experts who provide manufacturing process troubleshooting using proven problem solving techniques.

Randy Cherry:

Of course, IPC is a nonprofit member-driven industry association that is a leading source for industry standards, training, education and advocacy. IPC helps OEM, EMS, PCB manufacturers and suppliers build electronics better.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Randy. Now let's start with you. What is the IPC-1791 certification, and why is it so important for Mercury to achieve this status at our manufacturing facilities?

Randy Cherry:

The IPC-1791 is a facility level certification that manufacturers can achieve to be designated as a trusted manufacturer. These facilities are vigorously vetted and undergo an extensive audit process to help optimize product quality, reliability, and consistency across the entire supply chain.

Randy Cherry:

Companies achieving this coveted designation earn a place on the IPC Qualified Manufacturers list as a trusted supplier, and become part of a global network that the industry will look to first and foremost when evaluating potential business partners.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Randy. Now, Joe, why did Mercury decide to pursue this certification? Your thoughts, please.

Joe Scalfani:

Sure. As a leader in making trusted, secure, mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense, we make it a point to remain tuned into our customer's needs and requirements. IPC-1791 certification kept popping up since we are committed to delivering the most trusted and secure manufacturing capabilities to our customers. It's important for our manufacturing facilities to acquire these certifications. Ultimately, it's about mitigating risks to deliver high quality trusted products to our customers.

Joe Scalfani:

In 2019, we became the 10th company in the United States to achieve IPC-1791 accreditation at our Phoenix USML manufacturing location. This past December, we earned two additional certifications for our manufacturing facilities in Hudson, New Hampshire, and are now the only OEM in the United States with multiple sites certified at this standard.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Joe. That's quite an accomplishment. Now, Randy, could you tell me more about the certification process? I understand it's very rigorous.

Randy Cherry:

Yes, Ralph, you're correct. To achieve the status as a trusted source and supplier, stringent requirements for this certification include review of a company's product and quality systems; supply chain risk management policy; security system, including compliance to export control; and chain of custody policy.

Randy Cherry:

Our vetting process uniquely provides technical and in-depth assessments of products and processes. First, the company is required to do an internal audit with a checklist of standards that need to be met. If standards are not met, we ask the company to make improvements to meet the requirements. Once the company meets those, IPC performs our audit process.

Randy Cherry:

Receiving the IPC-1791 certification for multiple sites is an outstanding achievement. We're excited that Mercury is a member of IPC's network of trusted qualified manufacturers.

Joe Scalfani:

I have to agree with Randy. It's a very thorough assessment, but in the end, we know our customer's implicit trust is invaluable.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now speaking of our customers, what is the value of the IPC certification in their eyes? Joe, your thoughts, please.

Joe Scalfani:

These facility level certifications allow us to meet the minimum requirements to be a trusted source for industries that require a high level of confidence in the integrity of delivered products. It's our job to ensure that our products deliver uncompromised and reliable performance in extreme environments, for situations where failure is just not an option.

Joe Scalfani:

In addition to quality assurance and risk mitigation, some customers can benefit by reducing the number of supplier audits, since IPC validation services already put Mercury through the vetting process and been established as a trusted manufacturer. This is a huge time and cost savings.

Randy Cherry:

That's right, Joe. To add onto what you just said, the IPC-1791 QML program is the only independent validation for the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, or otherwise known as the DFARS 252.204.7012. Validation or certification program separates Mercury Systems from companies who state they comply with the DFARS 7012, but may not.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you both for that detailed response. I see the [inaudible 00:06:26] value this brings us in delivering trusted solutions to our customers. Now, Randy, what does the future hold for IPC quality certifications, and Joe, what is Mercury's path moving forward? Randy, we'll start with you.

Randy Cherry:

I see the demand for IPC certifications to continue to grow as the industry learns more about the benefits working with IPC and validation services. Today, validation services has nearly 70 company locations listed on the QML and QPL, with 15 of them listed on the 1791 QML. The validation services team feels we are just beginning to see industry traction for these certification programs. We plan to be very busy as 2021 moves forward.

Joe Scalfani:

Having earned the QML for multiple locations validates Mercury's commitment to the IPC certification program. We've invested significantly and are committed to earning more site accreditations. As a matter of fact, we're excited to say that our Chantilly, Virginia facility will be certified next month.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Joe. Exciting news indeed. It gives me confidence that Mercury not only meets, but exceeds the standards we uphold ourselves to, and that we are truly supplying our customers with products they can rely on for their long-term intended use.

Ralph Guevarez:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you both for joining me today. It has been a pleasure. I wish you good luck, good day and godspeed moving forward. Thank you.

Joe Scalfani:

Thank you, Ralph. Same to you.

Randy Cherry:

Thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now. For information on all our podcasts and blogs, please visit us at I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.


<![CDATA[Bold. Human. Accessible: Our Journey into 2021]]>, 22 Jan 2021 09:48:00 -0500

Like most people I know, I am entering 2021 personally optimistic that this coming year will be much improved over last. The delivery of COVID-19 vaccines is offering hope to many that the pandemic will eventually move out of crisis mode to a manageable and constructive situation. And while half of our team continues to work remotely, we’ve learned a lot about how to work independently and collaboratively and thus won’t be coming back to the workplace with the same structures, attitudes and expectations. With every crisis comes an opportunity for us to examine our goals, strategies, infrastructure, systems and processes. COVID-19 didn’t highjack our agenda – it simply accelerated our adoption and adaption to a more agile work environment, for which we had already laid a strong foundation. Because of this, we came out of crisis mode faster and, not surprisingly, well-poised for continued growth.

We continued to develop technology critical to a safer, more secure world, and we stayed true to our Purpose. However, we also took time to pause and look at our brand to see if it mirrored not only who we are, but where we’re going: How do we see ourselves? How do our partners see us? How do our customers see us?

As we anticipate this new year, Mercury is focused on being human and future-forward—a technology company at the intersection of high tech and defense. And our brand has evolved to reflect our progress. As I see it, the three core elements of our brand are:

  • Our forward-looking investment in innovation that delivers trusted high-performance processing solutions to our customers in a way that is open, relevant, timely, future-proofed and affordable.
  • The importance of putting people at the center of everything we do.
  • Our role as a technology leader on the forefront of digital transformation.

Our Purpose, Innovation That Matters, By and For People Who Matter, underscores how important it is that we live up to the high standards defined by our enduring Culture and Values—the foundation of our success, driving engagement that turns ideas into action, and delivering trusted and secure solutions at the speed of innovation.

I often speak of Mercury as a “Why” company, defined not only by what we make, but why we do what we do. Now our brand, including our new wordmark, reflects these same core beliefs.

As we say, ““Bold. Human. Accessible.” We welcome you to explore our new website, to take a look at our future and to join us in our mission.

<![CDATA[The world is changing and so are we]]>, 14 Dec 2020 15:44:00 -0500

Mercury has evolved as a technology leader. And just as we have evolved, so too has our brand. Human, confident and bold, our new brand voice is symbolic of Mercury today – a technology company dedicated to innovation, a culture that is people-centered and a vision to make the world a safer and more secure place for all.

Today, our new wordmark completes our brand transformation. Befitting the exactitude of our engineering legacy and our transformation as a technology company, our new visual identity has been thoughtfully crafted:

  • With a nod to our heritage, the color of our new wordmark begins with the emblematic Mercury blue and morphs boldly to teal, conveying the transformation underway, as well as our unique position at the intersection of two critical industries – technology and defense.
  •  We chose rounded lower-case letter forms, in our own new, exclusive typography to exude the confidence and accessibility our customers and our team require of us every day.
  • The wordmark’s modern design reinforces our role as a forward-leaning technology company that is committed to investing in people, innovation and trust to retain and attract top talent and better serve our customers.
  • Simple and strong, the identity drops accessories and focuses on the power of what we do to make technology profoundly more accessible.
  •  While our formal company name remains Mercury Systems, Inc., you will see us frequently using the simpler approach of Mercury in our website and other brand elements.

Our brand and our strategy are inextricably linked

While executing against our growth strategy, we are targeting key areas of opportunity, such as artificial intelligence, edge computing, 5G, autonomy and chip-scale processing technology, through both organic investment and smart M&A. We remain committed to leading the industry in R&D and proudly invest at a rate 4-5 times the industry average as a percentage of revenue. And we embrace the challenge to raise the bar for ourselves and our industry by making trusted, secure technology profoundly more accessible.

As we continue to enter new markets, expand our portfolio and innovate, we see an opportunity to play an even more important role in our customers’ success. In today’s rapidly changing world, we believe access to trusted, secure, leading-edge technology is critical. We believe we can make an impact. And we believe there is no more urgent time than now.

Our promise begins with our people

At Mercury, our promise to our customers begins with our people, fortified by a history of innovation and inspiration to deliver technology that makes the world a safer and more secure place. As our CEO Mark Aslett says, “At Mercury Systems, we have always been a why company. Defined not only by what we make, but why we do what we do.”


Our new brand reflects our ambitions for the future

My aspiration is for the new Mercury brand to convey both our unique business model and the inspiring culture that drives us through an articulation that withstands the next decade of Mercury ambitions.

Our plan is to roll out our new brand over time. We start first with the launch of our new website.


Moving forward, you will see the brand initially reflected in other digital applications, such as social media, videos, presentations and digital collateral.

We know that a brand won’t come to life unless it is authentic, relevant and believable. It needs to be built on action and purpose, and why we do what we do. Throughout our history, Mercury has acted with urgency and care to deliver innovative solutions for a safe and secure world. Our new brand and wordmark reflect this promise and our continued commitment to customers to deliver Innovation That Matters. By and For People Who Matter.

<![CDATA[Monty Python and the Search for the TAC-3290]]>, 11 Dec 2020 10:23:00 -0500

An uncommon likeness

Arguably, one of the greatest movies ever written was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was funny, budget-friendly—maybe to a comedic fault—and maintained the audience’s attention while the protagonist’s destinations continued to shift as he searched for the holy grail.

That impressive level of flexibility is important in many ways, and this is where the unlikely overlap between signal intelligence and electronic warfare solutions and an odd movie from the mid-70s occurs. As missions change, be it from one castle to another or one suspicious signal to another, agility in the field is critical. And just as this movie has survived generations and their evolving humor, sometimes really impressive signal intelligence solutions can do the same with their evolving counterparts.

A flexible architecture

With tuners, some applications require a wide IF bandwidth to effectively digitize a signal and others are a better fit for a narrower IF with better sensitivity. Historically, a fixed IF output of the downconverter simplified the system design and build, leading to a generally less expensive setup, but that fixed intermediate frequency (IF) comes with some limitations, such as restricted frequency planning. These limitations pioneered the drive for a new architecture design that could be something closer to a one-size-fits-all solution.  Because varying microwave converters use different IF bands, matching them with downstream digitizers is a challenge. To resolve this, we’ve developed an agile IF architecture that maintains the necessary benefits of traditional systems while simultaneously providing the flexibility to dynamically adjust the IF band. This is a ready-for-anything kind of holy grail making adjustment of the IF band possible in the field, offering a flexible solution for users by optimizing mission-to-mission capabilities with easy integration with various digitizers.

About the agile IF holy grail

Mercury’s now acquirable holy grail is the TAC-3290. This is an ultra-wideband microwave tuner that brings an unprecedented level of flexibility and high-performance microwave frequency conversion to users in space-constrained environments. What was formerly only possible in a rackmount form factor can now be achieved with a product that could fit in a backpack, much like the one the coconut-clanking servant carried throughout the quest for the holy grail. The TAC-3290 offers ultra-low phase noise to better support SIGINT applications, single and dual coherent channels, and tuning up to 44 GHz with an extension. This allows for more effective analyzation and collection of a wider range of signals. Users can maximize digitizer results from signal records and downstream equipment with complete control over the output frequency and bandwidth making for an overall impressive piece of equipment.

Proven great without breaking out your largest scales

Comparing this to older tuner options, working with a fixed system seemed the more affordable option. However, that’s no longer the case with the TAC-3290. Mission-to-mission flexibility has the cost benefits of leading to a more sustainable overall system by extending the system lifespan. A single microwave converter can be used without sacrificing performance when, historically, multiple converters would be required. Having a multi-IBW solution reduces costs and helps minimize total system size. You could think of it like this: the way a single actor such as John Cleese has the talent to be the black knight, Sir Lancelot the Brave and the swallow-savvy guard, the TAC-3290 can be adapted for .5 GHz, 1 GHz or 2 GHz operation just as the director, or should we say operator, needs to match the signals of interest. Capturing and processing an adversary’s signal with this bandwidth and adaptability built into a single product is a groundbreaking achievement. This contributes to better control of the electromagnetic spectrum and a strategic advantage when it comes to upgrading system elements. Now, in regard to the weight of this compact tuner as it compares to a duck, I’ve requested that information from the engineers. But, unfortunately, I get the impression they’re ignoring my request on this matter and keep directing me to the specs listed on  the datasheet.

Staying ahead of threats more serious than catapulted cows

The agile IF architecture for the TAC-3290 simplifies system updates. In an environment of rapidly emerging electronic threats, EW and ELINT systems must be regularly updated to incorporate the latest technology. Unfortunately, these updates are generally time consuming and costly. The TAC-3290’s agile IF architecture makes it possible to reuse the same microwave frequency tuner through multiple system upgrades, which extends the operational life of the tuner and significantly reduces the cost. Of the types of technology improvements that drive system updates, most of the changes are on the digital side, due to pace of processor and software technology driven by Moore’s Law (the idea that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years). The TAC-3290 can support multiple upgrades and can operate with a new digitizer when the latest generation of ADCs and DACs have evolved. This is a leap forward from traditional systems, where updating the digitizer required changing the microwave converter.

The Knights who say Nyquist

The microwave tuner, like any, is dependent on the specific digitizer because the IF from the converter must be restricted to a single Nyquist zone. The digitizer’s Nyquist zones are defined by its data rate and the number of samples per frequency component. For example, if an ADC has a data rate of 2 GSPS, the first Nyquist zone extends from DC through 1 GHz, and the second Nyquist zone starts at 1 GHz and extends to 2 GHz. A signal spanning two Nyquist zones causes aliasing, i.e., signals from all the Nyquist zones are mapped into the first zone. To prevent this, anti-aliasing filters are used to limit the input frequency range; however, this requires the input signal to be constrained to a single Nyquist zone. With a fixed IF architecture, modifying the data rate of the digitizer results in a new frequency plan and requires a new microwave converter. But with an agile IF architecture, the frequency plan can be modified and the existing microwave converter will support multiple updates to the digitizer.

Seems like magic, but it’s not a witch

The TAC-3290 seemingly does the impossible. Instead of designing a new microwave transceiver, a costly and time intensive effort, the original transceiver can simply be programmed to a different IF band and IBW in the field and as needed. This ability to optimize the IF from mission to mission, as well as configure the converter to operate with a range of digitizers, enables a flexible and more future-proof approach to EW and ELINT system design. As new threats emerge, excluding those with big sharp teeth, this capability is critical to maintaining spectrum superiority in harsh environments.

For additional reading with fewer movie references, check out the Agile IF article diving into more of the details behind this product’s design. To learn more about the TAC-3290, visit our product page or read our press release. And if you haven’t already, I encourage you to tune into Netflix and watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

<![CDATA[The Importance of AI in the Aerospace and Defense Industry]]>, 08 Dec 2020 09:37:00 -0500

What’s in store for the future of artificial intelligence (AI)? How is AI currently being used in the aerospace and defense industry to gain operational advantages? How is AI affecting all our daily lives? Mercury’s Karen Haigh, fellow chief technologist, provides answers to these questions and more. Karen, who is currently writing a book about the relevance of AI to electronic warfare, has made it her mission at Mercury to help customers realize the full potential of what can be accomplished with AI. She is also spearheading a companywide initiative to educate Mercury team members on the role they play in advancing the future of AI to deliver our purpose: Innovation that Matters, By and For People Who Matter.

Read the transcript -

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today’s topic, The Importance Of AI in the Aerospace and Defense Industry. Joining me is Dr. Karen Haigh, fellow chief technologist for Mercury Systems. Karen is one of three members of our CTO group specializing in AI in the ever-changing role it is playing in the success of mission critical operations. Karen, good day and welcome to the show.

Karen Haigh:

Hello Ralph and thank you so much for having me. I look forward to it.

Ralph Guevarez:

Karen, before we begin, can you give our listeners a brief background on your area of expertise, please?

Karen Haigh:

Sure. So my passion is AI for embedded systems. I have a PhD in artificial intelligence from Carnegie Mellon University from back before AI was cool; AI was born at CMU. CMU was also the first in the world to offer a PhD program in robotics. So I combined the two. My work was the first to use AI to create plans, execute the plans on a real mobile robot, and then use machine learning to close that loop and improve planning. In other words, it was the first to close the loop between planning, execution and learning. And as you know, this closed loop is crucial to all autonomous systems today. Since CMU, I’ve developed cognitive solutions for a variety of embedded physical systems, including smart home environments, critical infrastructure and systems operating out at the tactical edge. At the tactical edge these environments are really different from the cloud because they have hard, real time operating requirements, they must operate on small embedded processors and moreover they often have very limited or even no communications at all.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for that, Karen. We are very fortunate to have you on our Mercury team, working to help our customers realize the full potential of what can be accomplished with AI. My question to you is, can you please tell us what your focus is here at Mercury?

Karen Haigh:

Sure. I joined Mercury as a fellow chief technologist in the CTO office back in January of this year, working for Bill Conley, our CTO. Bill asked me to help bring these revolutionary ideas into Mercury both internally and externally. In terms of looking outward and to the future, I’m tracking academic and customer trends, supplier capabilities, and working on AI related strategies. AI is probably the most disruptive technology of the modern age. It is literally upending the way we think about problems and how to solve them. And we just do not want to miss any of those kinds of developments. Internally, I’m working hard on educating our teams about AI, how AI will be used by our customers on our products, where AI can become part of our product offerings and also how to use AI to develop products and run our business. I also directly support a lot of our ongoing efforts, including everything from product configuration, to inventory management and even our COVID analytics.

Karen Haigh:

Given my background in cognitive electronic warfare, I am also shepherding Mercury’s effort to bring cognitive techniques to the critical RF arena for signal understanding and generation, resource management and network planning. In fact, I’m writing a book about cognitive EW right now.

Ralph Guevarez:

Wow. That is impressive, Karen. Thank you for sharing that. Can you tell me a little bit more about your book? What is it about and when can we expect to see it published, please?

Karen Haigh:

The book is called Cognitive Electronic Warfare, An AI Perspective, and it’s being published by Artech House as part of their EW series. I plan to finish writing by the end of December, and then it has to go through government review. I hope it will be out by the summer. I’m aiming the book for RF engineers who are looking for a guide on how AI is relevant for EW. I describe the AI for electronic support, electronic protect and attack electronic battle management. AI also has some unique evaluation requirements, especially if it’s going to learn during a mission, so I spend some time talking about how to collect good data and then how to test and evaluate performance so that customers and end users will trust the system, even when there’s unknown conditions. People generally think that machine learning for signal classification is the ultimate goal, but AI can be so much more than that for EW. I believe that AI can and will be part of the system everywhere.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Karen. It is fascinating how AI can be everywhere in an EW system. Now, what about other activities within aerospace and defense industries? How is AI currently being used to gain operational advantage and what’s in store for the future, please? Your thoughts.

Karen Haigh:

AI is vitally important to aerospace and defense. AI techniques analyze data far more efficiently and effectively than traditional approaches. For example, data fusion techniques pull information together from a variety of sources and can recognize the impact of events and the intent of users and adversaries. AI decision-making tools support rapid response and long-term military planning. AI based autonomy enables teams to coordinate, manage resources and accomplish missions. Because AI is faster, more accurate and can handle more complexity than most humans, AI can give us a huge operational advantage. The DOD has jumped in with both feet, founding the Joint AI Center and the launching of DOD wide education campaigns starting with acquisitions personnel. If you look at the applications of AI across DOD, arguably as much as $20 billion is going to programs with AI on the inside, situation assessment, decision-making and autonomy. On the flip side, if we don’t jump in with both feet, we’ll be at a huge operational disadvantage.

Ralph Guevarez:

To underscore the importance of AI, I understand you are spearheading the company wide initiative and literally have opened up the AI discussion to the entire Mercury community. Can you tell me a little bit more about this? Who can take part and why is this so important to everyone at Mercury and not just engineering or sales? Your thoughts, please.

Karen Haigh:

I believe that AI is like math. One day it will be everywhere. We need to get our arms around AI, what it is and what is its future, because it will affect all of us, no matter what role we have at Mercury. It’s vital that we use AI to help not only our customers, but ourselves. I want every single employee to know enough about AI to know how to recognize a challenge that they are facing could potentially be solved by AI. For example, HR could use AI to improve requisitions and field candidates, program management could use it to estimate project effort, evaluate risks, and figure out when a program is likely to start. Operations could possibly use it for inventory management. We have a community mailing list and a community website. I organize speakers to present their applications and their technical approaches and then I post the recordings for our employees. I send out weekly micro trainings on small topics, just a couple paragraphs teaching a lesson about AI. For example, just before Thanksgiving, I did one on how AI is helping fight COVID. There’s been some amazing work.

Karen Haigh:

So for example, deep nets can identify COVID from chest x-rays or coughing patterns. Agent-based simulation techniques have helped analyze the effect of different mitigation approaches. Agent-based techniques are better than statistics based models because they catch the behavior of individuals in local, regional effects. Employees should reach out to me if they’d like to join.

Ralph Guevarez:

That is fantastic, Karen. Thank you for your insights on how AI is truly taking over the world. I could see now how it requires a team effort in understanding its impact and the role we each play to advance the future of AI deliver our purpose, innovation that matters by and for people who matter. I wish you Godspeed with the CTO group and I look forward to having you again on the show.

Karen Haigh:

Thank you so much for having me. I look forward to the future and further discussions about my favorite topic, AI.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.

<![CDATA[Follow-Up Q&As : Open Architectures and Enduring Competitiveness]]>, 04 Dec 2020 13:01:00 -0500

Our CTO, Dr. Bill Conley, recently hosted a webinar with Dr. Ian Dunn titled “Open Architectures and Enduring Competitiveness.” The highly engaged audience had more questions than time allowed to be answered, so we’d like to use this blog to answer the other insightful and important questions raised by our customers, suppliers and partners who attend the event. 

Event Summary

In this discussion, Bill described how the source of research and development has shifted from the federal sector into the private sector over the last six decades. This trend has diminished Defense’s role as the global incubator of high technology and thrust it into the much broader role of first adopter of high-tech innovations.

Ian then walked viewers through the important role of open architectures inside Mercury’s high-tech business model as we operate in the Defense marketplace. Numerous aspects of successful open standards were covered, including the interfaces, data, testing and hardware associated with the ecosystem.  Open architectures are a great way for the government to control sustainment costs for weapon systems intended to be maintained for years; this comes at a cost of lagging behind the development timeline of a vertically integrated, proprietary solution. In addition, government needs to maintain an economic role in the open architecture that spans the life cycle of the adopting programs.

Additional Q&As

Question: On the last chart, you mentioned that digital engineering is being accelerated, please expand on what this means.

Answer: Digital engineering is a new engineering best practice. With recent developments in tools as well as simulation capabilities, entire systems can be designed, integrated and demonstrated in a digital environment. This digital design can be optimized based on feedback from higher-level designs and simulations. After maturing the design in the virtual environment, it is then prototyped and moved into production. The goal of digital engineering is to reduce development timelines, improve performance, reduce rework and, ultimately, reduce cost.

You may have also heard the terms digital twin/virtual twin. These are increasingly important and being used in the real world to prototype physical systems using varying degrees of digital simulation, but increasingly inside a real system. At Mercury, we’ve adopted a technology strategy very much aligned with the commercial innovations in this space, allowing our customers to deploy these concepts on their tactical hardware.

Earlier you mentioned that open architectures typically lag five years behind the state of the art. When is the right time for the use of an open architecture on a program and when shouldn’t you specify an open architecture?

Successfully developing, deploying and designing products aligned to an open architecture typically takes about five years when compared to executing a vertical development strategy. For aircraft and ground vehicles, this is often acceptable. The five-year delay in architecture development is also similar to the timeline associated with airframe design. Additionally, most platforms will be sustained for years, and an open standards architecture allows for periodic upgrades over the life cycle.  However, to address critical threats with a new weapon or electronic warfare system, a vertically integrated solution may be required. Delaying by multiple years may not meet the user’s urgent operational need. In these situations, an open system architecture may not be the right approach.

In the context of the network effect, how could we expand the marketplace to make the OAs more useful? Are there particular directions of market expansion that would be especially valuable?

There are some obvious opportunities for defense and civilian radio and networking equipment to share the same architecture. While specific anti-jam features or low probability of detection may be needed for defense applications, large portions of the architecture could be directly shared. Opportunities to share architectures for vetronics and avionics also exist with civilian users. The increasing role of autonomy for commercial applications will create new opportunities for sensors previously used primarily for military end uses. 

Lastly, microelectronics deserves some special commentary because of its role at the bottom level of the technology stack up. Chips of all kinds are powering the revolution in digital engineering, and microelectronic devices  now permeate every aspect of our personal and professional lives. As a consequence, microelectronics is not so much about market expansion for government and the defense industry in general; it is a bigger conversation around the role of these devices with respect to national security. The right choices at this technical level would allow all high-tech systems to be designed, developed and deployed more quickly—of benefit to both defense and civilian applications.

Is microelectronics today still empirically considered x10-^-6? If so, will there be a future area of “nano-electronics, 10^-9?” If so, will any of these six working areas [highlighted in webinar slides] change? Can we increase at the speed of light without going to nano-sized electronics?

Today’s microelectronics are built using transistor features of under 10nm, near the bottom end of the size scale described in the question. Full designs are roughly one million times bigger, or millimeters in scale. Broadly, we expect to use the term microelectronics to describe transistor-based devices constructed from semiconductor materials. Quantum processing, quantum sensing and quantum communication systems have seen a substantial increase in interest for defense applications.  As the technology continues to mature, we expect the six capabilities (addressed in the webinar) and their design trade-off considerations to each remain critical: having access to novel materials, moving at the highest performance and processing speeds , cognizant of SWaP [as well as cooling, vibration, and other environmentals] constraints, to be integrated into existing software with an open interface, in a way that provides mission trust, aka safety and security.

Does an open architecture introduce configuration challenges?

Intrinsically, no. However, as standards evolve, they may choose to limit their backwards compatibility. Without backwards compatibility, configuration challenges could exist years in the future.  Most standards continue to evolve: a great example is the standard wall electrical plug. The only major change in decades is the inclusion of the ground connector. Examples like USB include substantial backwards compatibility while maintaining the same physical connection.

Watch the webinar.    Stay ahead with MOSA/SOSA.   Explore custom microelectronics.

<![CDATA[Mercury and Intel are Making Mobile Platforms Smarter with Artificial Intelligence for Complex Missions]]>, 13 Nov 2020 13:06:00 -0500

Mercury and Intel are close partners who work collaboratively to develop new technologies so powerful that aerospace and defense processing systems can be deployed wherever they are needed to complete more complex and increasingly autonomous missions – regardless of how harsh, contested or cramped their environments. Our combined technologies are taking the best commercial data center capabilities and seamlessly migrating them across fog and edge layers. Required for next-generation autonomous platforms—such as urban air mobility (UAM) and unmanned aerial systems (UASs)—and for smarter fog layers that supply greater environmental awareness and connectivity, decentralized processing resources are enabling big data and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered everything, everywhere. So, how do we do it?

AI Processing at the Edge

Big data and AI processing is increasingly being deployed in edge applications for quick reaction capability and untethered cognitive functionality remote from data center-powered clouds. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the rapidly emerging and well-funded autonomous platform (ground and air) domain.

As commercial/military, manned/unmanned and fixed/rotor-wing mobile platforms become smarter and more capable, greater on-board AI and big-data processing in general is required to handle the torrents of sensor and situational awareness data for autonomous decision making and effector control. (Effectors being the highly deterministic, reliable and safe vetronics, avionics and other safety- and mission-critical functions required for platform control.) As the number of smart platforms grows, so does the need for a greatly expanded, distributed fog layer with big-data processing capability that safely and efficiently manages the increased traffic.

Common Enterprise Architecture from Cloud to Edge

Big-data processing is still largely confined to static data centers running performance servers powered by the latest Intel processors with increasingly dedicated resources that accelerate AI performance. To scale this capability across fog and edge layers necessitates making data center servers portable and resilient to harsh environments and human attempts to tamper with them. And to deploy this processing power, these servers must be miniaturized, environmentally protected, secure, refreshable and affordable. When all these requirements are met, the composable data center and its AI-processing capability can seamlessly migrate across fog and edge layers creating a common, scalable enterprise architecture. AI processing can then be placed where it is needed, wherever that is, including next to the sensor onboard platforms.

Deploying the Intel-Powered Data Center

Intel’s Xeon Scalable processors with on-die AI accelerators are the gold standard in big data and AI processing that power the most contemporary data centers. They require advanced packaging, miniaturization, cooling and unrestricted I/O pipes to be successfully deployed at and near the edge. Mercury has developed the technologies that efficiently address these deployment requirements. Specifically:

  • Rugged packaging – The most powerful AI processors are designed for use in benign data center environments. Each is connected to their mounting substrate via the processor’s retaining clips, which also maintains the physical I/O connectivity. Efficient to implement, this approach is physically vulnerable, and the slightest disturbance can disrupt I/O connectivity, which is not an issue within a data center. Mercury does not use a retaining clip, but instead reflows (solders) the thousands of I/O processor connections to its substrate, then under fills the processor with epoxy, allowing the resulting package to withstand the harshest environments and conditions.
  • Miniaturization – System-in-package, wafer-stacking, 2.5D and 3D fabrication techniques are used to shrink the data center server from a 19-inch footprint to smaller form factors with varying degrees of size, weight and power (SWaP) performance. Form factors range from rugged, reduced-profile composable servers used for fog and near-edge processing, to dense, defense-grade OpenVPX format-factor blades, with over a 90% reduction in server volume.
  • Cooling – Effective and efficient conduction, air, liquid and hybrid cooling technologies allow small-form-factor Xeon-powered packages to operate reliably and at full throttle, delivering unrestricted processing performance across wide temperature ranges. Platform fuel and refrigerants may be used in our liquid-cooled solutions and advanced air management approaches in our air-cooled solutions, versus the traditional and less-efficient air-blowing approaches used in data centers.
  • Unrestricted fabrics – Many open system architectures have performance bottlenecks, especially between their composing module interconnects. Our backplane channel and enhanced interconnect technologies enable unrestricted switch fabric performance across the largest processing systems and temperature ranges, so the processing power and scalability of Intel’s latest processors is not limited.

To avoid vendor lock and add velocity to technology adoption and refreshes, all these Mercury technologies are open-systems compliant. When applied together, they are enabling Intel’s latest AI processing technologies to be deployed in a wide spectrum of environments and form factors, from rugged rackmount servers to extremely rugged OpenVPX server blades and custom small form factors.

Go Anywhere with the Right Security

Mercury has made the physical data center deployable in packages that match platform requirements, enabling them to execute more sophisticated and increasingly autonomous missions in complex environments. For practical deployment, these remote processing capabilities need to be secure and trusted.

Embedded systems security engineering (SSE) protects processing systems from unauthorized technology transfers and alterations to functionality. Our embedded SSE builds in a layered and customizable framework that is required for modern aerospace and defense processing applications. These security frameworks span software, firmware and hardware and are configurable with trusted third-party IP, enabling the creation of private and personalized system-wide security.

The Next Great Age of Innovation

AI is changing and revolutionizing everything. As data center AI processing capability migrates across infrastructural fog layers and is embedded into platforms, they are becoming smarter and more aware. With their new smarts, platforms are becoming more autonomous and able to complete complex missions and tasks. In the age of AI-powered everything, a common data center architecture that transcends physical boundaries is ushering in the next great age of innovation, where the power of AI can be applied everywhere and anywhere. Learn more.

<![CDATA[Modern Processing Approaches for JADC2]]>, 12 Nov 2020 13:43:00 -0500

Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, is the DOD’s vision to connect sensors from all the military services—Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force—into a single network by providing a cloud-like environment for the Joint force to share intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data, transmitting across many communications networks, to enable faster decision-making. Listen in as Matthew Alexander, fellow systems engineer at Mercury Systems, discusses the challenges associated with implementing JADC2 and the role Mercury is playing to help make it a reality – from data center processing at the edge to high-performance AI processors and secure processing.

Read the transcript -

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today’s topic, modern processing approaches for JADC2 as Mercury continues to build on innovation that matters. Joining me is Matthew Alexander, a fellow systems engineer for our embedded business unit at Mercury Systems. Matt, good day and welcome to the show.

Matthew Alexander:

And good day to you, Ralph. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here and appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Let’s dive right in, Matt. Can you give us an overarching understanding of JADC2? When did this initiative begin and also what was the idea behind it?

Matthew Alexander:

JADC2 is really a doctrine that allows census systems and information systems to be able to be shared across the different military services. In terms of an implementation, JADC2 can be viewed as a set of interconnected open architectures. Each branch of the military will have an open architecture. For example, the most widely known one is the Air Force’s ABMS. ABMS allows for sensors and for C4I systems to connect in a many-to-many fashion, as opposed to the one-to-one manner in which we’ve seen in the past.

Matthew Alexander:

This concept has been around for many years. It’s nothing new in terms of open architectures and it’s kind of grown into this doctrine that I’m describing. If you rewind 10 years, OMS or Open Mission Systems started by having payloads and services on platforms talking to each other over open interfaces. This concept has grown into what is now known as basically ABMS and JADC2.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Matt. The idea of JADC2 has been around for a while now. What are some of the challenges preventing it from being realized? Please, your thoughts?

Matthew Alexander:

I think ABMS and JADC2 will be a persistent evolution of increasing capabilities. To say it cannot be realized they might be a bit of a misnomer. In other words, I think you could implement parts of ABMS and JADC2 today and grow the capability over time, but to discuss some challenges for a moment-

Ralph Guevarez:


Matthew Alexander:

… three in particular, come to mind, at least in the near term with things that Mercury is looking to address. The first is artificial intelligence. We need to make sure we have compute architectures that enable efficient implementations of these new capabilities at the edge. The next one that comes to mind for me is compute power. We need heterogeneous data centers deployed at the edge to deal with the increase in sensor data and to be able to generate useful products to the end user. And then finally, open architectures. And again, this is nothing new to the DOD, but we really need a next generation of open systems that allow for even more rapid insertion and reuse of capabilities. One particular area of interest for us is cloud-based solutions at the edge.

Matthew Alexander:

Thank you, Matt. Now, I’m curious, what are some of the technological challenges involved with JADC2? Your thoughts, please?

Matthew Alexander:

I can think of two that immediately come to mind. The first as we were just discussing is cloud and hyper-converged architectures. We’re seeing a convergence of sensor processing and some traditional C4I capabilities, which is driving the need for cloud-based processing architectures. As the hybrid becomes even more capable, we need to outfit our sensor systems with cloud-based infrastructure in order to realize the converged sensor C4I processing vision. To do so, we continue to partner with leading cloud architectural organizations and we’ll seek opportunities to demonstrate these capabilities through the ABMS IDIQ.

Matthew Alexander:

Then perhaps a bit out of the box, another area I find challenging is test. As the DOD has evolved to an open architecture approach in order to facilitate rapid technology insertion, we need to also pay attention to how we test these systems. We cannot deliver a new capability in weeks only to have to take months or years to test. The more testing we can push into environmentally accurate simulators and emulators, the faster we can get a capability deployed to our warfighter.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, staying with the DOD, what is Mercury doing to help the DOD get where they need to be and help JADC2 really take off? Your thoughts?

Matthew Alexander:

Yeah, that’s a good question, Ralph, and we’re really doing a lot from data center processing at the edge to high-performance AI processors, and of course, secure processing. We’re looking to deploy technology building blocks across a wide variety of form factors. This is the technology that will help generate decision-making data at the edge so that our warfighters get the information they need faster.

Matthew Alexander:

Let me also give you an example of something we’re doing at a very tactical level. We’re working closely with the Air Force right now to deliver a 6U OpenVPX processor based on data center CPU’s for their ABMS sensor test aircraft at Hanscom Air Force Base. We’ve already delivered some loaner hardware and expect to deliver a full-up system by the end of the year, and this will allow the ABMS sensor mode developers to deploy new capabilities onto the test aircraft in open architecture fashion.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, what could you say about any partnerships Mercury is pursuing for JADC2 and ABMS, please?

Matthew Alexander:

Yeah, this is a really important topic. We’re certainly working towards partnerships right now, although I’m not quite ready to talk broadly about who we’re pursuing partnerships with. Suffice it to say, we’re looking at partnerships with organizations who have deepened roads with the Air Force and DOD, and we’re looking at partnerships with organizations who complement our offerings. For example, cloud infrastructure and hyper-converged architectures are areas we’re interested in establishing strategic partnerships in.

Ralph Guevarez:

What you’re saying, Matt, is that it’s really about addressing all of these elements you just mentioned. Everything needs to come together in an incremental fashion for the vision of JADC2 to work. Am I understanding that correctly?

Matthew Alexander:

That’s right, Ralph. We need rapid, high-performance technology built around open standards that leverage the best available commercial technology, but are hardened, rugged, and protected to meet demanding military requirements.

Ralph Guevarez:

Matt, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me today. I enjoyed the discussion and have a much better appreciation of Mercury’s approach towards JADC2. I wish you the best of luck moving forward and Godspeed with all that you do for Mercury Systems. Thank you again.

Matthew Alexander:

Thank you, Ralph. It was my pleasure.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.

<![CDATA[Three Ways Mercury and SigmaX are Securing Machine Learning at the Edge with NVIDIA EGX]]>, 06 Nov 2020 15:19:00 -0500

Defense personnel are being expected to operate in a rapidly evolving field environment – one where synchronized data, technologies and human capabilities across land, sea, air, space and cyberspace domains ensure modern and cutting-edge defense operations. But, harnessing converged data streams –simultaneously and securely – is not simple. By utilizing the NVIDIA EGX edge AI platform for edge computing, coupled with open software stacks, machine learning (ML) data can be deployed and accelerated to retain operational advantage. Mercury Systems and SigmaX are securing machine learning for multi-domain operations by:

  1. Improving Data Flow Efficiency: Efficient and fast delivery of data is crucial to accelerating machine learning. SigmaX enables equal access to data across heterogeneous compute architecture with low latency to increase system efficiency. The SigmaX Stack solves data format conversion issues, reduces CPU waste by as much as 60% and scales linearly to support big data requirements.
  1. Streamlining Model Deployment with NVIDIA Fleet Command: The cloud-native NVIDIA EGX AI platform overcomes IT challenges of installing software on remote systems. The NVIDIA GPU-based network operators standardize and automate all the necessary components for Kubernetes clusters to deploy AI containers effortlessly in minutes to meet evolving scenarios. NVIDIA Fleet Command pulls this all together in a cloud-based support tool that allows IT departments to securely and remotely manage a large-scale fleet of deployed systems.
  1. Integrating on Secure and Reliable Hardware: With Mercury’s rugged edge servers, cloud-native stacks with SigmaX software can be securely deployed in the field, anywhere. Mercury architects edge-ready solutions with the latest commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components to optimize frameworks, maximize performance, reduce latency and protect data with built-in security options.

To learn more about how Mercury and SigmaX are utilizing NVIDIA technology to enable machine learning in multi-domain operations, watch our brief on-demand webinar featuring Lance Brown, Mercury’s director of business development, Jim Medeiros, NVIDIA’s strategic account manager, and Robert Morrow, SigmaX’s founder and CEO.

<![CDATA[Bringing AI into the Defense Landscape]]>, 04 Nov 2020 10:08:00 -0500

Commercial technology companies, such as Intel, are shaping the artificial intelligence (AI) landscape with research, development and technology breakthroughs. As the consumer product industry rushes to provide the latest AI capabilities, defense applications and platforms also need a manageable path for service men and women to benefit from the latest AI advancements. Mercury is paving the way with a COTS-model approach to subsystem design and pre-integration that helps defense applications keep pace with the AI evolution by leveraging the best-in-class commercial technologies, engineering mindshare and commercial R&D investment.

The inability to field the latest AI technologies at the pace of one’s adversaries often means the loss of tactical or operational advantages. Historically, defense electronics providers have utilized closed architectures to meet the Department of Defense (DoD) emphasis on application-specific solutions with unique reliability, performance, space and security requirements. However, our open and modular design approach is particularly beneficial for the global AI race because it supports the rapid modernization of mission-critical systems and accelerates AI electronics deployment through design flexibility and reduced complexity.

Electronics that feature components and interfaces that are either crafted in-house or have a limited number of suppliers are expensive and difficult to upgrade. DoD regulations can further constrain refreshes for these costly systems, consequently prolonging the use of obsolete products in the field. Outdated technology is risky. It can render progressively compute-heavy AI systems ineffective. Our modular systems can be incrementally upgraded, with the quick replacement of hardware pieces allowing system engineers to meet evolving software or algorithm requirements. And, by simplifying technology upgrades, increased performance and capabilities can be dispatched to the field more frequently. Additionally, we only use pre-certified COTS components from a defined ecosystem of software and applications to improve interoperability and simplify integration across cloud, fog and edge layers.

Collaboration with technology leaders like Intel is critical to our ability to deliver leading-edge technology quickly. However, creating purpose-built AI edge hardware is not as simple as selecting and packaging the latest components. Hardware solutions must be built deliberately to eliminate bottlenecks, minimize latency and facilitate AI frameworks — all while meeting the unique needs of defense applications. In a landscape where we have amassed years of experience and expertise, Mercury Systems is making AI technologies profoundly more accessible to defense through our modular and open-systems approach to subsystem design and pre-integration.

<![CDATA[Military & Aerospace Electronics 2020 Innovators Awards]]>, 03 Nov 2020 10:18:00 -0500

Why are high-performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC) products receiving so many accolades? As a secure and extremely ruggedized miniaturized data center with uncompromised performance and scalability, HPEEC is the next technological leap toward smarter, sustainable on-platform processing.

Mercury received six Innovator Awards from Military & Aerospace Electronics, including two for its HPEEC products, EnsembleSeries™ SCM6010 storage drive and SFM6126 high-bandwidth switch.

Watch to learn how HPEEC is the future of sustainable on-platform processing and get an up close and personal view of our award-winning products from Mercury’s experts.

Read the transcript -

Ralph Guevarez:              

Hello, and welcome to MercuryNOW, a vodcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. And today’s topic, the Military & Aerospace Electronics 2020 Innovators Award. Hello and welcome to the show. The recently announced Military & Aerospace Electronics Innovators Award has cast a light on the trusted and secure solutions Mercury Systems has been innovating to address the needs of the modern aerospace and defense industry.

In addition to two platinum awards, Mercury received two gold awards and two silver awards as well. I’d like to focus today’s conversation on two of Mercury’s award-winning products, the EnsembleSeries SCM6010 an OpenVPX bulk storage module and the EnsembleSeries SFM6126 an OpenVPX wideband PCIe switch. Both feature the latest in technology for high performance embedded edge computing or HPEEC. A subject of great interest as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and electronic warfare to name a few are creating high demand for data center level computing capabilities in swap restricted and remote environments. My first guest today is John Bratton, director of product marketing for Mercury Systems. John, good day and welcome to you.

John Bratton:                    

Good morning, Ralph. Thank you.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Congratulations on the award, John. I think it’s a great accomplishment. Now the Mercury awards were given for two Mercury HPEEC system building blocks. What is it about these that is worthy of the title, military and aerospace electronics innovators?

John Bratton:                    

Yeah. Thank you, Ralph. Great question. High-Performance Embedded Edge Computing or HPEEC is giving a massive boost to the capabilities aerospace and defense system builders have to address the big process workloads remote from the data center. Our customers are seeing how commercially developed cloud-based AI processing is changing everything, from connected smart speakers and phones to backroom automation, to autonomous flying taxis. And they need the same capability in their applications on their platforms, whether they’re connected to the data center or not. By embedding cloud processing capability into their applications, our customers platforms are gaining greater situational awareness and autonomy and the ability to execute ever more sophisticated missions in an increasingly complex and competitive world. HPEEC repackages the data center into aerospace certain defenses de facto embedded processing architecture of OpenVPX that they can deploy anywhere. We are very pleased to receive the Military and Aerospace Innovators Award. They recognize the importance of HPEEC and what it is making possible. The awards are for two of our recently announced HPEEC system building blocks are EnsembleSeries SFM6126 PCIe switch and our SCM6010 mass storage module.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Thank you, John. So what does HPEEC deliver to aerospace and defense system designers? And how do the EnsembleSeries SCM6010 and SFM6126 feature in that?

John Bratton:                    

Yeah. Our customers want the same processing performance and capability found in the data center that they can embed in their mobile platforms. Think of the data center as being composed of scalable building blocks, specifically CPU server blades powered by Intel Xeon processes with AI accelerators. GPU and FPGA co processing engines. Powered by such devices as NVIDIA’s latest GPU’s. Again which tend to feature on the AI accelerators. Low latency bulk storage to handle the memory demands a big processing tasks like AI and wideband low latency fabrics that efficiently connect everything together. HPEEC systems are composed of the same functional building blocks. They just happened to be packaged into the form factor that aerospace and defense can deploy. Our OpenVPX STM6010 and SFM6126 are such building blocks. They mirror the data centers mass storage and PCIe switches respectively. The HPEEC approach is the logical technological step towards smarter, sustainable on-platform processing. The challenge has always been how to take high-performance computing that resides in benign air conditioned data centers and places into size, weight and power constrained applications for deployment in the harshest most contested places on earth.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Thank you, John. At this time, I’d like to introduce my next guest Shaun McQuaid, director of product management for Mercury Systems. Shaun, hello and welcome to the show.

Shaun McQuaid:              

Hi there, Ralph. It’s great to be here.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Now Shaun it seems obvious, you take the best commercial technology that drives the most powerful data centers and place it where the data is at the source. Why is it only possible now?

Shaun McQuaid:              

Well, think of it this way. Traditional embedded processing systems rely heavily currently upon a laptop kind of approach to system building. Mobile class laptop processors which are already somewhat rugged and power efficient are connected up to GPU’s storage, et cetera, with switches as one might set up a home computer network. Now the HPEEC approach is fundamentally different. The HPEEC base architecture is that of the data center.

HPEEC uses the same silicon, the same fabrics, same software and tools and repackages them for deployment in aerospace and defense applications. To place uncompromised data center performance into SWaP constrained platforms requires robust solutions to problems that address this industry’s need for things like size, weight, and power performance. High reliability for dependable performance regardless of the conditions and extreme environmental protection to deploy anywhere. Next, sustainability for long service life and sustain a technology advantage with the assurance of sustainable long-term technology roadmaps. So the underlying technology remains relevant over time. Next, system integrity. With built insecurity that protects their systems wherever they go. And with trusted design components and systems built and trusted facilities. And finally, scalability and interoperability. By using commonality across interfaces for compatibility with other systems and commonality across architectures for scalability and maximum technology reuse. The trick to basically placing the data center in the nose cone of a fighter jet to process streaming data from NextGen radar, for example, requires having robust solutions to all of these challenges.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Thank you, Shaun. Now, John, if I had to summarize aerospace and defense needs the data center tailored to their specific needs for use in their extremely challenging and contested environments, would you say that’s an accurate statement?

John Bratton:                    

Yeah, I would Ralph. That’s exactly right. Aerospace and defense needs the processing mind of the data center whether they’re connected to it or not. And they’re doing this by taking it with them on their platforms. HPEEC gives them that ability by protecting, shrinking and making it secure. So think of HPEEC as a miniaturized data center with uncompromised performance and scalability that is secure, extremely rugged to go anywhere.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Thank you, John. Now Shaun, I could see you why repackaging the data center for on-platform aerospace and defense missions is a game changer. So I must ask, how has it done?

Shaun McQuaid:              

Well it’s through Mercury’s industry leading R&D investment profile. Our ongoing investments in focused R&D that produced the industry’s most efficient cooling, packaging and embedded security. We partner with industry leaders and invest extensively in world-class domestic design, manufacturing, test and support facilities. Specifically, we have developed the technologies required to repackage the data center into a rugged OpenVPX form factor without making any compromises on performance or capabilities. We’re able to shrink these systems and optimize them for power and cooling with processing board miniaturization and advanced air, liquid or hybrid cooling technologies. We build in extreme environmental protection from the start with our MOTS plus technologies that embed the most modern and powerful processors for reliable deployment anywhere. We sustain these systems and the performance with a wholly modular open systems architecture approach or MOSA. That includes ANSI/VITA OpenVPX compliance and also alignment with SOSA or the Sensor Open System Architectures.

And by partnering with industry leaders like Intel and NVIDIA for the commercial world. We develop next-gen products that are aligned to their roadmaps. And we share technology so that all data center processing features are mirrored within the HPEEC environment with no performance or feature compromises. We make our customer system secure and trustworthy by building in the industry’s most proven system security engineering with our built secure technologies, right from the ground up. And we use our accredited DMEA facilities to design, make, test and support these systems and are trusted and enter our supply chain to ensure device authenticity. And we build an interoperability and scalability by using commonality across interfaces for scalability and interoperability and with the same Silicon Software architecture and the same fabric and tools from the cloud all the way to the tactical edge. It’s the combination of all of these capabilities that make HPEEC possible.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Thank you, Shaun. So John HPEEC is the data center made ready for deployment in aerospace and defense applications. Is that correct?

John Bratton:                    

Yes it is. HPEEC exactly mirrors the data center and uses the same processes, architecture and fabrics, and the same software and tools right. HPEEC systems are composed of EnsembleSeries building blocks that mirror data center building blocks. We integrate them into our customer’s purpose-built systems, according to their mission needs. These processing systems run the same software, use the same tools as the data center. So our customers can leverage their existing applications with no reporting required.

Ralph Guevarez:              

Thank you, John. This is quite an exciting time to be at Mercury. Is there anything you would like to add? What are some of the things that we have to look forward to?

John Bratton:                    

It certainly is an exciting time to be at Mercury. And I would like to just touch upon one thing. We talked about scalability a lot. And this is certainly a cornerstone of the data center architecture. And we build that scalability into our HPEEC solutions. At Mercury however, we do a lot more than this. The technologies we use to ruggedize and make secure HPEEC systems we apply to other form factors like rack mountain, custom small and customs perform factor. The ability to repackage the data center in other form factors is a huge advantage to our customers as they seek to scale the applications across domains and platforms by using a single enterprise architecture.

Ralph Guevarez:              

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you both for joining me today. It has been a pleasure having you. Congratulations on all the awards, winning products that we discussed today. And I wish you the best moving forward. Godspeed. I look forward to having you both on the show again soon. Thank you. This has been another edition of MercuryNOW, a vodcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.

<![CDATA[Accelerating AI at the Edge for Large-Scale Analytics]]>, 29 Oct 2020 11:20:00 -0400

The explosion of big data has driven the need for utilizing artificial intelligence to break through “data noise,” process and analyze data efficiently, and return actionable information. In addition, there is a growing demand to take this processing out of the data center and bring it to the edge for faster critical insights. Listen in to find out how Mercury and NVIDIA are working together to deliver the latest commercial technologies in trusted, secure mission-critical systems for aerospace and defense applications.

Read the transcript -

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. I’m very excited about today’s topic: Enabling AI Large-Scale Analytics through Mercury and Invidious Technologies. Joining me is Lance Brown, Director of Business Development for Mercury Systems, and our guest today, Jason Tichy, Senior Data Scientist for NVIDIA. Lance, Jason. Good day, and welcome to you both.

Lance Brown:

Great to be here.

Jason Tichy:

Hi Ralph. Thanks for having us.

Ralph Guevarez:

So before we begin, could you please give our listeners a brief background on your current roles. Lance, we’ll start with you please.

Lance Brown:

Hi, I’m Lance Brown and I work in our Advanced Technology Group and I’m currently working on edge applications using NVIDIA’s latest GPU’s and NVIDIA’s machine learning solutions.

Ralph Guevarez:


Jason Tichy:

Thanks Ralph. My name’s Jason Tichy. I’m a Senior Data Scientist on NVIDIA’s Federal Solution Architecture team. My main research involves deploying AI, ML and HPC algorithms at the extreme edge. This involves using our embedded and system on module products.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you both for the updates. So gentlemen, why is AI needed for Large-Scale Analytics? Jason, we’ll start with you please.

Jason Tichy:

Well, Ralph, I really think it’s this explosion of big data that we’ve seen lately that drives this need for Analytics. Just the last two years alone. 90% of the world’s data has been created. Every day 306.4 billion emails are sent. Over five million tweets are made. The exponential bump that 5G will bring with its ability to cover one million devices in just a square kilometer. This is going to further drive that data growth.

Lance Brown:

That’s a great point. Jason, just add a little bit to it. The volume and complexity of data has grown at such a rate that again, the longer be analyzed, but traditional human means as a world data approaches Yoda Scales, a Yoda for your point is 10 to the 24th. It’s becoming harder and harder to break through the data noise and find useful information. AI is a means by which we can process and digest that efficiently to get timely insights that would otherwise be impossible to obtain. This is important as making a correct decision too late is a wrong decision.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you gentlemen. So what you are saying is, missions which seemed impossible before can now be possible because we can use AI to utilize all that data. Now, why not perform Analytics using cloud computing? Why is it needed at the edge? Lance, we’ll start with you.

Lance Brown:

That’s a good question. So growing volumes of data require machine learning be executed at or near the point of injured. AI is a feud heavy application that can easily exhaust processing resources. Traditionally, these resources reside in benign environments like a data center, which is hooked up to the cloud. However, there is so much data being generated, then sending it back to the data centers often and practical.

Jason Tichy:

To build on Lance’s point and reinforce it. Moving Analytics to the edge is all about reducing latency to get those real time insights. Data analysis is only as fast as your slowest piece of IT infrastructure. At the edge that bottleneck is networking. Edge devices allow analysis to be done on local devices without needing to traverse that network. It also increases security as no one can listen in.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. So if I’m understanding this correctly, by running AI on edge infrastructure in remote locations, near the data, you can get faster data insights, understood. How are NVIDIA and Mercury collaborating to deliver AI capabilities to the tactical edge? Jason, your thoughts.

Jason Tichy:

NVIDIA really revolutionized parallel computing when it invented the GPU in 1999. GPU’s are built to run intensive tasks and massive parallel processing units that have thousands of cores. This reduces your time for numerical compute and reduces overall latency. For instance, our newest A100 Tensor Core GPU, for example, demonstrated the fastest performance per accelerator on multiple benchmarks. NVIDIA’s EGX is a cloud native scalable software technology that enables IT to quickly and easily provision GPU servers. We work really closely with Mercury as they enhance our GPU’s and add to our software stack technologies and make them ready specifically for aerospace and defense applications.

Lance Brown:

That’s right, Jason. So Mercury Systems is the leader in making trusted, secure, mission critical technologies profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense. As an NVIDIA partner with early access to new technologies, we align our product development with NVIDIA’s roadmap to deliver the most advanced AI enabling technologies to our customers.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you both. Now, what should our customers be thinking about when selecting a system to deploy AI at the edge? Lance, please,

Lance Brown:

There’s lots to think about, but efficiency can take a hit as you integrate Edge Systems. Pre-integrated solutions are better as every integration step can introduce latency. Edge Systems must be compact, reliable, scalable, secure, and fast to mitigate risk and fit anywhere. It’s important to have reliable systems running. These workloads as failure is often not an option.

Ralph Guevarez:

Jason, your thoughts,

Jason Tichy:

There are many tools and capabilities available today that can streamline AI Analytics and make the data easily digestible. However, as Lance just said, they must be properly integrated to drive real-time insights at the edge. And the edge is where performance per watt is extremely critical. It’s important to align our product roadmaps and strategies as that will streamline the development of cutting edge solutions that maximize your AI efficiency.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you gentlemen. As we heard today, AI is a complex problem. It requires hardware solution providers such as NVIDIA and Mercury to work hand in hand with defense and aerospace system architectures to build knit together solutions that accelerate AI Analytics. Lance, Jason, thank you both for joining me today. I wish you the best of luck moving forward. God speed. And I look forward to having you both on the show again soon. Thank you.

Jason Tichy:

Thank you.

Lance Brown:

Thank you.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. Signing off.

<![CDATA[Why Is Mercury Receiving So Many Awards for HPEEC?]]>, 27 Oct 2020 10:13:00 -0400

In September, Mercury received six Innovator awards from Military and Aerospace Electronics including two for high-performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC) building blocks: the EnsembleSeriesTM SFM6126 wideband PCIe OpenVPX® switch and SCM6010 OpenVPX bulk storage module. In 2019, we received an additional two awards for other HPEEC products. Why is HPEEC (pronounced H-PEEK) receiving so many accolades? Let’s dig into it.

High-Performance Computing (HPC)

High-performance computing (HPC), or supercomputing, is the bedrock of the modern composable data center where big AI is at work driving everything from connected smartphones and speakers to backroom automation, and running the most sophisticated factories and distribution systems. Data centers process information from everywhere and increasingly from sensors at the edge where the data is being created. Think of edge sensors as those embedded in your connected devices, autonomous vehicles, automated warehouses, traffic cameras and even smart farms and hospitals.

But what if, as in the case of many aerospace and defense applications, the processing power of the data center is required, but it’s not available?

Data center access may be denied through jamming or subject to other physical or environmental connectivity limitations. Stealthy missions necessitate radio silence and, by extension, data-link isolation. The data center may not be sufficiently available through bandwidth limitations or the information generated may be rendered useless by latency introduced through connecting to distant data centers. This is especially significant for autonomous platforms and many defense applications that need to react in real time.

High-Performance Embedded Computing (HPEC)

A proven approach to embedding HPC into edge applications is to deploy data center servers that are more rugged and shallower for deployment in “larger” platforms like widebody aircraft, ships and mobile command posts. Some of these, including our rugged enterprise servers, may be even more suitable for deployment with features like built-in security for greater mission assurance. This affordable approach delivers true HPC capability outside of the data center. But, when extreme ruggedness, size, weight and power (SWaP) performance is required, a different approach is necessary.

Rugged, modular and proven in all manners of on-platform computing, OpenVPX has become the de facto embedded aerospace and defense compute architecture. Often referred to as high-performance embedded computing (or HPEC, pronounced H-PEC), OpenVPX is an excellent approach that solves most embedded computing challenges – but not all of them.

Designers and builders of OpenVPX processing systems use processors designed for mobile devices, which are already somewhat rugged and relatively easy to cool. These devices are connected to other compute elements like storage and coprocessing engines via switch fabrics. Think of this as a “laptop” approach to system building – lots of laptops connected with Ethernet as one might setup a home computer network. This very capable approach to system building delivers the ruggedness and SWaP performance required but doesn’t deliver full data center capability.

To add the functionality required for smarter, more autonomous missions, aerospace and defense system designers are demanding uncompromised cloud capability that they can take with them on their platforms. In addition, to add the holistic situational awareness and platform survivability needed for modern missions, these designers are asking for the data center to be tailored to their purposes by augmenting it with the following.

The right packaging

  • Addresses SWaP performance – where size, weight and power efficiency really matter.
  • Delivers dependable performance regardless of environmental conditions.
  • Adds extreme environmental protection for deployment anywhere.


  • Long service life and continued technological advantages.
  • Assurance of long-term technology roadmaps so technology remains relevant.

System integrity

  • Built-in security to protect systems wherever they go.
  • Assurance of trusted designs, components, systems and software.

Scalability and interoperability

  • Compatibility with other systems.
  • Commonality across architectures and system-level scalability for maximum technology reuse and rapid deployment.

To embed data center capability into the nose cone of a fighter jet, as an example, requires having robust solutions to all these challenges, not just some of them.



<![CDATA[Expanding Capabilities for Signal and Electronic Intelligence]]>, 19 Oct 2020 15:57:00 -0400

One year after acquiring Syntonic Microwave, Mercury Mixed Signal group’s Neal Austin and Jay Goodfriend join the MercuryNOW podcast to discuss how merging Syntonic’s domain expertise in flexible RF technology has supported Mercury’s position as a leading provider of high-performance, SWaP-optimized EW subsystems. Their expanded portfolio of frequency synthesizers, phase-coherent tuners and microwave frequency converters for signal and electronic intelligence applications now provides customers greater access to highly differentiated sensor processing capabilities.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez and today’s topic: expanding capabilities for signal and electronic intelligence, with the acquisition of Syntonic Microwave. Joining me is Neal Austin, Vice President and General Manager of our mixed signal group, as well as Jay Goodfriend, Expert Product Manager, also from our mixed signal group at Mercury Systems. Neal, Jay, good day, and welcome to you both.

Neal Austin:

Hi Ralph. Thank you.` Appreciate you having us.

Jay Goodfriend:

Yeah thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

Could you please both give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Mercury. Neal, we’ll start with you.

Neal Austin:

Sure. I’ll be happy to Ralph. I’m the Vice President and General Manager of our mixed signal and RF tuner business out of Huntsville, Alabama and San Jose, California. And in the RF and microwave industry for more than 30 years, I’m sorry to say. And having enjoyed a career in engineering program management and sales prior to my general management role.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Neal. Jay?

Jay Goodfriend:

Oh, thanks. Yeah. So I’m Jay Goodfriend, former President of Syntonic Microwave, and I am currently the product manager for the portfolio of products that came over to Mercury Systems from Syntonic.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Jay. Neal, can you tell our listeners a bit more about Syntonic Microwave? When did Mercury acquire them and also some insights on their product portfolio, if you please.

Neal Austin:

Yeah, absolutely Ralph, be happy to. Syntonic Microwave was acquired by Mercury a little more than a year ago. Their product portfolio includes frequency synthesizers, phase coherent tuners, and microwave frequency converters for signals, intelligence and electronic intelligence applications. These are class leading synthesizers and tuners with incredible flexibility that cover frequency ranges from 100 megahertz up through 44 gigahertz where the emerging 5g, SIGINT ELINT threats with instantaneous bandwidth as wide as two gigahertz. I’m excited for you to learn more about that as Jay talks about the product line later. The systems and subsystems are designed in a modular fashion that allows for rapid adaptation and prototyping as well.

Ralph Guevarez:

Could you please expand on Syntonic’s product portfolio and how it compliments Mercury’s existing microwave tuner lineup, please?

Neal Austin:

So this was a very synergistic acquisition. Mercury is very well known for its electronic warfare family of tuners, covering the traditional frequencies, but we really didn’t have a footprint in the signal intelligence space. We didn’t have a footprint in the intelligence community and really we didn’t have a product portfolio outside of the embedded OpenVPX solutions. The company wide initiative supporting open standards is extremely important to us. We’ll continue to support OpenVPX and standards like SOSA. But the syntonic tuners are really aimed at different customers, different product platforms and different applications. So the two together create a real powerhouse. Perhaps, I’ll be bold enough to say, the broadest signal portfolio in the industry.

Ralph Guevarez:

I could see why Syntonic Microwave was such a good fit for Mercury. Thank you. Jay, let’s pick up on Neal’s point about Syntonic products being flexible in an unprecedented way. Can you expand on this and share with our listeners how this flexibility can be leveraged by our customers, please?

Jay Goodfriend:

One unique feature of these tuners is an architecture that enables great adaptability. What we mean by this is the ability to adapt to varying signals of interest on the fly. The tuners have enough versatility baked into the designs to allow a user to change bandwidths as signals of varying bandwidths present themselves. Imagine a user is attempting to collect and analyze signals that might be shifting in bandwidth from one gigahertz to 500 megahertz to two gigahertz. These tuners have the ability to adapt to these changes. Other tuners with locked in bandwidths might become overwhelmed by these changes and miss the opportunities of collection. And with a high cost of performing collections, a missed opportunity has real consequences.

Jay Goodfriend:

Oh, and one more thing. The adaptability also helps extend the life of the tuner. So when wider and wider bandwidths will be needed in the future, these adaptive tuners are ready for that too. The longer life translates into real value for the person investing in this equipment.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Jay. Neal, how would you say Mercury benefited from this introduction of technology?

Neal Austin:

And this really rounded out the mixed signal processing team’s product offering. And Syntonic had this incredible domain experience and flexible RF technology, and it supported expanding Mercury’s position as a leading provider of high-performance SWaP-optimized EW subsystems. The fundamental technology that Syntonic brought to Mercury along with the broad resources that we already had within Mercury for EW products, have allowed us to do some very interesting things that Jay will talk about in a couple of minutes. In addition, it also increased customer support with regards to SIGINT and ELINT while enabling us to better work in these markets with Mercury’s expanding portfolio. We believe part of this synergy is going to be giving customers in the SIGINT ELINT space, particularly in the IC community, access to products within Mercury’s portfolio that they never previously realized existed. Adding these products gave our customers greater access to highly differentiated sensor processing capabilities and ultimately advanced interest as a nation by better controlling the electromagnetic spectrum.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Neal. So Jay, now that these tuners and synthesizers are part of Mercury’s product family, what’s next? Give our listeners a glimpse into the future.

Jay Goodfriend:

We are always being pushed for better devices that are smaller, faster, and quieter. So keep your eyes open for continuing changes in that direction. As far as the tuners are concerned, we’re now just releasing this first small form factor SWaP tuner. This is planned as part of a family of small tactical tuners. So think of all that flexibility in our multi bandwidth, agile, IF tuners, but now in a small enough form factor to fit into a backpack.

Ralph Guevarez:

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you both for joining me today. I’m excited to see what’s next for team Huntsville and San Jose. I wish you both the best of luck moving forward. God speed with the mixed signal group and the sensor processing division at Mercury Systems. Thank you.

Jay Goodfriend:

Thanks so much.

Neal Austin:

Thank you very much.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now. A podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host Ralph Guevarez signing off.

<![CDATA[A New Paradigm for Defense-Grade Advanced Microelectronics]]>, 08 Oct 2020 15:55:00 -0400

The Department of Defense has shifted priorities as new threats emerge and the United States seeks to secure innovative solutions that protect national security, placing a new technology at the forefront of its modernization agenda—advanced microelectronics.

For years, the Pentagon has managed microelectronics acquisition through the Trusted Foundry program, overseen by the Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA). The Trusted Foundry Program has led to the implementation of  a stringent set of rules requiring that “any integrated circuit-related products and services….[that] are custom-designed, custom-manufactured, or tailored for a specific DoD military end use” must be acquired through an accredited, trusted supplier.

The Original Approach

While the Trusted Foundry model has proved successful in ensuring the security of microelectronics products and services, it has also been disconcerting for the Pentagon when it comes to accessing and implementing the latest commercial technologies. The program has struggled to secure a sizeable number of leading-edge, advanced-process vendors due to escalating R&D costs, a shrinking customer base and an accreditation process that is involved and sometimes seen as having limited payback (as demonstrated when GlobalFoundries put its 7nm capacity on hold) In turn, the Pentagon has at times found itself multiple generations behind in its microelectronics capabilities. Mark Lewis, Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Modernization and Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, maintains that it has “been a failed model…that frankly hasn’t delivered what we need.”

Lewis explains that in place of a Trusted Foundry model, the DoD’s Research and Engineering department will “move towards technologies that allow us to operate and develop trusted components in zero-trust environments.” As part of that shift, the public sector will increasingly partner with commercial entities in order to acquire and implement the most advanced technologies available. In fact, the U.S. Government has already signaled an accelerated turn to private-sector players to achieve self-sufficiency in semiconductors, including those for use in the defense industry. However, given the unique and stringent requirements of the defense sector, purely commercial semiconductor manufacturers require an experienced partner with proven strengths and capabilities to navigate within that sphere.

Moving Advanced Defense Electronics to the Future

Mercury anticipated this shift and has been hard at work to ensure that the most advanced commercial solutions are profoundly more accessible to the public sector, namely the defense industry. Our $15 million investment less than eight months ago to expand our custom microelectronics business, highlighted by a build-out of our facility in Phoenix, Arizona, has already led to a $3.9 million contract award based on a new system-in-package capability supported by our microsystems business.

With over 110,000 square feet of trusted cleanrooms that have received the Cogswell Award for security operations, Mercury Systems is a trusted integrated manufacturer of defense products, featuring DMEA-certified manufacturing operations and a well-established track record of secure solutions. Mercury is also enabling new cutting-edge applications for microelectronics in the defense industry, on top of our existing pedigree in secure and trusted capabilities. As Moore’s Law reaches its limits in monolithic applications, and as the benefits of silicon scaling diminish, solutions like Mercury’s heterogenous computing will both increase compute density and reduce design cycle times, propelling our industry forward in turn.

Our investments are directly in line with the DoD’s shift in focus to trusted technologies for a zero-trust environment, and they enable us to offer agile and customizable, SWaP-optimized and secure solutions for a new paradigm in defense-grade microelectronic technologies. In the current era where information dominance plays a pivotal role in the modern battlefield, low-latency, advanced edge processing with 2.5D system-in-package technology can provide a real advantage. The recent investments in our microsystems capabilities and facilities are only the first step in our efforts to modernize and improve access to commercial-grade technologies for the defense industry. In the coming weeks and months, our team will be hard at work solving complex issues including RF and digital integration for radar and EW applications, secure processing for radar, EW and ISR applications, and edge analytics for artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and safety applications, among others.

The DOD has signaled a change in focus that will fundamentally change the way in which the U.S. Government seeks to acquire and implement advanced technologies for use in defense applications. Well-poised at the intersection of technology and defense, Mercury Systems embraces our unique role in making the most advanced commercial technologies secure, trusted and profoundly more accessible to the defense community and will endeavor in our pursuit of that mission as the industry continues this shift.  

<![CDATA[Why Patience, Empathy and Kindness Are Important Attributes of Great Leadership]]>, 30 Sep 2020 15:54:00 -0400

The recent Glassdoor announcement honoring Mercury CEO Mark Aslett as the nation’s “#1 Rated CEO During COVID-19” shines a spotlight on what constitutes a great business leader. According to research conducted by Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, Mark received high praise from our team members for his effective leadership, communication and compassion since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From his 95% approval rating, it was overwhelmingly clear that the leadership at Mercury made us feel taken care of and protected when we were at our most vulnerable. How was Mark able to obtain such high marks from his team and ultimately earn the coveted top spot? What were the distinctions that set his leadership apart from other business leaders?

Aside from business competency and technical skill, Mark showed something more—emotional intelligence, which experts say is one of the most important attributes of a great leader. According to a blog published by the Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, sets great leaders apart from the rest.

Over the years, hiring talent has transformed from merely finding applicants who possess the needed skills, experience, educational qualifications and credentials to hiring skilled communicators and perceptive employees who can empathize with the needs of their colleagues and customers. These dynamic interpersonal skills are far more attractive to hiring managers than IQ and technical skills alone, as supported by Research by EQ provider TalentSmart, which states that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance.

Moreover, 71 percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said they value EQ over IQ during the hiring process, reporting that individuals who possess high emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively and respond to coworkers with empathy.

Experts agree that the true test of a great leader usually comes during difficult times. This year in particular, CEOs have had to make some difficult decisions given the impact of COVID-19. From the beginning of the pandemic, Mark has led with his heart, showing empathy and reassuring us that we were his top priority. And, as any good leader does, Mark was also mindful of our business performance, successfully guiding Mercury to a record quarter.

Throughout the entire process, Mark and the leadership team were transparent in their communications. It was made clear to us that Mercury’s chief priority was the health, safety and livelihood of each employee. In her blog, Stephanie Georges, Mercury’s chief marketing officer, explains the importance of clear communications during a crisis and how it paves the way for cultivating trust between a company’s leadership team and its employees.

In addition, our leadership team embraced bold plans to pivot and adapt in a way that many companies were unable to do, a willingness that became the genesis of innovative programs implemented by Mercury for our team during the crisis. These included a $1 million Employee COVID-19 Relief Fund, numerous mental and emotional health resources, and industry-leading protection measures, as discussed by Emma Woodthorpe, Mercury’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer, in the company’s first-ever vodcast.

So, while some may consider this just another award, it has special meaning because it comes from the people of Mercury. The Glassdoor award underscores the shared strength and resilience of our Mercury family. Our collective commitment to upholding Mercury’s Culture and Values, coupled with the passion and caring of Mark and the entire leadership body, earned us a true team win.

Many companies say they have a winning culture and values. But by leading with patience, empathy and kindness and bringing to life our company’s Purpose—Innovation That Matters® by and for People Who Matter—Mercury has proven it’s true.

Our promise to help make the world a safer, more secure place starts with our employees and we invite you visit our career page and consider joining a team who is empathetic, results oriented and innovative.

You can also read more about our CEO’s Glassdoor honor that has captured the attention of several media outlets including Forbes.

<![CDATA[The Impact of the Pandemic on the Future of Work]]>, 16 Sep 2020 15:51:00 -0400

With the recent recognition of Mercury’s CEO as No. 1 on Glassdoor’s “25 Highest-Rated CEOs During COVID-19,” watch as Emma Woodthorpe, CHRO, discusses what HR and the company as a whole have done to protect employees and customers alike since the onset of the pandemic. Subjects include flexibility, stronger collaboration, the transformation of digital tools for daily work, a continuance of empathy, patience and kindness, and efforts to digitally continue inclusiveness. Learn why she says, “The future of work is now.”

<![CDATA[Changing the RF and Spectrum Processing Industry]]>, 14 Sep 2020 15:49:00 -0400

Almost one year after Mercury’s strategic investment in custom microelectronics capabilities, the first in a family of trusted, secure system-in-package products has been announced. The RFS1080 RF SiP brings onshore, trusted 2.5D capabilities to the A&D industry, greatly impacting the speed and success of radar and electronic warfare (EW) processing. Listen as Tom Smelker, VP and general manager, Microsystems, discusses Mercury’s collaboration with semiconductor partners to bring the latest leading-edge silicon to the defense community, customizable for specific applications.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host Ralph Guevarez and today’s topic: Changing the RF and Spectrum Processing Industry as Mercury continues advancements in microelectronics.

Ralph Guevarez:

I’m honored to have a return guest today. Joining me once again is Tom Smelker, Vice President and General Manager of Mercury’s Microsystems. Tom, good day and welcome once again.

Tom Smelker:

Thanks for having me back Ralph. Always enjoy chatting with you about exciting capabilities that are coming up.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. I do as well. So, Tom let’s dive right in.

Ralph Guevarez:

You just announced the first commercially available product resulting from your recent microelectronics investment, the RFS 1080 RF System and Package. Could you tell our listeners more about the RFS 1080 and how it leverages an investment of this magnitude?

Tom Smelker:

Ralph I would love to. I’m ecstatic right now.

Tom Smelker:

Almost a year ago, last October, we announced what we were doing and building this business unit called Mercury Microsystems all about bringing two-and-a-half-D capabilities to our defense customers. Building a fab that was onshore and trusted for our customers because that’s what they demand and that’s what they need. And so, we’re beyond that now and what you’re seeing today and hearing today is about the RFS 1080.

Tom Smelker:

Where’s the biggest impact that this capability can impact our men and women in the armed services? It’s in the radar and the EDW processing today and we’re really seeing huge changes in both those markets. And so, through collaboration with our semiconductor partners, being able to bring the latest leading edge silicon to the defense community, adding that performance pieces that we’re able to integrate with that and the fact that Mercury can customize the RFS 1080 for a specific applications is exciting. And we do all this and deliver it in a trusted manner.

Tom Smelker:

A lot going on and a lot of excitement so, thanks.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Tom.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now could you expand on this idea of chip scale customization? Why is this so important to your customers and how the RFS 1080 supports this idea?

Tom Smelker:

If you go back to open VPX at the board level, Mercury was one of the thought leaders in open VPX. Taking that thought leadership and that innovation, we see and we’re driving what we call open systems architecture at ship scale. And it’s the same fundamental ideas from the board now down to the chip scale. So, being able to rapidly customize solutions with these multiple chips and chiplets and have standard interfaces that allow our customers then to bring the right capability for the right size, weight, power, and cost, what we call SWaP-C to the specific program.

Tom Smelker:

So, very exciting times in what we call heterogeneous integration or two-and-a-half-D; lots of different buzz words for the same thing in what we’re doing here. But the most exciting piece of it, commercial leading edge semiconductor capability, is profoundly more accessible to our defense partners.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Tom.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now returning to the RFS 1080 RF SiP, could you tell us what makes the performance unique? What new applications does this enable?

Tom Smelker:


Tom Smelker:

There’s a lot of innovation going on today in the direct digitization world. And so, partnering with those leading semiconductor companies that I was talking about we’re able to leverage all that innovation and then we can integrate what Mercury brings to the table for the defense industry into that. So, you take a lot of what’s going on in the commercial industry, add our integrated memories, our integrated security and our other capabilities and bring new opportunities in the multifunction radar applications, high spectral density electronic warfare. Really reducing the latency. Changing the game of electronic warfare. And even 5G communications for defense applications is going to change based on what we’re doing here.

Tom Smelker:

So, a lot of excitement in a lot of different defense markets.

Ralph Guevarez:

It’s very exciting.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, in all honesty, this sounds like a truly disruptive product. As I mentioned in my opening statement, could you describe how this will change the RF and spectrum processing industry?

Tom Smelker:

It’s really going to change it because by changing how the sensors are designed, how they’re integrated and where the processing is really done. So, as I was talking just earlier about direct digitization, what that allows is now we’re moving the high-performance processing right to the sensor. And so, we can down convert from RF directly to digital with no IF conversion. Start processing that right away. Create information at the sensor and bring all new opportunities and allow our defense partners to really innovate on this capability.

Tom Smelker:

What’s also exciting about it though is how we’re talking about is the integrated security. We can bring that this capability and we can add security so they can ensure that their intellectual property is protected and is trusted and doesn’t get into bad hands. But even when we do that, if you look at the overall system cost of the old way of designing sensors, we’re actually reducing overall cost. We just worked with a customer where we’re showing a 47% reduction in overall sensor cost by doing this, but a 83% capability increase. So, the game is changing for radar and EW because of what we’re doing here with the RFS 1080. So, it’ll allow our customers to really bring all new capability enhancements to their customers and more customization will come out of that because now they’ll be able to tweak it for that solution right away.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Tom.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now I know this is a hot topic so, could you expand on the need to have trusted manufacturing for the RF SiP?

Tom Smelker:

So, I’ll make it personal for you, Ralph. If you look at where we’re at today with the pandemic, go back to the April timeframe where we had untrusted supply chains for both PPE, pharmaceuticals and whatnot. We were seeing PPE that was false, that wasn’t working right. Couldn’t get our hands on the right stuff. Our defense community, the men and women of the defense world, have had to grapple with this for quite some time. It’s all about assurance and reliability for our men and women that are on the front lines. They can [inaudible 00:07:24] when the microelectronics that are in their systems are what they’re supposed to be, that they have high reliability and they’re going to work the way they’re supposed to be. What everyone in the United States expects our men and women in our armed forces to have. So, what’s exciting is it’s been Mercury’s top priority to have trusted microelectronics delivered to our customers and you’ve seen that in a lot of our investments.

Tom Smelker:

What you’re also seeing today is the DOD is now prioritizing trusted microelectronics as their top priority as well. So, it’s a great partnership that we’ll have with the DOD community ensuring that our men and women have assured, reliable solutions. And in our two-and-a-half-D build-out, we ensured that it was built in our DMEA facility, following our DMEA trust processes for design, for fabrication and assembly, for test. So, we deliver the right solution that is expected to our customers.

Tom Smelker:

So, something that’s near and dear to my heart and I’m glad to see that the department of defense now is focused on it.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Tom. I appreciate the detailed answer and I understand this product is a big deal to your customers. So, is it available as a package device or an integrated board?

Tom Smelker:

The short answer to that Ralph is yes. So, under our Microsystems business that I run, it is available as a package device. What we’re also working with our mix signal group is having a standard product that has a standard board level solution as well. So, our customers, and if they don’t need any customization and they just want to use a Mercury standard board, it will be available to them easily. If they want to customize the system and package, we can quickly do that under my business unit and we can even customize the board level solution for them as well if they want. So, a lot of opportunities for our customers to get exactly what they want.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Tom. This sounds like a really exciting time for this group and this industry.

Ralph Guevarez:

Give us a glimpse into the future, what can you tell our listeners to keep an eye out for?

Tom Smelker:

Oh my goodness. It’s such an exciting time in the industry. We just talked really about the radar, EDW world, but it’s game changing across the board. As you see in the commercial sectors of smart sensors everywhere in our homes, in our cars, our watches, our phones, you name it, everything’s becoming smart and artificial intelligence is starting to really take off and be everywhere too.

Tom Smelker:

So, that’s what excites me is when you start thinking of AI at the edge for military applications and it’s going to change how our customers process information. So, you’re going to see that in the future, but what’s more exciting is just your last question. Mercury is going to do that, but we’ll also make sure it’s trusted and secure for those applications as well.

Ralph Guevarez:

Tom, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me once again. It was a pleasure having you on the show. I wish you the best of luck moving forward and Godspeed with Microsystems and all that Mercury does.

Ralph Guevarez:

I look forward to having you on the show again, thank you.

Tom Smelker:

Thank you. I appreciate all that and I also want to thank you for having us on the show. It’s always great to talk to you about exciting things that are coming up or happening at Mercury. So, have a great day.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.

<![CDATA[How Mercury Systems and Intel Collaborate to Bring Artificial Intelligence to Defense]]>, 03 Sep 2020 15:48:00 -0400

Sensor modernization over the last decade has created an explosion of high-quality data and a need for AI algorithms to close the gap between receipt of data and the ability to act on it. Breakthroughs in software and hardware technologies are supporting the complex neural networks to run those AI algorithms. Hear from Mercury’s Devon Yablonski and Intel’s John Brynildson how Mercury and Intel collaborate, bringing their own unique sets of technological know-how, to develop and implement AI applications for quicker deployment and integration in the field to enhance national security.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today’s topic. How Mercury and Intel collaborate to bring artificial intelligence to defense. Joining me is Devon Yablonski, embedded processing principal product manager here at Mercury Systems, and a special guest John Brynildson, who is the senior segment marketing manager in the IOTG sector at Intel. John, Devon, good day and welcome.

John Brynildson:

Thanks, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

John, we appreciate you joining us today. Could you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Intel?

John Brynildson:

First, thank you very much for inviting me to join in on the podcast today. So I am with Intel corporation and I’ve been a part of Intel for a little over four years now. I’ve held a variety of roles, primarily in the aerospace and defense area, being Intel promote our efforts within this market’s vertical segment.

John Brynildson:

I have worked in sales roles and for the last year I’ve been part of the Internet of Things group as a senior marketing manager, helping again with the products that Intel creates for what we call our public sector market verticals.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, John. Devon, a brief background.

Devon Yablonski:

Thanks, Ralph. I’m Devon Yablonski and I am a product manager in our embedded product group here at Mercury. I’ve been here since about 2011 and started in the engineering department and then worked through various functions of our product area, always focusing on our high performance signal processing and now artificial intelligence processing products.

Ralph Guevarez:

John, artificial intelligence, or AI implementation seems a top priority for the defense industry. What is driving this push and why is the defense industry adopting it?

John Brynildson:

Actually I think it’s a multi-faceted answer. I mean, there are multiple factors that are really driving the need for artificial intelligence. On one side there’s the sensor modernization’s gone on the past 10 years have really created an explosion of data, high quality data that is a good thing, but it also proposes many challenges for the defense industry, essentially really having enough resources to digest a lot of that data.

John Brynildson:

And so one of the many use cases that we’ve seen in the defense industry is using and developing AI algorithms or machine learning algorithms to really help close that gap between the receipt of data and to where you can make some kind of decision with that information.

John Brynildson:

So it’s impossible for many analysts in the defense industry to really comb through all the data that they get over in a day and using these techniques to help streamline that information and enable them to make a more effective decision has been one of the really compelling use cases that has been happening in defense industry.

John Brynildson:

And then the other element I really would like to touch on is the fact that there is really this enormous breakthrough in different technologies, both software and hardware technologies that are really allowing these complex neural networks to run these AI algorithms. So really that explosion of data, as well as the technologies that are really finally allowing this to result in some meaningful information for our partners in the defense industry, I think have been some couple key elements.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, John. Now, Devon, everything is getting smarter with AI. We’re seeing evidence of that in our vehicles, smart devices, smart phones, and speakers. How does that translate to the defense space?

Devon Yablonski:

Well, as you’re seeing in aerospace and defense, they’re also investing in many of the same types of technologies using AI to make the warfighters more efficient and enhance national security. So we’re seeing this in every type of asset out there from air, to ground, to sea and a huge drive is that big data wave that John was talking about, which is coming from an explosion in the amount of sensors and the autonomy that we want to add. And that’s all about allowing for less human interaction, allowing for less skilled remote control operators among manned vehicle, and ultimately it’s all to limit the likelihood of human error and often to react more quickly to the emerging threats.

Devon Yablonski:

This demand’s really driven by the artificial intelligence advancements in the commercial and consumer industry over the past 5 to 10 years. Defense space without question kind of requires a higher quality result in most other areas in consumer world with the criticality of our missions and that’s why we’re just starting to see it play a more dominant role in our space.

Devon Yablonski:

The algorithms are finally reaching a point where they’re able to make really intelligent, reliable learnings and inference in near real time. And Intel’s product lines with their CPUs, FPGAs, artificial intelligence, ASICs like the Movidius chip and others, they’re really key to executing on that. And the translation really needs to happen fast. The other nations are rapidly adopting these capabilities and demonstrating their effectiveness.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now you mentioned developing and deploying technology at speed. My question is how are Intel and Mercury uniquely positioned to support AI applications? John, we’ll start with you.

John Brynildson:

Really Intel’s perspective is there is no one size fits all solution for every AI algorithm or every AI application and I think one of the unique offerings Intel brings is really that broad set of hardware solutions that allow customers to develop systems and platforms that meet their individual size, weight, and power, ruggedization features for their specific environment.

John Brynildson:

And as Devon mentioned it’s not just Intel CPUs, right? We have a whole portfolio of products, including FPGAs, our accelerators and then one of the other key elements is the software technologies that helps tie all that together. We believe Intel is very unique in a breadth of offering between hardware and software to really allow our customers to develop and implement their AI applications.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Devon, your input.

Devon Yablonski:

So the defense market has very similar capabilities as the consumer product world, but our challenges are significantly different. We have to account for a much harsher physical environments, radically different attack vectors and higher stakes on those results and meeting these has always traditionally meant a lot of development time to make a deployable system.

Devon Yablonski:

So at Mercury, where we’re uniquely built the capability to make commercial data center and cloud capabilities, like what is needed for artificial intelligence profoundly accessible to this market. And we do that within what I like to call the period of technological relevance. This is the time for when a technology like a new AI algorithm and chip is deployable out into an integrated solution in the field and considers both when it’s likely to be dated by the newer capabilities that are out there that would render it irrelevant and also when the adversaries would deploy similar capabilities or countermeasures.

Devon Yablonski:

But we need to be able to take this great processing storage, networking technologies and add all those features of ruggedization security safety certifications in time for it to be relevant. And one of the most critical aspects of this is getting early access to the latest and greatest Silicon to begin to our development of those capabilities.

Devon Yablonski:

So the partnership with Intel has really enabled us to bring their latest technology to benefit the warfighter faster than most others can. We can do a lot with even just early samples that aren’t even functional to help us develop mechanical and electrical solutions so that when technology becomes available, we can deploy it into our environments really quickly.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Now, Intel and Mercury are working together to bring the latest commercial data center processing to the fog and the edge. Can you speak more on that? John, we’ll start with you.

John Brynildson:

One of the things that, and Devon touched on this previously is that close interaction between our organizations. To rapidly integrate and deploy AI COTS technologies into the field, we collaborate very closely on our roadmaps, we collaborate on providing early to a lot of the products before they’re genuinely available. So that would enable Mercury to implement and develop their products in line with our product development.

John Brynildson:

And I think really more importantly is we have a very close engineering relationship. We seek quite closely development engagements around Intel’s hardware-based security. That depth of knowledge is critical for Mercury to understand how that works so they then can integrate that with your own unique IP expertise and ultimately giving the customer a more secure product.

John Brynildson:

One of the other areas that we engage very deeply on is also in the area of plate safety processing, where to have a Intel multi-core CPU that is for flight safety processing applications really requires a very in depth knowledge and understanding of Intel products. And that’s the level of relationship we have with Mercury to really give the end user in the defense industry that end product that will work in their multitude of different applications.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, John, what security concerns does artificial intelligence raise?

John Brynildson:

Well, there’s quite a few actually. The two that really kind of stand out for me is the, what we call trusted AI. As a user is relying on AI algorithm how do they know that the results that they’re getting, that that AI algorithm may say, “Hey, that’s a truck.” How do they know that that is real, it hasn’t been tampered with?

John Brynildson:

One of the other safety concerns is types of products that Mercury develops are in that edge environment. They’re not in a secure data center with guards and fences around them. These are out in the field where they could easily be accessed by adversaries. And so with that in mind, how do you ensure that those adversaries can’t get into the hardware and back reverse engineer how that algorithm works? So either they steal that information for themselves or figure out how to counter that type of information. So, those are two big concerns that we hear about certainly and from the defense market segment.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Now, Devon, staying with the security concerns, there have been reports of widely accessible, unregulated commercial technologies being harnessed by unauthorized individuals and exploited through vulnerabilities. What must be done to alleviate those concerns?

Devon Yablonski:

Yeah, Ralph, these concerns are really important. And John started touch on it there. I find artificial intelligence really interesting around this because what you’re doing is you’re creating a solution that to varying degrees can think like a human that was trained on an extraordinarily amount of data, more than a human could actually ever process.

Devon Yablonski:

And most of that data in these cases will have probably been classified in nature or various strategic. Fortunately deep neural networks that are used for artificial intelligence today, they do obfuscate the data that’s put into them pretty well. The actual model, it’s hard to decipher what’s inside of it, but you can imagine if you could pick up that equipment and find out what the inputs and outputs were, you could realistically steal that brain and that contains all of that information balled inside of it. And that’s even more valuable than the data that was until now, pretty unmanageable. So you can see how that security threat’s even more real today.

Devon Yablonski:

In terms of protecting from that threat commercial consumer technologies are very different. Most of the protection in the cloud and data center are from cybersecurity hacks over the internet or physically loading of software onto the device. Most of the assets we work on are not connected to those wide area networks. And at the end of the day, they’re very likely to end up actually physically in an adversary’s session, so that’s the threat we’re trying to protect from.

Devon Yablonski:

And processing systems, therefore must be totally trusted. Trusted hardware, software, middleware, the integration and the support of it, and being able to do all that securely really mitigates the risk of those hardware vulnerabilities, impacting the product quality or reliability.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Devon. John, what bottlenecks must be overcome to make AI enabling edge hardware?

John Brynildson:

Certainly there are a couple key ones. I know that one of the key challenges is the end user may have a variety of different hardware solutions that they’re deploying at the edge having to prune and tuned or algorithms for each unique hardware application is a lot of work. And personally from the Intel perspective, we believe software is a key element in that and having a unified software stack that will allow you to take your models and optimize it and run across different hardware solutions is a key element.

John Brynildson:

Ultimately it comes back to how do we make it easier for the end user to deploy their AI algorithms at the edge? And there’s a lot of work going into that area. Certainly we believe the software is certainly a key element in making that better, easier to use is certainly one key element to have more end users deploy AI algorithms at the edge.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, John. Devon, your thoughts.

Devon Yablonski:

Our market really requires more performance at the edge than most others you see. Networks to larger compute platforms and data centers are really not that reliable in the defense in the field and they’re a key target. So we need to assume that our endpoints need to have a fair amount of fully independent function.

Devon Yablonski:

The sensors are capturing data at higher resolution farther and wider, and in many spectrums compared to even what you see in some of the advanced self-driving vehicles in the commercial world today. So our customers are demanding for this data center capability, like what Intel and other Silicon vendor partners offer at size weight and power constraint endpoints, and an embedded, and embedded plus kind of environment.

Devon Yablonski:

So for example, the Intel Xeon scalable processors, those are the highest performance Xeons that Intel offers in the data center. And those typically aren’t thought of as an embedded processor. Our customers are asking for that because they can’t actually send data back to a data center with those processors. They need to potentially have that capability on the platform. And that’s the same for high-performance FPGAs and other types of accelerators.

Devon Yablonski:

So it’s imperative that the ruggedization and the other security and safety aspects we apply to these products don’t negatively impact their performance either, but still ensures that survivability in those austere field environment.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, Devon, how do commercial off-the-shelf technologies COTS we mentioned earlier, simplify integration and improve interoperability?

Devon Yablonski:

So fundamentally COTS products and modular open standards are together about multiple vendors coming together to build a best of breed solution that is capable, cost effective, and can be maintainable and upgradable throughout what is typically a long, useful life cycle.

Devon Yablonski:

As a subsystem design and integrator like us at Mercury leveraging these standards allow us to build the right system for the need from a huge ecosystem of trusted hardware, software, and tools, both that we create as well as others. Within the product lines we offer, we focus on creating leverageable commercial off-the-shelf products from the scale of components, technology, building blocks, and then multi-use modules to design and integrate these subsystems to meet the latest commercial off-the-shelf standards.

Devon Yablonski:

And this milk methodology allows us to develop a high performance system that meets both today’s and tomorrow’s needs. And by using these commercial off-the-shelf solutions, we’re also able to leverage commercial investments and capabilities like what Intel provides, because they will be code and performance portable to our end solution.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Devon. Now, John, give our listeners a glimpse into the future. What are Intel and Mercury working towards to support the AI evolution?

John Brynildson:

As you look out where the AI evolution is going, one of the key characteristics certainly is performing a lot of your AI algorithms at the edge and certainly being at the edge there are a variety of end use applications and needs, the environments are very different. Devon talked about that.

John Brynildson:

One of the things we’re looking for in the future is having more products available that can meet a wider variety of end use field conditions. So, say for example, extended temperature, which would allow our partners like Mercury to have a more robust ruggedized end product with a variety of different elements. If those elements are the FPGAs or CPUs or any kind of accelerator.

John Brynildson:

That’s one thing that Intel is looking, is we look out in the future. I think the other that is pretty obvious is really building in more acceleration AI algorithm, acceleration capabilities into our products and some items that have been that are out already include Intel deep learning boost. There’s vector neural network instruction sets of VNNI and AVX, really things that can be used to help the acceleration of the algorithms.

John Brynildson:

Deep learning boost is a great example of a built in accelerator that can be leveraged within Intel products. So do you really need to have another component on your board when you have that already within your Intel product? So, that’s example of what’s there today, and I can tell you that there are more things to come in that area, so that is certainly one area that Intel is putting a lot of efforts into as we expand out our products over the next 5 to 10 years.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, John. That’s very exciting. Devon, your thoughts.

Devon Yablonski:

Working with Intel has been amazing for the past decade or so of products we’ve been developing with them and we do expect that to just to get even better over time. I think we’re expecting to continue to integrate the highest performance processing memory networking and even storage capabilities in these secure, safe, and low size, weight, and power environments we’ve been discussing.

Devon Yablonski:

This will involve more dense capabilities than ever and really stretching the limits there, handling more challenging requirements like temperature john was talking about and more advanced shock and vibe, and really being able to, at the end of the day, turn the screws on being able to develop solutions more quickly. This artificial intelligence market, they say it’s doubling every three months and that means we really need to get our products out there quicker, so we’re going to find every way we can do that together and Intel’s a great partner in that regard.

Devon Yablonski:

Another interesting step, John did talk about OpenVINO earlier, and I think we’re seeing that there’s a need for more integration of the development and runtime tools that support artificial intelligence. Intel’s OpenVINO is particularly interesting to us because in order to provide efficient code solutions, so really to drive down that size, weight, and power of a system, that software needs to be efficient. And there’s a lot of different kinds of processor technology, FPGA accelerators that are all good for certain purposes, and we need to make the best use of those.

Devon Yablonski:

So if we can enable our customers to be able to develop and run their application with optimal efficiency, that’s going to be really powerful. So I’m looking forward to more integration of that layer of the software stack to support our customers.

Ralph Guevarez:

Gentlemen, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you both for joining me today. I look forward to the progress with the Intel and Mercury relationship. Once again, thank you both for your time. I wish you the best of luck moving forward and Godspeed. Thanks again.

John Brynildson:

Thank you very much, Ralph.

Devon Yablonski:

Thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, the podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I’m your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.

Enabling big processing & AI-powered everything, everywhere


<![CDATA[Developing and Adapting Mission-Critical Displays]]>, 21 Aug 2020 15:47:00 -0400

Mercury delivers highly specialized active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCD) to address the mission-critical needs of military vehicles (vetronics) and military and commercial aircraft (avionics). Listen in as Jamie Boulet, business development manager for Mercury Mission Systems, discusses how Mercury uses LG technology to tackle challenges in both the development of new AMLCDs and the adaptation of commercial AMLCDs to extreme environments.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today’s topic, display factors for your applications. As Mercury’s acquisition of the American Panel Corporation last year has brought the display line into the fold. Joining me is Jamie Boulet, Business Development Manager for Mercury Mission Systems. Jamie, hello and welcome.

Jamie Boulet:

Thanks very much, Ralph. Pleasure to be with you.

Ralph Guevarez:

So Jamie, it’s been almost nine months since APC joined Mercury Systems. Can you tell our listeners about that experience?

Jamie Boulet:

Certainly. Coming from a small business perspective, the former APC has been growing into the larger Mercury construct of a very matrixed organization. We understand how the Alpharetta Business Unit will benefit as well as contribute to the speed at which we both develop opportunities and achieve performance goals. However, while the challenge of accountability across the enterprise is no longer small, it does afford the opportunity to work with some incredible talent and to be able to take action in real time to effect outcomes. Fortunately as well, our partner LG Display, who I may reference in abbreviation as LGD, or LG Electronics as LGE, have continued their support of our product line development as they also continue to grow in scope and technology options. We’re very excited about several evolving LG technologies that are now becoming available, which we intend to leverage towards our customer requirements. And we hope to be discussing these capabilities on a future podcast as well.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now I understand the display line of products benefit from a longstanding relationship with LG. Most people think of LG for electronics and appliances, can you tell us how Mercury is using LG technology?

Jamie Boulet:

Certainly. LG Display has produced really the majority of custom active, matrix liquid crystal display product for the former American Panel Corporation, now Mercury, the Alpharetta Business Unit, that is in turn built up into the Mercury product offering. They continue to offer us the most advanced technology with the least risk, very deep support as well through their supply chain. In short, we have 25-plus years of working very, very closely together. In partnership with LGD, we developed a new 10-bit color depth and corresponding gray scale within the AMLCD leveraging early development in similar technology for the medical field, particularly towards use of MRIs and CAT scans and the very, very high resolution required by radiologists to discern a problem.

Jamie Boulet:

Well, it’s not exactly the same native mercury AMLCD color depth is now being emulated through software algorithms for 4K televisions. So essentially, there you have a commercial product which was developed for 8-bit technology and that’s a 24-bit RGB red, green, blue scale that is then being upscaled to 10-bit technology or 30-bit RGB. The benefits of the 10-bit technology to the Mercury customer results in much better performance. However, you don’t have the same higher platform network bandwidth requirements as overhead being required to achieve the same effect, particularly in an environment where the bandwidth may be constrained as a result of older infrastructure.

Ralph Guevarez:

I know there’ll always be applications needing custom sizes or custom features now. However, how are you minimizing vendor lock concerns when a customer is looking to use newer technologies such as a move from commercial grade 4:3 laptop screens versus ruggedized wide screens?

Jamie Boulet:

Ralph, that’s an excellent question. One of the current challenges in both the development of new AMLCDs as well as adapting commercial AMLCDs to extreme environments, is often that the human machine interface and system level platform and certification requirements, lag the current technology trends in manufacturing. We see this as a developing unintended vendor lock that limits the opportunity to retroactively develop solutions supporting older design sizes and performance. Which actually has the unintended effect of creating new vendor lock which was originally intended to be discarded through additional competition.

Jamie Boulet:

This adds again, unintended additional non-recurring engineering cost to be added to the product price tag in seeking a refresh of an obsolete design. This design objective also once again, unintentionally creates a race to the bottom towards lowest cost, technically acceptable contract word methodology. Which in the rear-view mirror of life was mandated through sequestration and those contracts found favor versus the necessity for best value contracts for these unique however, obsolete design requirements. Interestingly enough, most recently defense authorization memorandum removed the LPTA, the lowest price technically acceptable language for the 2020 procurement and beyond. So hopefully we’ll be back to a more level playing field where both true life performance, becomes a more significant metric, vice just a short term procurement price tag

Ralph Guevarez:

When looking to upgrade their display or to move from analog to display technology, what is the biggest gotcha, that they should be aware of.

Jamie Boulet:

So I alluded to this a moment ago and that is basically the total cost of ownership tends to be minimized when the procurement agent or agency is refreshing your vehicle or rolling out a new development. Their interest is in getting the platform out on time and on budget, unless they can obviously deliver earlier and under budget. Sustainment money however, often comes from a different category of origination funding and therefore it’s less in the face or subject to the initial development effort and is often considered as an afterthought. Attended to a refresh cycle are engineering changes required and sourcing new material. Once again, using a ruggedized product will be adequate for a time, but then another refresh is required once that particular product performance diminishes or the availability of that particular product goes to what’s called EOL or end of life.

Jamie Boulet:

In avionics where flight safety is first and foremost and certifications drive the time and cost. We’re faced with having to minimize the periodicity of change however, with vetronics customers, the LAN systems and the like, procurement aims seems to deliver the cheapest solution. Again, driving also performance via say a better value solution tending towards longer performance and less refresh. And by contrast to the challenge of platforms being taken out of service between three to five times as often.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, speaking of newer technology, what display trends might we see in the future? What are some of the things that we have to look forward to?

Jamie Boulet:

Well, we’re often asked when they can have a 4K OLED television size display in the cockpit. The challenge here is that OLEDs or organic light emitting diodes, they’re emissive devices. That means that they emit a luminance organically from within their existing substrate. Transmissive devices are those types of devices which allow light to pass through the substrate and ultimately render whatever the display is going to show and that’s an AMLCD, an active matrix liquid crystal display. So light is emitted from an OLED as opposed to light being transmitted through an AMLCD. The significance of this is that today a separate backlight is required for an AMLCD but not for an OLED. The benefit of no separate backlight is that less power is required but the downside is often reduced luminance. Also there’s no current means to easily adapt OLEDs to support night vision imaging systems or NVIS compatibility.

Jamie Boulet:

Whereas the development of a true dual mode backlight for NVIS, where the appropriate safeguards are already in place to optimize both the NVIS performance as well as direct sunlight performance. And this is done through two sets of very distinct LEDs, one designed for game mode and one designed for a night or NVIS mode. OLEDs have not yet matured as to performance longevity spoken of earlier, which AMLCDs have achieved after 30 plus years of development and manufacturing expertise. Once again, OLEDs were designed for low power and short lifespan. And if you think about the typical alignment to handheld devices and how long they’re used before trade in, I think you’ll understand that perspective.

Jamie Boulet:

And lastly, OLEDs still suffer from image retention, whereas if an image is left on too long it will burn into the cell and require a lengthy procedure to eliminate or mitigate the image. And you may recall back in the days of plasma television, where the television brand, the CBSI, the NBC Peacock or the ABC logo would remain on basically in the background of the display once you’ve turned it off. And then when you turn it back on again, you still see that logo down in the lower corner, similar to have types of issues.

Ralph Guevarez:

I understand there was a white paper just released on the topic. Can you tell our listeners where they might have access to that?

Jamie Boulet:

Certainly, you can go to and just in the search bar, you can type in, white papers and it’ll give you a link to all the white papers that are currently out there for access, for download. And hopefully that white paper will deal a little more specific about both selection criteria for avionics, as well as a vetronics displays.

Ralph Guevarez:

Jamie, that is all we have time for today, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me. I wish you safety and good health and much success and I look forward to having you on the show again.

Jamie Boulet:

Very good Ralph, thanks very much for your time. Have a great day.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I’m your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.

<![CDATA[Enabling a Trusted Domestic Microelectronics Ecosystem]]>, 05 Aug 2020 15:43:00 -0400

Mercury Systems is a next-generation defense electronics company making commercial technologies profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense. We’re uniquely positioned to provide the DoD trusted, secure microelectronics solutions that align with their number one defense technology priority and Congress’ proposed American Foundries Act of 2020.

Watch the interactive virtual conversation with Mercury’s Dr. William (Bill) Conley, CTO, and Tom Smelker, vice president and general manager, as they delved into the trends driving the defense industry’s increased focus on the need for trusted microelectronics. Macro-level geopolitical trends have created an environment in which secure, trusted solutions are an undisputed imperative for our customers as well as government agencies. This discussion explored how the defense and national industrial bases can collaborate to drive innovation and solve the challenges of integrating advanced commercial technologies onto military platforms. Highlights include:

  • Commercial R&D growth currently outpaces defense so the defense industrial base must have access to commercial technology. More specifically, the electronics and semiconductor markets are driven by commercial investment.
  • Mercury offers six key differentiators when it comes to developing and bringing technologies to the forefront for aerospace and defense.
    • Silicon – Leading provider of commercially developed silicon purpose-built for specific requirements of A&D
    • Speed – Highest performance and densest processing solutions available onboard military platforms
    • SWaP – Everything optimized for size, weight and power
    • Software – Investment in the most advanced open middleware and software
    • Security – Investment in industry-leading embedded security capabilities and secure manufacturing facilities
    • Safety – Safety-certifiable processing systems up to the highest design assurance levels
  • 2.5D manufacturing using chiplets is the latest game changer in the evolution of custom microelectronics technology. By working at the chip level and leveraging new 2.5D system-in-package (SiP) capabilities, designers can combine complex semiconductor dies into a single component while maintaining trust and security.
    • Brings board and system-level processing capability down to chip scale
    • Offers an accelerated delivery cycle
    • Offers innovative solutions to deliver high-performance computing in SWaP-constrained environments
  • Chiplets create the ability to focus a very small die on a specific capability. They enable:
    • Up to an 80% size reduction
    • Cognitive electronic warfare (EW), with smarter algorithms at the sensor with low latency
    • Multi-function radar, with processing right at the sensor to create smart sensors that enable AI in defense applications

Watch the Conversation

<![CDATA[Taking the Data Center to the Edge with High-Performance Embedded Edge Computing]]>, 27 Jul 2020 12:36:00 -0400

Data Center GPU coprocessing for aerospace and defense

High-performance computing (HPC) has evolved into high-performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC) to bring compute-intensive AI, autonomous vehicle, EW and sensor fusion processing applications closer to the data source – at the edge. To receive real-time, actionable insights, remote and untethered access to data center-class capabilities is required for large aerospace and defense applications. For maximum technology reuse and quicker deployment of systems, HPEEC scales the same architecture, silicon, software and tools from the modern composable data center and re-packages them as compact, rugged, embedded OpenVPXTM systems. Common with data centers, a critical HPEEC component is GPU coprocessing. As AI and big data streaming processing tasks are enabling smarter missions and greater autonomy, we have unveiled our new EnsembleSeriesTM GSC6204 GPU coprocessing engines to meet these tasks’ requirements. Powered by NVIDIA’s latest data center Quadro® Turing architecture GPUs, our new HPEEC coprocessors are making the latest commercial technologies profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense by placing data center capability in their most processing-intense applications.

What it delivers: HPEEC leverages the latest data center processing technologies to accelerate the most complex workloads in the harshest, most contested environments with size, weight and power (SWaP) constraints. Benefits include:

  • The ability to scale your applications from the cloud to the tactical edge with processing systems that adhere to open standards and mirror the data center’s architecture, software and tools.
  • A comprehensive portfolio of interoperable compute building blocks, including Intel® server-class blades, NVIDIA GPU coprocessors and high-speed PCIe networking and storage for more scalability and processing power than other embedded processing approaches.
Fig 1. Configure your HPEEC solution with EnsembleSeriesTM OpenVPXTM building blocks that include HDS6605 Intel® Xeon® scalable server blades, SCM6010 fast storage, SFM6126 wideband PCIe switches, streaming IOM-400 I/O modules and, now, the new GSC6204 NVIDIA Turing™ coprocessing engines that produce a compute environment unmatched by competing solutions. Highly ruggedized, this approach is ideally suited to the most hostile and size, weight and size (SWaP)constrained environments, characteristic of defense and aerospace applications.

What We Did

Cloud-based AI and other big processing tasks used to only reside in the data center and relied on powerful GPU coprocessing engines to handle the workloads. The most modern coprocessors are powered by NVIDIA Quadro® GPUs with NVIDIA NVLink™ high-speed direct GPU-to-GPU interconnects for scalability. So you can place this processing power into your edge application we:

  • Highly ruggedized and packaged dual NVIDIA Quadro® GPUs into each industry-compliant OpenVPXTM module for quick system integration and easy tech refreshes.
  • Equipped each module with unrestricted, full-throttle interconnects and fabrics, including NVIDIA NVLinkTM, for uncompromising performance and scalability.
  • Incorporated proven conduction, air and liquid cooling options for long, reliable service lives.
  • Designed, made and coded each module in secure facilities using devices from our managed supply chain for system trust.

How We Did It

We work closely with technology leaders like NVIDIA to deliver a composable data center architecture that can be deployed anywhere. As an OEM Preferred Partner of the NVIDIA Partner Program, our engineering teams leverage their collective capabilities to embed the latest GPU data center technology into scalable open system architecture (OSA) compute modules, without compromising any features or performance. For greater interoperability, these GPU coprocessing engines are aligned with the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA). In this age of smarter everything, SOSA seeks to place the best technology in the hands of service men and women quickly.

Delivering uncompromised data center performance at the edge requires extreme environmental protection. Our proven fifth generation of advanced packaging, cooling and advanced interconnects protect electronics from the harshest environments, keep them cool for long reliable service lives and enable the fastest switch-fabric performance in any environment across a broad temperature range.

What’s Next?

We will soon be announcing an expansion of our portfolio of NVIDIA Quadro GPU powered OpenVPX coprocessor engines with the introduction of configurations that feature BuiltSECURETM systems security engineering (SSE). Proven across tens of defense programs, BuiltSECURE technologies counter nation-state reverse engineering with SSE. Designed for security-imperative applications, these processing solutions are available with unique hardware and software protection layers that safeguard critical data.

To learn more visit

<![CDATA[Supporting Significant Avionics Market Trends]]>, 20 Jul 2020 11:24:00 -0400

Discover how safety-certifiable computing is evolving to meet the application requirements of next-generation platforms. Dr. Amela Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of Mission Division at Mercury Systems, discusses the increasing demands placed on safety-critical solutions to solve the challenges of the future battle space and aerospace.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. Today's topic, how Mercury is meeting the next generation requirements for safety certifiable computing. Joining me is Dr. Amela Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of Mission Division for Mercury Systems.

Ralph Guevarez:

Dr. Wilson, good day and welcome.

Amela Wilson:

Hello, Ralph, and thank you for having me. Please, call me Amela.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Amela, you recently joined Mercury to lead the Mission Division. Would you please give our listeners a brief description on what exactly Mission Division does?

Amela Wilson:

Ralph, we deliver a mission critical products for mission computing, avionics, displays, and system integration. Mission provides a safe, secure, innovative solutions to solve the challenges of the future battle space and aerospace. We do that by making mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense customers.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you. Now you mentioned solving the challenges of future battle space and aerospace, which I'm sure there are a number of challenges. What customer needs are Mission looking to satisfy?

Amela Wilson:

The most prevalent need is for scalable open system architecture, avionic solutions that offer ease of integration, rapid fielding capabilities, safety certification standards like DO-178 for software, 254 for hardware, and even cybersecurity. Customers benefits from the transparency of our open system architecture to make it reusable in safety certifiable building blocks.

Amela Wilson:

Let me actually maybe elaborate a little bit more on some of the challenges that we are experiencing. For example, our European customers already have safety certification in all of their defense platforms. Now we are seeing an uptake of the requirements that gently expand into the United States defense applications. These platforms needs to safety processing architecture for the Mission computing.

Amela Wilson:

Then we have artificial intelligence and machine learning that are happening in everything we do, especially now we are seeing in a commercial world, autonomous flight platforms in the urban air mobility. All of those demands, they all have demands for computing power, graphical strength, graphical power, computing, the visual computing, all of these platforms also must achieve a safety certification. Size, weight, and power, that has been always a challenge of every airborne platform. And now, especially putting more applications on a platform, drives the reduction in size, weight, and power, trying to put more computing power into single line replaceable unit with a fewer independent processors.

Amela Wilson:

Then now the aspect of safety and security. As vulnerability grows, there's a demand to incorporate the secure requirements for cyber on the temporary multilevel security and we at Mercury are really [inaudible 00:03:28] position to support all of aspects of the growth, really compact processing, intensive processing, safety and security, and providing easy open system architecture.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now the very nature of safety certification seems at odds with the complexity of multiprocessing, compute technology and the uncertainty that security measures must address. How is Mission able to deliver solutions capable of driving next generation avionics platforms?

Amela Wilson:

Great question, Ralph. It speaks really to the core of what Mission division does. Safety needs a right answer every time. Security is protecting against the threats that may disrupt the safety decision process, so they're really not at the odds with each other. What is difficult at times is to incorporate security with a modular open system architecture. Mercury is one of the very few companies in the world who is able to provide safety and security in the modular open system architecture.

Amela Wilson:

How we do that is we are a commercial non-standard supplier. We build innovation and we combine our innovative technology solution. We collaborate with the technology leaders in real time operating systems and providers of CPUs and GPUs and FPJ technologies and leveraging that those technologies with our cutting edge products, we were able to meet sometimes 10 times, up to even 100 times more performance than the Legacy systems.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now we've spoken at length on how Mission is delivering mission critical technologies. Shifting to conversation for a moment. What are some of the business trends and opportunities you're seeing for Mission division at this time?

Amela Wilson:

Well, from our customers, the biggest momentum is towards open system architecture solutions, probably second to it. It's providing interoperability with existing platform, providing more on platform functionality.

Amela Wilson:

Our modular open architecture supports rapid modernization. That is what it's really important these days, and at the same time deliver a scalable solution. Our offers, our solutions, our products offer really a future proof solution.

Amela Wilson:

Now the other trends, we're global company and we are noticing trends for both ITAR or ITAR free solutions for the domestic and international customers that we are able to support. And then recent trends are meeting our global presence, allowing us to meet international offsets.

Ralph Guevarez:

Could you please tell our listeners exactly what international offsets are? Thank you.

Amela Wilson:

Sure. Offsets are all types of compensatory transactions in connection with the procurements abroad. They enable national companies to gain access to the expertise and markets, despite the facts that the procurements were made elsewhere. They can provide access to technology, cutting edge technology, make it possible to acquire expertise, get additional export volume and strengthen the position of the national industry in the international market.

Amela Wilson:

Sometimes they also use to close the security relevant skill gaps of the national industry. I will give you an example of how we are directly involved in some of meeting some of the offset's requirements. Through our computing center of excellence in Geneva, Switzerland, we are working with Raytheon and Ryman [Towel 00:07:18] in support of the Patriot system program that we are collectively offer for the bottle of air 2030 programming. That is the program for Swiss government.

Amela Wilson:

In combination with our partners, we offer world class Swiss engineering and manufacturing in support of this very important program for Raytheon and our team. Just as we are supporting Raytheon on the offset, we're ready to offer our engineering and our capability in manufacturing to any other company out there to meet their Swiss offset requirements.

Ralph Guevarez:

Amela, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me today. I enjoyed the discussion and I have a much better appreciation to your goals to support next generation safety certifiable systems. I wish you and the Mission Division the best of luck and Godspeed in leading the industry and providing safety and mission critical solutions. I hope I have a chance to chat with you again soon.

Amela Wilson:

Thank you, Ralph. For those of you out there, please see us at

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.

<![CDATA[Supply Chain Integrity in COVID-19]]>, 26 Jun 2020 09:47:00 -0400

COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of the supply chain and the need to minimize risk. Listen in as Mercury’s supply chain experts, Ash Hall and Ping Maltbie, discuss the risks associated with offshore management, ownership and manufacturing, and how Mercury is working to control supply integrity with more robust central sourcing strategies.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Supply chain integrity and COVID-19, next on Mercury Now.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic, supply chain integrity and COVID-19, as Mercury takes a zero trust approach to their suppliers and have taken strides to ensure their suppliers are who they say they are. Joining me is Ash Hall, VP of Supply Chain Enterprise Management, and Ping Maltbie, Director of Supply Chain Enterprise Management for Mercury Systems. Ash, Ping, good day and welcome to you both.

Ping Maltbie:

Hello, Ralph.

Ash Hall:

Hello, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

Before we discuss supply chain integrity, can you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Mercury, starting with you, Ping please?

Ping Maltbie:

Sure. Ralph, currently at Mercury Systems, I'm responsible for the global procurement operations to supporting 12 manufacturer's sites. Prior to join Mercury Systems, I was a directly responsible for supporting 14 different manufacturers in North America for over a billion dollar supplier spend. So I was fortunate I had a great opportunity to work in China to oversee the manufacturing suppliers in Asia.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Ping. Ash?

Ash Hall:

Yes. I'm vice president of supply chain for Mercury Systems. I joined Mercury Systems the end of June of last year, so just shy of my one year anniversary. Most of my career has been in supply chain. Prior to Mercury Systems, I was with a company called Meggitt. Spent a number of years with Danaher and started my career at Intel Corporation.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now despite significant efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, including a travel ban, COVID-19, which they're calling the black swan of 2020, continues to affect our daily lives. During all this turmoil, supply chain has become a hot topic. Can you explain to our listeners why? And we'll start with you, Ash.

Ash Hall:

So, COVID-19 required multiple countries to shut down their economies, in some cases almost overnight and with little or no warning. Stay at home orders resulted in high unemployment rates due to daily business operations coming to a standstill. And this resulted in supply chain interruptions, which ranged anywhere from minor to severe, depending on the exact location where the manufacturing was taking place as each country, state, and city had different lockdown guidelines and timelines.

Ping Maltbie:

So add to what Ash said, I know the entire global supply chain model was also brought into question as pandemic exposed the risk associated with over-reliance on Tier 1, Tier 2 suppliers. So the first shock fell back in January. During the Wuhan lockdown was supply shock, where various supply sources from Wuhan was suddenly cut off, and the state of dependency was made even more apparent as it came down to the availability of masks and ventilators. Prior to the pandemic, over half of the world's masks were made in China. So a recent April Forbes article mentioned how China was able to nationalize n95 mask manufacturers, making it harder for buyers here to actually get their hands on them.

Ash Hall:

Yes. So as we can see, supply chain directly impacts product availability, and building supply chain integrity is essential to minimizing our risks. Questions like, who are your vendors exactly? Are they domestically owned and managed? Where are their foundries?

Ralph Guevarez:

Now you mentioned minimizing risk. What are some risks from a management, ownership, and manufacturing standpoint that impact availability? And also, what are some of the alternative sources of supply?

Ash Hall:

Yeah, good question. I guess the first one I'd state is, if the supply is cut off or delayed due to political tensions, a worldwide crisis such as COVID-19, or the vendor goes out of business, it results in material interruptions that can hold up manufacturing, results in delays in delivery, and could result in loss of business.

Ash Hall:

The second point is, a good could also be altered to be counterfeit. This could happen purposely or accidentally. Subsequently, if the part was used to make another product, it could impact the way that end product reliably functions. Worse yet, if that end product was used for a critical or sensitive application, it could become a security threat. An example of this would be a piece of IT infrastructure utilized to launch a weapon.

Ash Hall:

The final point would be alternative sources of supply are extremely important. Having only one Tier 1 or Tier 2 supplier can be really risky. The vendor could change the cost of the good abruptly, and you may have no choice but to pay the price differential to avoid an abruption of supply.

Ping Maltbie:

So in addition what Ash talked about source of supply is important, we also believe that management ownership may be even more important than where a manufacturer is, especially if you are creating a product that is critical to national defense or nationwide infrastructure. So supply can be abruptly cut off, held hostage, shut down, or refuse to due to political economic reason with little or no legal ramifications. So the Forbes article I mentioned before, for example, questioned if China had taking control of or banned major Chinese owned and n95 mask from working with our buyers, the lack of supply from China meant the US needed to find an alternative source, which is why so many companies currently stepping up and offering to manufacture masks and ventilators in the US. So this pandemic basically highlighted how over-reliance on offshore supplier was a grave business and in this case really, also a health risk.

Ash Hall:

Yeah. Another point to make, consequently as a company, you must have internal processes in place for risk management that manage suppliers, addresses how much inventory you have on hand, identifies alternate sources of supply, and you need to have emergency protocols.

Ralph Guevarez:

Ping, what has Mercury been doing to drive transparency into the supply chain and reduce these risks? And also what additional assurances are we offering our customer base?

Ping Maltbie:

So Ralph, as you pointed out in the beginning of this podcast, Mercury really takes a zero trust approach to our suppliers and have taking strides to ensure our suppliers are who they said they are. So we served our key suppliers to assess their cybersecurity infrastructures. And if they need FAR 52.204-21, which is the basic safeguarding of covered contract information systems and DFARS 52.204-7102, which is safeguarding covered defense information and cyber incident reporting. So this really helps protect any sensitive product development information that we may share with our suppliers from beginning to keep them from compromised by a cyber-attack. For those suppliers that Mercury really... And working with them, if they don't meet our initial requirement, we work with them to meet it.

Ping Maltbie:

And the second was, we pinpointed potential supply chain gaps, and on the standard not all parts are created equal. So therefore we committed to building products that are highly available and also trusted. So our supplier database really contains various information, such as if they meet DFAR, FAR requirements and also where they do their manufacturing. So we can provide an official country of origin for the parts that we purchase, and in fact, even some of the insights on their Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 layers of origin.

Ping Maltbie:

So lastly, we are a US managed and owned company and have several in-house manufacturer facilities that offer additional insurance to our customer base.

Ralph Guevarez:

Ash, from what Ping just stated, being a US managed and owned company is important to deliver high availability. What else is important to deliver more from an assured supply chain perspective?

Ash Hall:

It's important to work with companies that have multiple domestic locations, production sites, and employs US citizens, including those with necessary security clearances. This is important in terms of availability as you wouldn't be reliant on just one site or a small group of individuals to maintain business operations.

Ash Hall:

Second, organizational structure matters because in times of need, it's important to be nimble. A matrix organization promotes mind share flexibility and information flow.

Ash Hall:

Third, we actually saw how vital this was during the pandemic as most of our employees could transition to work from home as we already had a secure remote IT infrastructure in place. Key individuals working in production, shipping, and manufacturing were able to safely continue getting critical products to our customers. Because by transitioning the other employees to work from home scenarios, we were able to ensure proper social distancing and health protocols for those required to be in the office. We saw different closure times for our facilities based on statewide laws and were able to leverage resources across all of our facilities so that we didn't have a single point of failure.

Ash Hall:

And finally, there are also other security benefits to dealing with domestic owned companies. For example, in 2015, the US Navy had to rip out and replace all of their IBM blade servers after the IBM server business was acquired by Lenovo, the Chinese owned company. The Department of Homeland Security was concerned about security and subsequently placed government restrictions on procurement of these servers.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now given all the risks related to availability, why haven't we seen more companies that support defense and critical infrastructures move their supply chain back to the US? Why haven't we seen this massive shift?

Ash Hall:

There seems to be an underlying belief that costs would soar if production was brought back into the USA. This however is not always true as industries that have done this so far have found that they're breaking even, or even saving money. Just look at the car companies manufacturing in the United States. It makes sense from a cost standpoint, because it can be more cost effective to produce manufactured goods near to where they're sold. So why hasn't this happened more? It comes down to supply and demand. There's a lack of demand, which requires some additional costs. If the US incentivized production in the USA, they would end up driving demand, which would then compensate for pricing variation making it worthwhile for suppliers to shift their supply chain back to the USA and gradually increase supply. This would be beneficial not only for the economy, but also from a risk standpoint as discussed earlier.

Ping Maltbie:

So I definitely echo what Ash said. I was sent in by my first company, Honeywell International, to manage the Asia supply chain for eight years during 2004 to 2012. And that's exactly what their company is doing, why they move over there, what we need to do to bring that product back to manufacture back to US. But at Mercury, we know how important product availability is, have focused on secure infrastructure and the capability to build our supply chain diversity.

Ping Maltbie:

So we understand all components have different purposes and that there are some that may be more critical than others. For example, motherboard components such as FPGAs, CPUs, or ASICs can potentially be programmed to see everything in a server or process system. That's a component like a fan, only serves to cool the system. It has its operational reliability in certain environments. So therefore, from a risk perspective, offshore manufactured chips pose a much greater risk of than an offshore manufactured fan. So this is why we, as a company, invest in secure facilities and Silicon Technologies, which we will be mentioned in a later podcast.

Ash Hall:

So supply chain integrity is definitely a hot topic, specially these days. We hear many prominent leaders highlighting how important it is to have an insured supply. However, without the US incentives that I mentioned earlier, and policies to move critical supply to the US, demand is usually driven by individual buyers or procurement teams who make their own evaluations on whether long-term risks is worth saving a couple of hundred dollars in upfront costs. As an organization, we're working to control that with more robust central sourcing strategies.

Ralph Guevarez:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you both for joining me today. This information really puts into perspective the effects of COVID-19 and where Mercury stands in the supply chain. Ash, Ping. I wish you both safety and good health. And thank you again.

Ping Maltbie:

Thanks, Ralph.

Ash Hall:

Yeah, thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, the podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.

<![CDATA[Securing Our Domestic Supply Chain]]>, 24 Jun 2020 09:28:00 -0400

COVID-19 has disrupted the global economy over the past several months in ways we never imagined, virtually freezing entire industries and regional and local economies. As a designated essential business, the defense industrial base has been fortunate to witness limited economic impact as we continue to develop mission-critical technologies essential to the United States’ national security. However, that’s not to say that our industry has been immune from the economic effects of COVID-19.

In the weeks following the passage of the CARES Act in March, the U.S. Government – specifically Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord – acted swiftly to mitigate disruptions in the defense supply chain to ensure the sustained success of mission-critical programs. We applaud the DoD’s continued efforts to position our industry for a healthy future – but we also recognize that COVID-19 and the ensuing economic headwinds have shed light on an area in which we must continue to work to position ourselves for long-term success.

Now more than ever, we must address the entire ecosystem of the domestic defense supply chain, making every effort to increase security and resilience as well as increasing the investment in companies providing essential defense capabilities that are part of this chain. As I covered in my recent podcast, an important first step involves the continued onshoring of critical and highly technical functions, such as advanced custom microelectronics. As the U.S. DoD increasingly leverages commercial silicon technologies to make fast, affordable, secure and trusted defense capabilities, there is also an increased need for a dedicated focus on embedded security and cyber resilience. As a result, there is also an increased awareness and appreciation that supply chain security has a direct and material impact on our own national security.

By onshoring silicon manufacturing and production for defense applications to the United States and investing in U.S.-based companies along the extent of the defense supply chain, we can not only protect mission-critical technologies from potential unintended vulnerabilities, but also form the foundation of a robust and advanced domestic industry. We witnessed a similar landscape in 2014 following Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business. Since that time, companies like Mercury have greatly increased their domestic portfolio of secure processing products.

For its part, the DoD has pledged an $80M USD investment in supporting and maintaining a globally competitive microelectronics industrial base in the U.S. This investment will “protect the domestic capacity to ensure radiation-hardened microelectronics testing capability, and key subcompacts such as substrates and wafer, are available for DoD weapon systems.”

At Mercury Systems, we’re doing our part to deliver the most advanced technologies for use by the U.S. defense community by maintaining our commitment to assuring our products utilize only trusted components. We pride ourselves on being the leader in making secure mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense. For example, in October 2019, we announced a $15M investment in secure microelectronics through the addition of a new manufacturing line at our Phoenix, AZ, facility. The first product is expected to roll off our line less than 12 months later, marking the first physical manifestation of our own efforts to ensure a robust and sustainable defense supply chain and underscoring our commitment to Innovation That Matters.

We applaud Undersecretary Lord for her – and the entire Department’s – commitment to ensuring a robust domestic industrial base. Beginning with our long-term investments in secure microelectronics and carrying well into the future, we look forward to supporting and acting on the DoD’s mandate for a secure domestic defense supply chain and industrial base.

COVID-19 has been an undeniably difficult time for industries around the world, including the U.S. defense industrial base. But these past three months have also shed light on key structural issues within our industry that require change regardless of the external environment if we wish to be successful and sustainable in the long term. I look forward to continuing to work with Undersecretary Lord and the DoD, and call upon the rest of our peers to join us in building and sustaining a robust and resilient domestic defense supply chain for decades to come.

<![CDATA[A Trusted and Secure Ecosystem for Microelectronics]]>, 15 Jun 2020 13:37:00 -0400

With recent testimony before Congress signaling an increased focus on defense microelectronics and the stability of its supply chain, Mercury Systems CEO Mark Aslett joined the MercuryNOW podcast to share his thoughts about the importance of addressing the entire microelectronics capabilities ecosystem critical to the nation’s defense.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez in today's topic. A trusted and secure ecosystem for microelectronics, as the Pentagon continues to make microelectronics modernization a number one priority in light of COVID-19. I'm excited to introduce my next guest, Mark Aslett, CEO and president of Mercury Systems. Mark, good day and welcome.

Mark Aslett:

Hello, Ralph. And thanks for having me.

Ralph Guevarez:

Mark, as I look at Mercury Systems background, it was originally founded as Mercury Computer Systems, but you focused the company on the defense market and changed the name. Now, can you tell our listeners how Mercury came to focus in this area?

Mark Aslett:

Sure Ralph. So, when I joined the company, you're right, the name of the business was Mercury Computer Systems. And, when I took over, Mercury had gone through a period of quite significant diversification into different end markets. Despite that, the defense business inside of Mercury was always really the economic core. So, what I set about doing was to really refocus the business back on the strength inside of defense.

Mark Aslett:

But over a period of time, we had transitioned our capability set from just providing high performance computing solutions for defense applications, into being able to provide more complete subsystem solutions for censoring the fact that mission processing. And so, we decided to change the name from Mercury Computer Systems to simply Mercury Systems. Because the computer in the name really became a little challenging to understand that the scope and the scale of what we can provide had changed substantially over time.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now, building on that point, it's really insightful to see how you identified the need to protect the supply chain for electric parts years ago. Now, as you look at the ecosystem today, how is it now constructed?

Mark Aslett:

So, proactive communications, regular interactions with suppliers and customers to balance the risk more holistically. So, while the DOD is opened to so-called section 3610, to allow for COVID related expenses to be billed back to the government. I'm proud to share that we've successfully navigated these turbulent times and delivered to our customers.

Mark Aslett:

I was glad to see the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment testify to Congress that she's addressed many of the challenges with components coming from Mexico. Their government really hadn't considered that defense suppliers essential in the same way that we had in the United States. And in fact, Mercury's relationships with key suppliers have become more bilaterally, more strategic.

Ralph Guevarez:

That's a really valuable point related to the bilateral sharing of knowledge, insight, and data. Now, as I mentioned in my opening statement, I've been reading recent materials from the Pentagon that micro electronic modernization is now their number one priority. What are your thoughts on this evolution?

Mark Aslett:

It's a really critical step for the DOD to take in recognizing that microelectronics and the trust of our supply chain is the number one priority for the DOD to address. As we've seen with globalization over the past several decades, the majority of microelectronics are actually fabricated overseas, particularly in East Asia.

Mark Aslett:

While I understand the market and investment dynamics that drove this evolution, it's clear that there are substantial risk that is introduced into A and D microelectronics. In addition, at the same time the foundries have moved to East Asia. The volume of the components used to defend systems has decreased. Our own CTO has stated that less than 1% of micro electronics components are actually now used in defense applications globally.

Mark Aslett:

So, this increasing outsourcing as well as decreasing volume required for military electronics have really made this supply chain very fragile.

Ralph Guevarez:

That surprises me to be honest, I would have expected military systems to require the most exquisite and substantial micro electronics components. Wouldn't you agree?

Mark Aslett:

You're right, Ralph. On the defense requirements being exquisite, but there is substantially more cell phones as well as vehicle sale of each year when compared to tanks, radars or electronic warfare systems. And, these military systems require much higher performance from the electronics, but the volume is far smaller than the consumer markets the high tech companies are focused on.

Ralph Guevarez:

That's a really insightful point. Now, could you expand on how the defense micro electronics market functions? It seems like the mix, the volume and the technical requirements would make it different from non-defense markets. Your thoughts.

Mark Aslett:

Yeah. Thanks Ralph. This question really does address how we position Mercury at the intersection of high tech and defense. I think many of you probably know that last year we invested $15 million of our own capital into an expansion of our Phoenix facility to meet this exact need. Actually, a new way of making micro electronics that has matured over the past couple of years. And that's called chiplets.

Mark Aslett:

These chiplets are smaller than traditional components. Traditionally a single piece of Silicon was packaged into a component. Chiplets allow for individual functions to be tailored into a very specific design. The chiplets are then connected inside of a package part with what is known as Silicon interposers. You can think of these interposers as really being a routing path that connects the different optimized processes.

Mark Aslett:

So, by blending different sets of chiplets, a few basic designs can be composed into an amazingly diverse number of applications. To use a music analogy, each symphony is made up of the same instruments, but by blending them together differently, very different music is produced by each one. But the core intellectual property, the individual instruments are really all the same.

Ralph Guevarez:

As a musician I appreciate the metaphor. It's often hard to understand the nuances of microelectronics. Their functioning is amazing, but an individual packed part may not look different from any other one. So, can you please expand on what Mercury is doing with chiplets?

Mark Aslett:

Yeah. I'd love to. Look, it's a really exciting time. What we're able to do now is to take advantage of the most advanced Chiplet they're available and bring them together much as what you would do with Lego building blocks to provide the needed capability for our customers.

Mark Aslett:

We underpinned the trust of the supply chain and the security of these electronics capabilities to really meet our customer's needs. What we found is that the suppliers of Silicon are not really interested in doing designs for many defense applications, the volumes are too low, the mix is too high, and the exquisite processes used for military systems don't really fit that well with their business model.

Mark Aslett:

Now, in comparison, if you look at Mercury, these factors all play into ultimately supporting our purpose, which is innovation that matters by and for people who matter. We've optimized our processes to support the hundreds of military platforms that are procured each year. We've optimized our design tools to respond in a very agile way to meet the diverse mix of requirements of our customers and we continue to partner with the government to address supply chain challenges associated with our electronics.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for the detailed answer Mark. I really appreciate that. I've also read recent statements from congressional and defense leaders about increasing investments for ensuring the United State's micro microelectronics capabilities. So, how do you see that strategy playing out, and what opportunities do you plan on contributing to?

Mark Aslett:

So you're right Ralph. There are really are several different bills being put forward in Congress that would increase the policy expectations for securing the supply chain as well as increasing investment in companies providing these essential capabilities. Now, some of these bills are about national competitiveness. Others are about industry, and a final bill is really around the academic research to support our national competitiveness.

Mark Aslett:

As I touched upon, we need to invest in the entire ecosystem. The foundries are part of the solution, but also companies like Mercury, which tailor these micro electronics to be profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense. Lastly, we need to ensure that the prime integrators are able to fully integrate these very advanced capabilities into our future designs quickly and affordably.

Ralph Guevarez:

That's a great point about the need to invest in the full ecosystem to deliver the desired results. Mark, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time and your insight. It was great speaking with you, and I wish you safety and good health as you continue to drive Mercury System forward. Thank you.

Mark Aslett:

Well Ralph, thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. I think you asked some great questions and it's a really important topic for the industry and for our nation. Thank you.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of MercuryNow, the podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems, I'm your host Ralph Guevarez, signing out.

<![CDATA[Messaging With Purpose in a COVID-19 World]]>, 09 Jun 2020 14:54:00 -0400

In my last blog, I discussed the need to anticipate when the time is right to start changing your messaging and using communication to help transition your team to the next normal. But COVID-19 presented unique challenges when it came to deciding the appropriate time to begin telling our story to an external audience. When was it okay to start talking about business again? When would it not sound uncaring?

At the same time, we were in an uncommon position of finding ourselves with lots of open roles across the company; while others were shuttering their businesses, we were still growing and needed to attract talent.

As I wrote about before, we knew it was important to focus on our Purpose – Innovation That Matters – and place it at the heart of our communications internally as we began to build our bridge. But this also started to stand out as our way to ease into external engagement. So as we embarked upon our campaign to fill open positions, we carefully discussed the messaging, allowing it to serve multiple functions (beyond talent attraction), to reflect our drive to recognize the benefits and advantages of a diverse workforce in our company and the industry, to highlight our objective to bring humanity to our brand, and to reinforce our commitment to our Purpose, all of which lead the way to Innovation That Matters. For People Who Matter.

We knew it was important to place people and purpose at the front as we took our early steps into post-COVID external messaging. As we put the company out there across digital media, we understood job seekers would not be the only ones to see our brand – and we knew that for the majority of those who did see us, it was likely the first time. We wanted it to be clear that we weren’t blind to what was going on in the world – people were in pain. We knew that leading with “business first” ran the risk of insulting the current experiences of large swaths of the country. And most importantly, we wanted everyone to know we truly value our people first – that our people matter – and that what they do matters.

Through this singular yet multi-functional messaging, we were able to underscore the importance of innovation in times of change; to inform or remind people that what we do is helping create a safer world; to share our purpose with a greater public and tell them why the work we do matters to every one of us; and to amplify our knowledge that our people help strengthen the quality of life in the communities where they live and work.

We would then use this sentiment to frame our messaging within the company as we reimagined the next Mercury to rise from the forever-changed work landscape—or world, for that matter. In my next blog, I’ll discuss how we focused on messaging that would:

  • Help employees;
  • Inspire courage and innovation in the face of change;
  • Provide hope and vision for the future, and;
  • Shift to greater engagement.
<![CDATA[Using Data to Stop Covid-19]]>, 04 Jun 2020 09:50:00 -0400

Data sharing across a global analytic community provides an understanding of how the Covid-19 virus spreads, a geographic understanding of the current infection densities, and its efficacy in helping end the pandemic spread of the virus. Listen in as Dr. William Conley, Chief Technology Officer for Mercury Systems, discusses how he is using this data to support the crisis response at Mercury.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez and today's topic. Using data to stop the virus. As Mercury builds on its position to continue to deliver quality solutions to their customers while still maintaining social distancing. I'm excited to introduce my next guest, Dr. William Conley, Chief Technology Officer for Mercury Systems. Dr. Conley, good day and welcome.

Dr. William Conley:

Hello Ralph. First off, I want to thank you for having me on the podcast today. And please go ahead and call me Bill.

Ralph Guevarez:

I appreciate that Bill. Thank you. So you've been here at Mercury for under a year. Tell us about your role and how it's changed. And if my calculations are correct, you've spent a quarter of your Mercury career with the company during our response to Coronavirus. What's different about your role now versus before?

Dr. William Conley:

Yeah, Ralph that's a great question. As you mentioned, I joined Mercury last fall. The plan at that point was the majority of my time would be spent outward focused, talking with our customers, talking with those that use the capabilities we build, identifying those longer term trends in the available technologies, as well as the changes in demand and requirements for those capabilities that we build.

              Interestingly, I actually started watching the spread of the virus across Asia, back in January. As all of us stopped traveling and those external meetings grinded to a halt, I pivoted really to a critical role on the executive COVID response team, namely looking at all of the different diverse sets of data that showed the spread of the virus and now heavily focused on the predictions that show how the virus is going to keep spreading. Over the past couple of months, a lot of my time has really been focused inside of Mercury to support this crisis response. I'm excited though as we look farther into the future. I'm starting to transition more of my time back into that outward facing role. Maybe that's something we could talk about in a future podcast.

Ralph Guevarez:

I would welcome that discussion. Thank you. Now that is a major change in how you're spending your time and your ability to respond. It's obvious that you're really focused on the data. Can you tell our listeners about the data sources you're using to support the executive team?

Dr. William Conley:

Absolutely. So one of the really impressive aspects of the global response to the virus is all of the different communities that are openly sharing with each other. As our CEO, Mark Aslett said very early on in this journey, we're all in this together. And obviously that's true for all of us across Mercury, as well as the larger global analytic community.

              The team at Johns Hopkins University put together the first really useful dashboard that I started following all the way back in January. That dashboard provided a geographic understanding of how the virus was spreading. As you'll remember at the beginning of the pandemic, it was really the geographic range that was important. Being able to understand if someone was traveling into an area that had a higher infection rate. At this point, now that the virus has spread globally, it's more important to understand the number of cases in a community, if that number is expected to increase or decrease. The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, often called the IHME, provides a really great ability to visualize this data for different countries, as well as at the state level across the United States. I've also been monitoring a variety of health departments at the state level to provide the best geographic understanding of the current infection densities. And lastly, I'm obviously reading numerous papers and articles each day about the virus, like many other people out there.

Ralph Guevarez:

That sounds like a lot of different sources and data to look at regularly. What are some of the things that have surprised you, that you could share with our listeners?

Dr. William Conley:

The thing that I think it's arguably the most interesting is it's really interesting to see how the models have improved over time. Many of us have obviously seen the national level predictions changed dramatically. In large part, this is really due to how the modeling parameters have improved as we continue to understand more about the virus. I remember the initial release of the IHME models, and it was great to have a forecast that predicted what could happen. Previously, all of the data was historical and it really only showed what had happened. I think of that kind of as being akin to the car. Are you looking in the rear view mirror to look at what's happened behind you, or are you looking out the front to see what's upcoming? Having that forward prediction is really helpful to make the best planning decisions that you possibly can.

              However, for those of us with engineering, scientific, mathematics backgrounds, we also know that fitting exponential curves is really hard to do accurately in the presence of noise. One of the key parameters in the model is the so-called R0. R0 is a measure of the number of people that each person who is infected is likely to infect going forward.

Ralph Guevarez:

So you're saying with R0, you can estimate how many people are infected due to a specific action, like the stay at home order? Am I understanding that correctly?

Dr. William Conley:

Yeah. That's exactly the case. It gives you that ability to kind of predict what's going to happen. Initially we thought the R0 value was between two and three. More recently in some of the papers, we actually think the unmitigated value may be between five and six. For reference, what we really need to do is we need to drive the R0 value below one to end the pandemic spread of the virus. What we've also seen is a lot of really interesting insights from IHME on the other metrics that are used in their estimates. Most recently, for example, they actually began publishing the change in mobility that has occurred in each state. For example, New York state, obviously one of the hardest hit regions in the United States. So a two thirds reduction in their mobility across their state when they were at their peak. Near most of our sites, across Mercury Systems, we've seen a mobility reduction, that's about 50%.

              What we're now seeing though, is as states are lifting their stay at home orders, we're seeing that mobility reduction begin to tick up, and now it's only about 25% down from kind of a average day before we had the pandemic spread of a virus. And so obviously everybody remembers when we initially talked about flattening the curve, what this really means is what we're seeing is the curve flatten, but we're not seeing the curve go back down, which is really essential for ending this overall spread of the virus. And so, for example, specifically, despite having not yet had a critical outbreak in terms of the number of cases, the most recent predictions [inaudible 00:06:30] Arizona will actually see about two to three times more cases than they currently have as we move into August. And the IHME predictions actually end in early August, is expected Arizona will have more cases then than they do today. Luckily though the actions that each of us individually can take can really change how the virus spreads across our communities.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well, that's a great point. And before I ask my next question, I'd like to discuss the Mercury community by first reading a quote from CEO, Mark Aslett, from our last earnings call. And I quote, "We will continue to monitor developments, acting thoughtfully and decisively despite the disruption and uncertainty COVID-19 brings to our daily lives. Guided by our culture and values, we will also continue to communicate with transparency and act responsibly to help ensure the health, safety and livelihoods of our employees, our number one priority." In your opinion, with all the research you've done and all the data that you've collected, is there anything you'd specifically recommend we do to reduce the virus's impact?

Dr. William Conley:

Yeah. So Ralph, I really appreciate this question. So first off to give a little bit of background I'm on several of the different return to the workplace teams. Ian Dunn, one of our senior vice presidents, general managers, is leading the holistic effort, which I think he described to you the overarching strategy in an excellent earlier podcasts that you guys recorded together. And so I'm obviously excited to see what we do across Mercury to improve our offices, our technology, to continue to support and protect our employees. However, as I just described in the IHME models, we each get a big [inaudible 00:08:13] in that mobility reduction and Mercury is very well positioned in that we can continue to deliver for our customers while maintaining social distancing. And our jobs don't require us to interact with lots of people in person each day. As a company, this means we also can focus on trying to improve the health of our local communities. We can make a big difference in stopping the virus if each of us chooses to reduce our social mobility.

              I'm not saying this doesn't mean, don't go outside. But what it does mean is minimize the number of people that you're within six feet of, minimize the number of people that you interact with for more than a few minutes. Interestingly, our odds are of getting sick are actually higher at a dinner party than they are at the grocery in large part due to the fact that it's the longer time period of the interaction with a neighbor, an extended family member over dinner, as opposed to the relatively short period of time that you interact with somebody when you pass them in the grocery store. If each of us does our part and continues to minimize our social mobility, I think we can substantially reduce the spread of the virus and avoid the need for another major economic shutdown like the one we've all just experienced.

Ralph Guevarez:

Where can our listeners gather more information on the IHME model and other data sources you mentioned pertaining to COVID-19?

Dr. William Conley:

Yeah, so appreciate that Ralph. I should have mentioned those earlier. The IHME data, you can access for yourself at It's a really useful site to get that feedback on a week by week basis of how things are evolving in each state. And obviously the different state department of healths are publishing their data as well. And so really appreciate that question.

Ralph Guevarez:

Bill, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me today. I am certain the information you provided to our listeners is helpful in easing the transition back to what we are calling the next normal. I wish you safety and good health, and again, thank you for your time.

Dr. William Conley:

Yep. Thanks a lot, Ralph. I appreciate the chance to join you today.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez signing off.

<![CDATA[Leading the Way With Edge Processing]]>, 27 May 2020 12:25:00 -0400

As technology scales, traditional AI processing in facilities away from the battlefield is no longer a solution. Listen as Tom Smelker, Vice President and General Manager of Custom Microelectronics Solutions and Advanced Microelectronics Solutions, discusses how Mercury Systems is using new 2.5D SiP technology to enable edge processing applications and answering needs for digitization closer to the sensor.

Read the transcript.

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic, Leading the Way with Edge Processing, as Mercury's advancements in microelectronics provides a new approach to tough compromises when trading off between physical size and processing power.

Ralph Guevarez:

Joining me is Tom Smelker, vice-president and general manager of Custom Microelectronic Solutions and Advanced Microelectronic Solutions for Mercury Systems. Tom, good day, and thank you for joining me.

Tom Smelker:

Well, thank you for having me here, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

Tom, before we discuss advancements in edge processing, can you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Mercury?

Tom Smelker:

Sure. I joined Mercury July of last year to start up this new business unit, Custom Microelectronic Solutions, which is very exciting, because it's all focused on 2.5D latest generation leading edge microelectronics for defense.

Ralph Guevarez:

Great, thank you. I'd like to start off by reading a quote from a soon to be released White Paper from your business unit. And I quote, "As more advanced sensors provide ever increasing collections of data, the expectations on edge processing technology increase. These processing components must not only be small and rugged enough to operate in the nose of a fighter jet or to be launched into space on a satellite, but contain the processing power to enable AI based applications such as cognitive EW."

Ralph Guevarez:

Tom, can you please tell our listeners what is edge processing and why is it relevant now?

Tom Smelker:

Edge processing is all about moving the processing capability to where the data's being collected at the sensor edge. And it's very important now because of advancements in both the sensors being able to create more information and the advancement in algorithms and our technologies like AI, that you brought up, in operating on that data. I tell people we're really not in the information age, like we like to believe. We're really in the data age.

Tom Smelker:

So today, if you look at a lot of our advanced sensors, they're creating more data than we can operate on. So we're throwing data away. Today, what we're after and what we're building are processing capabilities that will be at that sensor edge operating on that data. So we're no longer throwing that data away. We're operating on it and allowing our algorithms to be smarter and our sensors to be smarter.

Ralph Guevarez:

Let's take a step back for a minute. Can we discuss where Mercury was, say two years ago with edge processing and where we are today?

Tom Smelker:

Two years ago, it was all about size, weight, and power and how to shrink the components and pack more into a smaller form factor. Mercury's foray in this really started about four years ago, back in 2016, when we acquired the Microsemi Defense Microelectronic group. And that's really where it was focused two years ago.

Tom Smelker:

But at the same time, DARPA was investing in its electronics resurgence initiative. And the semiconductor industry was also investing in what I call the end of Moore's Law. The end of Moore's Law is not about packing more information in or more capabilities into every chip, but to put the right capabilities in a package for exactly the same reasons we are trying to do for the advanced algorithms for the smart sensors in our cars and our homes. So Mercury really started two years ago, to look at how we can bring this capability to defense.

Ralph Guevarez:

So are we revolutionizing this technology to the industry?

Tom Smelker:

Revolutionize is a perfect word for this. It's a very exciting time to be part of the semiconductor electronics, microelectronics industry. And to be part of the defense industry and that channel between the two. We are revolutionizing how radars work, the information that we can pull out of the radar to be able to put the processing right at the sensor edge, revolutionizing how EW is done and bring in true cognitive EW and the AI algorithms right to these EW sensors and transmitters.

Tom Smelker:

When it comes to comms, being able to bring the right communications to the soldier and even to the small sats up in space. And then when you look at the EOIR world, being able to put the processing right at the focal plane array and process that targeting imaging faster and to more fidelity than we've ever done before. So it's exciting because we'll be revolutionizing all the sensors that the defense industry gives us today.

Ralph Guevarez:

Now designing this type of technology can take years of research and resources. What are some of the challenges that you've faced in designing its processing technology? What's keeping you up at night?

Tom Smelker:

Yes, this is what keeps me up at night. The challenges are really about now we're moving these processors to some very rugged environments. So where electronics weren't before, we're moving those capabilities there. So we have power issues, we have thermal issues, we have shock vibe issues that we have to solve to be able to put those processors in those PGAs and so forth, where the sensors are. So, it's a unique challenge for the defense industry, but it's a fun challenge, and Mercury has the capabilities and engineering prowess to solve those types of difficult challenges.

Ralph Guevarez:

So is Mercury using the new 2.5D SiP technology? And also, how?

Tom Smelker:

Absolutely. We are using those technologies to be able to integrate the latest generation processors, GPUs and FPGAs with the latest and greatest, you know, memories, ADCs and DAX and in even defense focused microelectronics. And the exciting piece of that is it also increases a lot of the performance. It puts the SWaP, you know, size, weight, and power, for the use case exactly what the program needs. So, yes, we are investing heavily to bring that capability and use 2.5D to solve these problems.

Ralph Guevarez:

How does commercial technology play a role in edge processing? And secondly, how is Mercury making this technology profoundly more accessible to the defense industry?

Tom Smelker:

Mercury is a unique company. We're really a high tech company focused on defense. We have the channel between the semiconductor companies and the defense companies. So we're partnering with our semiconductor partners to be able to bring all that investment we were talking about in AI for the smart homes, the smart cars, and bring those technologies to the defense sensors as well. So being that channel, we're able to bring in the wafers, bring in the die from the semiconductor companies, integrate that using our 2.5D fab processes into the right form factors and create these system and packages for the defense industry.

Ralph Guevarez:

From what I understand, Mercury recently made a major investment in this technology. Can you give us an update on the facility build out?

Tom Smelker:

Last July, when I took on this endeavor, we started the build out of two cleanrooms. Those cleanrooms are complete, both the ISO 7 and ISO 8 cleanrooms, and we are facilitizing them as we speak. So all the capital equipment that makes 2.5D real is being brought up right now.

Tom Smelker:

We plan to finish that over the next couple months and start the qualification process. At the end of the year, we'll actually be starting our very first microelectronics, 2.5D microelectronics cycle through the facility. So very exciting times.

Ralph Guevarez:

Tom, if some of our listeners wanted more information on Mercury's edge processing technologies, how would they go about doing that?

Tom Smelker:

We'd love to hear from your listeners. They can reach out to us via email at where they can fill out the form below. And there'll be email updates that come out giving them information on our capabilities.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for joining me today. I find this technology fascinating. I wish you and the microelectronics division, the best of luck and Godspeed in leading the industry in edge processing and all of its advancements. Thank you for joining me.

Tom Smelker:

Thank you, Ralph. I enjoyed talking about this topic with you. I'm very passionate about it, and it's exciting to bring it to the defense industry.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.


<![CDATA[The Scope of Global Engineering]]>, 15 May 2020 09:59:00 -0400

Innovation That Matters® – it’s what Mercury Systems is all about. With a commitment to its customers’ missions, a goal to always develop new technologies, and a drive to be innovative, the engineering group at Mercury has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Listen to Jim Gallagher, Global VP of Engineering, as he discusses how his team is working to build a single, cohesive team across business units with a shared vision of the future for Mercury and its customers.

Read the transcript

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now podcast series, brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez. Today's topic: the scope of global engineering as Mercury stands firmly behind its innovation that matters purpose and continues to deliver trusted, secure, mission-critical solutions to the defense industry. Joining me is Jim Gallagher, Global Vice President of Engineering for Mercury Systems. Jim, good day and welcome.

Jim Gallagher:

Hi Ralph. Thanks for having me today.

Ralph Guevarez:

So Jim, before we dive into what's happening with global engineering, could you please give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Mercury?

Jim Gallagher:

Sure. I'm the Global Vice President of Engineering for Mercury, and I've been in this role for almost two years. I joined Mercury in 2016 as part of the Microsemi acquisition, and for the first two years of that, I led the secure processing solutions engineering teams, which was really quite similar to my role in Microsemi for my six years there. Prior to that, spent 22 years in the automotive industry in a variety of software and systems engineering assignments. And let me tell you, after all those experiences, I'm quite happy to be part of the Mercury team.

Ralph Guevarez:

Jim, I'd like to paint a picture for our listeners by reading a quote from an article you wrote in our Mercury Rising newsletter that states, "We recognize that we cannot operate as separate engineering teams but rather must be one engineering community, so to facilitate cohesion within our diverse geographically separated team, we created engineering playbooks that describe our shared vision, common tools, processes, methodologies, and metrics to be used across all sites in each of our engineering disciplines." So my question for you, Jim, is what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about engineering at Mercury?

Jim Gallagher:

First thing I think of is innovation. Our engineering philosophy is truly centered on delivering innovation that matters to our customers. It's really what Mercury is all about. Our people are really committed to our customers' missions and drive to be innovative, truly bringing out the best in our engineers. We're always striving to develop new technologies, and it's not only to solve existing problems, but to be proactive in the plan for what would be required in the future. But collaborating across business units, our engineers are developing game changing ways of delivering interesting, compelling, important technologies at a pace that's just not possible in a traditional defense contractor.

Ralph Guevarez:

I agree, and with the amount of growth that we've seen just in the past two years, I'd say the pace is pretty rapid.

Jim Gallagher:

I joined the company four years ago as part of the acquisition for Microsemi, and at that time, our company had just over 500 total employees. Today, we've got over 600 engineers in a company that's rapidly approaching 2,000 employees total. That's amazing growth. And the diversity of skill sets that we've built is just incredible. 600 engineers at 15 sites. Think about that. I've got RF engineers developing secure RF microwave, millimeter wave and miniaturized fixed signal processing products. We've got software engineers and firmware engineers developing anti-tamper and crypto solutions. We've got talented multi-discipline engineers, developing secure processing solutions and storage solutions. Just the sheer breadth and depth of our engineering skill set's amazing, and it's particularly so for a company our size.

              And even through all that and while we've experienced all that growth, we've really still been able to focus on driving towards the commonization of our engineering approach. Obviously that just doesn't happen by accident. It's been a purposely managed activity, and we have an unbelievably strong global engineering leadership team consisting of the engineering leaders from each of the business units. Our engineering leadership team embraces the Mercury culture with a focus on collaboration and trust. It's a team that thinks across Mercury and not just what is best for their own particular business unit, and that's so important. We've got to think cross Mercury,

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for that update. I agree on the commitment to sharing technology and resources across sites and divisions. It's truly inspiring to see. So what has the global engineering team been up to? Please give us an update.

Jim Gallagher:

Well, we're striving to build a single cohesive engineering team across Mercury. That's how I want to think about engineering, that we have a single team across Mercury. We've got, as I mentioned before, the 15 different sites. Many of those sites are very small, so it's important that the people at each of these sites know the people at other sites and what they do because that's how we can take advantage of and leverage different opportunities that exist.

              It doesn't really stop there though. We're always growing, we're always in acquisition mode, so we have to be planning for whatever comes next in terms of our acquisition strategy. To do this, having a shared vision is critical for our engineering team. We're always actively looking for more ways to promote collaboration because the more we share, whether it's resources, technology, or IP, that's where we're going to be stronger. And our customers not only want, really they expect to see one Mercury. They don't want to look at us and deal with separate entities. They want to see a single one Mercury approach.

              Everything we do from global engineering is geared to support the business units in order to help make them more efficient. Well, you mentioned it earlier, Ralph, much of this is happening through the implementation of our global engineering playbooks.

Ralph Guevarez:

I'm sure that there was a great amount of effort that went into creating such valued documentation. Could you please elaborate?

Jim Gallagher:

When I think about it, how we created these playbooks, I think it's just as important as what's in the playbooks, and I think that's partially the reason for our successful implementation. We didn't have a small group go off and create each of these playbooks in isolation. We didn't mandate them top down. Instead, we communicated through all levels of engineering management what we were planning to do and we set expectations for the implementation. We identified the leader for each of the playbook teams, ensuring that the leadership was dispersed around our geographical locations. We didn't want each site, a single site, to be owning all of the playbooks. We wanted this to be diverse.

              We identified participants from each discipline from each site to ensure representation, and then we empowered those teams to identify what were the critical elements of their discipline. What had to be in the playbook? What needed to be common? We let those teams identify the tools to use.

              Now this was not the quickest approach. It certainly took us longer to develop the playbooks this way, but it was a necessary step. It fostered the buy in that's required for a process program like this to be effective, over the long haul anyway. And ultimately this makes it possible for our engineers in one location to be able to support different business units or different geographical locations within their business unit without them having to sit back and go, "Wait a minute. How do they do things in this business unit?" It's the same, and that provides both a stronger enterprise and a lot more flexibility for employees.

Ralph Guevarez:

Could you please describe how we work as a matrix organization? I've heard the term used around corporate and would like our listeners to know what is the matrix and also how is the matrix working within our current situation with COVID-19?

Jim Gallagher:

Well, the matrix confuses some, but it really shouldn't. Part of that confusion may be because the matrix can manifest itself in many different ways depending on the role each of us play within an organization. I like to think of the matrix as a combined organization responsible for supporting a function. It's the intersection of process, tools and structure with the day-to-day execution. Left side of the matrix is focused on process, tools and commonization while the top side is focused on day-to-day execution.

              But in the engineering organization, we're really trying to blur those bounds. We want our global engineering leadership team to hold a shared vision. So maybe it's best I give a couple of examples about what we're doing in the matrix. I'll start with what's clearly my favorite example, and it's the firmware playbook team. And remember, as we talked about, these playbook teams have representatives from across the different business units in Mercury.

              Well, the firmware playbook team saw inconsistencies in how firmware builds were taking place. They saw subscale build infrastructures at the different sites, and they recognized that by establishing a single Linux server farm with a common process, we could be more efficient. So working with IT, that team developed and deployed a new server farm and approach, and Ralph, the results have been far beyond what we had hoped. With this server farm, we're typically seeing build time reductions of 50%. We've seen it as high as 90%. That's shaving hours off of each build. Plus people can run multiple jobs concurrently. Plus we save on license costs. That's just outstanding work by this team, and that's the matrix in action.

              We talk about acquisitions, and we love acquisitions. They make our engineering team stronger, but there are certainly challenges that come with integrating acquisitions. So to drive consistent and efficient integration of acquired companies and their respective engineering organizations, we created an engineering specific acquisition integration playbook, and this playbook contains a description of our integration philosophy and lessons learned as well as a set of checklist to guide the integration. These checklists are being used now and will be used with potential future acquisitions. That's another example of the matrix.

              You touched on COVID-19. You asked about that. Well, coordination with IT is another area that we lean heavily on the matrix. Most of us are working from home, and when this team activity first started, our matrix structure really played a big role in sharing the best practices on how to set up our home networks to deliver the performance required so that we could continue to work with virtually no interruption. We work with IT on tool commonization across sites. The license cost reduction alone has been huge, but just as important, we're eliminating ongoing redundant support work, and we continue to see the matrix working to help with any number of IT issues, some related to COVID, some just part of daily activities. That's the matrix.

              And I'll give one final example on the matrix. Each year we hold events like the engineering leadership conference and the engineering technology conference to promote shared technology across Mercury. That's the matrix in action. An analogy I like to use for the matrix is from football, big football fan, but at a football game, you don't want to realize the officials are there. Officials at a football game are at their best when no one realizes they're calling the game. Well, similarly in some ways, maybe the matrix is working best when you don't realize it's there.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you for clarifying the matrix, Jim. You referenced the engineering leadership conference and engineering technology conference. I understand those events were canceled, but you held a virtual event last week. Could you please tell our listeners about it?

Jim Gallagher:

Yeah, last week we held an engineering technology review. We had planned to have our engineering technology conference live in Phoenix. I look forward to these events every year, but obviously we weren't able to hold that event due to the COVID crisis. We had a great conference last year, and I'm certain we would have had an even better event this year. Our agenda just looked fantastic.

              These type of events are critical for to be one Mercury. They allow us to share some of the best technologies, products, and capabilities within Mercury while also promoting interaction by technical experts and leaders from all the sites. So while I'm happy we could do the technology review virtually last week, we benefit so much more from the live event when the innovators can interact.

              That being said, the event last week was fantastic. We were able to highlight five different technologies being worked across Mercury. We had a great overview of our custom micro electronics business. This is a new business unit that I hope is featured in one of your upcoming discussions. We talked about artificial intelligence, architecture design reuse, software licenses. The presenters did a great job, and we had nearly 100 people from across all of our different sites participating.

              Presentations were just outstanding. The quality of the topics generated so much cross site discussion. I was really happy with the scope and depth of the questions. You can tell how a presentation is going based on the quality of the questions that come back and we got some great questions, and I'm very confident that the ongoing discussions that started from this event are going to be worthwhile. I've already seen a ton of email exchanges back and forth on the AI topic in particular, so that worked out great.

              Events like this give our engineers a forum to share their technology innovations. They get to show off their work with people who can look for opportunities to apply them in other parts of the enterprise. Our people put a tremendous amount of effort into their work, and it's great that they can share it with their peers and maybe more importantly, make some new connections across Mercury.

              Secondly, these events allow others to learn about technology being developed across the company. Maybe they're working on a complimentary technology that can be paired with it. Maybe they have an idea to enhance the technology. This is something we really need to take advantage of. We have experts across all of our sites, and forums like this give us the chance to share some of the high profile technologies that as a group we can potentially enhance. It's the power of Mercury.

              And then finally, these events give our technologists a defined forum to interact. We're always encouraging our teams to reach out across sites, across business units, to involve others in that white paper review, to involve others in a technical proposal review, to review that mechanical design. Fresh eyes from other technical experts are so valuable. That's some of the power of the diverse set of teams we have across Mercury. We're really building a tight knit group of engineers, even if we are located at different sites, supporting different business units. We're coming together.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well, congratulations on a successful event, Jim. It sounds like the outcome was certainly worth the effort, and being a trade show manager myself, I understand completely how gratifying an event like this could be for an organization as a whole, so again, congratulations to you and the entire team. Now with FY21 fast approaching, what are some of the things that we have to look forward to from global engineering?

Jim Gallagher:

Ralph, we have so much more to do. The list of things we want to do is endless. We're already talking about and working on round two of the playbooks, adding details, specifically Agile Scrum. That's so exciting. Looking at that for software to drive more consistency and scale, adding more agility to our processes. We have an opportunity for greater depth of checklists and process and mechanical engineering, a group that's done really well with consistency.

              Well, let's go one layer deeper. We'll be working with our systems playbook teams. How do we implement the more effective requirements management process? We'll also have a heavy emphasis on implementing more digital engineering methodologies, such as model-based systems engineering. This is an area where we recognized a shortfall and have added some key talent to help guide us going forward. We're working with IT to adopt new tools to simplify or automate tasks. We want to eliminate manual steps wherever possible.

              And I'm really enthusiastic about our next generation of product life cycle management. We've aligned all our teams on one PLM tool to enable consistent configuration management, to ensure that we process change orders and handle release process the same way across all our sites.

              So while we're thrilled with the progress made this far at Mercury, there's always more to do. I'm excited that our engineering leadership team is committed to simplifying cross site interaction and employing common practices and tools. I know we have the people, processes and tools in place to be successful working together. I think we can all look forward to an exciting, eventful and productive FY21.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well, it certainly sounds like the engineering leadership team has a firm grip on direction moving forward, and I am eager to help market that innovation to the industry, so thank you for joining me today, Jim. I wish you safety and good health.

Jim Gallagher:

Thank you.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.

<![CDATA[Can I Get a SOSA-Aligned Everything, Please?]]>, 13 May 2020 10:15:00 -0400

If you’ve ever worked on an older car, you can probably commiserate with anyone striving for a more standardized approach to any complex system. For me, that system came in the form of an early ‘90s Eagle Talon. The day I received, and was grateful for, that beast, I remember an older relative genuinely asking me if I was the coolest kid in school for having it. Considering the car was then about 10 years old, had a generous number of miles on it, and the red had faded into more of a matte pink, I kindly assured him I was not. But in his defense, it would have taken more than a car to make that happen.

Despite it looking like a runner-up for the Back to the Future movie series, the car was fun to drive: a five speed with decent pickup for its years. It more than served its purpose. But when it came to repairs, which were frequent, there were some challenges. The parts were often difficult for me to track down considering the age and somewhat obscurity of the car and replacing them was incredibly time consuming. The air filter alone looked like no other and resembled a lampshade in both size and shape. It was not something part stores wanted to give up precious shelf space to keep in stock. Once the right parts were acquired, I’d take them home and pop the hood just to remember I needed metric tools in a house of Chrysler owners. Why couldn’t these change-outs be simpler? Couldn’t I maintain my ‘system’ more easily if there was a bit more standardization among manufacturers?  Now, car systems have changed since the early ‘00s, and while they’re not the same as those you’d find on a Navy ship, the complexity of their systems brings the same question to mind: How can we improve these technology change-outs and make them more accessible, upgradable, and standardized?

The Drive for a New System Architecture

Unlike cars, technology in the electronic warfare (EW) industry is even more rapidly advancing while becoming more complex, but they share a growing need to create commonalities so hardware builds can become more versatile, interoperable, and future-proof. Focusing on these electronic warfare systems, some of the existing standards, such as OpenVPX, remain valuable and continue to be an industry leader among forward-looking system builds. However, some of the standards are user-defined, potentially leaving room for a little too much interpretation, limiting its true versatility.

What is SOSA?

SOSA stands for Sensor Open Systems Architecture and addresses these variables by defining specific requirements for sensor-processing systems, including backplane pinouts. Before SOSA, the wide array of backplane pinouts caused many interoperability headaches as each application usually created their own semi-custom profile. As for the standards themselves, they’re still emerging. While we have some general information about what to expect, the exact architecture is not scheduled to be released until the late summer of 2020. With it now nearing completion within a consortium of industry and government members, it may be regarded as being mature enough that systems engineers can leverage it today with confidence. I think it’s important to mention here that while the driving force behind these standards is the U.S. military, it is intended to be a modular design that serves the commercial space as well. Unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath that the automobile industry will be adopting SOSA soon.

Joking aside, there’s a balance that SOSA offers between offering users a kind of plug-and-play option for multiple devices to work together seamlessly while maintaining the security of the devices themselves when connected or even compromised. Ideally, one device should be able to be removed and replaced in a short amount of time with little labor required. With a uniform backplane, a card could be pulled, replaced, and wired in without involvement from an expert on-site, which could mean time saved and dedicated elsewhere when it really matters.

Why do I want SOSA-conformant products?

When it comes to safety, moving at the speed of technology is vital in this industry. SOSA-aligned products do just that -- they’re rapid technology inserts that can save time both from a development standpoint and in relationship to upgrading existing systems. And the latter, in turn, can reduce sustainment costs and enable more and better systems to be deployed overall. With greater compatibility, cases of vendor lock are greatly reduced while affordability is increased, as more competition drives innovation. This emerging standard also includes reductions to SWaP (size, weight, and power), and will achieve this new level of versatility without losing sight of the security features to enable more resilience to attacks. Ultimately, there’s no downside to aligning with this emerging standard.

What’s Next?

Since SOSA-alignment requirements are based on existing standards, surprises along the way for early adopters should be few, if any. To take advantage of the many benefits that will come along with this latest open architecture standard, you can look to the pioneers of open standards and the products you trust most in the industry, such as those from Mercury Systems, and their expanding product portfolios that are SOSA aligned. To view our latest SOSA-related product release, view the press release for our dual microwave upconverter, the RFM3103s, or visit to view the full SOSA-aligned product family. Alternatively, if you’d like some tips on changing out an oxygen sensor on a ’94 Eagle Talon, contact me directly.

<![CDATA[Bridging the Gap to the Next Normal]]>, 08 May 2020 10:17:00 -0400

One of the more difficult aspects of communicating in crisis is identifying that moment when you are leaving one phase of a crisis and entering the next. As critical as navigating through crisis, you must also anticipate traversing into a new phase. You’ve got your head down, subsumed by the battle at hand, and suddenly you feel something has begun shifting. You then realize what you are doing and how you are communicating to your customers, employees, shareholders and partners needs to be different.  

When you anticipate adeptly, you are able to “play ahead.” This provides the opportunity to adjust to the change emerging, allows you to continue to build on the trust you have gained, and catalyze momentum towards creating a new normal. In order to accomplish this in ways that honor both the integrity of your purpose and the long-standing relationships you have cultivated with customers and stakeholders, you need to keep the following in mind.

Stick to your goals. When it became clear COVID-19 had moved from someone else’s problem to our crisis, we aligned ourselves with four goals we wanted to guide us through the chaos. Over the past 90 days, we have leaned heavily on those goals and they have allowed us to move decisively and build trust. They remain our North Star.

Listen actively. The feedback loop is critical to recognizing that your communications need to evolve. Without actively listening to your employees, you risk missing important cues, or going in the wrong direction with your communications. Similarly, shifting your narrative either too quickly or too slowly can lead to confusion, at best, a loss of trust, at worst. Your cadence needs to be in tune and tuned in to build trust. Communicate directly, share timely, and solicit feedback—then acknowledge with transparency and action.

Look ahead. As our course began to steady, we recognized a shift in tone, questions, dialogue and concerns from our employees. Whereas initially our teams wanted to hear clear, decisive actions were being taken, new questions were emerging: How can we best operate in this new environment? Is our company financially stable? Are there tools that can help us operate more effectively? How will we come back to the workplace?

Provide hope. At Mercury, we are calling the transition from crisis to continuity “building a bridge to the next normal.” We understood we must stay ahead of our communications needs as team members became more comfortable with our immediate response strategy. While our goals remained the same, our communications strategy needed to provide hope and a vision for the future, to be sensitive to unique and individual challenges that our teams are facing, and we knew the next phase would be even more challenging than the previous.

Acknowledge change. People are different and have different reactions to working remotely—it’s not for everyone. We introduced new IT resources to make working from home easier; we began hosting webinars that allowed our team members to learn about resources in our new environment; we provided more clarity around business progress in our weekly calls; we posted inspirational posters and messages at our manufacturing sites; we reimagined our All-Hands meeting; and we launched Mercury Moments—stories of our culture and values in action by our team members, to name a few.

And most importantly, continue to link Purpose to all you do. Our Purpose, Innovation That Matters, along with our unique culture and values, continues to be at the heart of our communication as we begin to build our bridge. Our commitment to our culture and values made our responses to this crisis and our subsequent transitioning to our newest normal a natural extension of our communication and messaging strategies during these unsettled times.

Next, how we came to a decision that now was the time to tell our story externally putting purpose and people at the center by reinforcing our commitment to “Innovation That Matters. For People who Matter.”

<![CDATA[Radical Technology in Autonomous Vehicles]]>, 07 May 2020 09:55:00 -0400

Imagination Becomes Reality

In today’s world of innovation and technology, what were once ambitious creations of imagination are quickly becoming the new reality, with autonomous vehicles among the latest manifestations. It began with semi-autonomous hybrid and electric cars with power charging and self-parking features and has grown to include “driverless” cars that can navigate on their own. Self-driving technology is becoming increasingly more common and stands to radically transform our transportation system.

Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles

The costs, risks, and benefits of self-driving cars with respect to safety, equity, and the environment continue to be assessed.

  • Safety is an overarching concern given tens of thousands of people die in motor vehicles crashes every year in the United States. Theoretically, self-driving vehicles could reduce that number if autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can prove to be less error-prone than humans.
  • Equity is another major concern. Self-driving technology could help mobilize individuals who are unable to drive themselves, such as the elderly or disabled. On the flip side, widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles could potentially displace millions employed as drivers as the demand for public transportation decreases.
  • Environmental impacts are a major uncertainty. Accessible, affordable, and convenient self-driving cars could increase the total number of miles driven each year. If those vehicles are powered by fossil fuels, transportation-related climate emissions could increase. However, if the vehicles are primarily electric based and/or the mass introduction of autonomous vehicles enables a new generation of ‘shared’ vehicles, emissions could potentially be significantly lowered.

How Does a Vehicle Self-Drive?

A complex network of sensors, control systems, computers, and software are used to control, navigate, and drive the vehicle. These self-driving systems require a high-density server or computer located within the vehicle to employ software that processes vast amounts of data from a wide array of sensors like radar, high-powered cameras, and sonar to create and maintain an internal map of the surrounding area moment by moment. The software processes those inputs, plots a path, and sends instructions to the vehicle’s “actuators,” which control acceleration, braking, and steering. Hard-coded rules, obstacle-avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and “smart” object discrimination (e.g., knowing the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle) help the software follow traffic rules and navigate obstacles.

Servers deployed in autonomous vehicle applications are required to have high-performing capabilities in advanced graphics processing, radar, and AI to make crucial split-second decisions on the road. In addition to being powerful, these servers must be small enough to fit within the vehicle’s tight spaces while still being rugged enough to withstand heavy vibration, shock, dust, moisture, and temperature extremes. Reliability and safety are top priorities when traveling from point A to point B. 

On the whole, the prospective benefits of autonomous vehicles far outweigh the risks, provided they can be proven safe and reliable in all operating conditions. Of course, that is no easy task given one small error can lead to catastrophic damage. As the technology matures, one of the most essential components of safe autonomous vehicle operation will be to have a rugged, reliable, and high-performing server supporting the demanding and time-sensitive processing requirements.

Mercury Systems’ HDversa server is a comprehensive solution that enables self-driving technology in autonomous vehicles and takes into consideration current and future requirements. Powered by 12 Intel® Xeon® D processors and multiple GPUs, this compact, rugged server easily fits in the trunk of a car.  To support scalability and future upgrades, HDversa employs versatile “plug-and-pull” modules that can be quickly modified and upgraded independently or together as-needed.  This modular design helps reduce costs by eliminating the need to replace the entire server when implementing technology upgrades or troubleshooting operational challenges. Configuration flexibility simplifies logistics and allows users to develop a solution best suited for the application to achieve optimum performance and precise functionality. The low-power HDversa provides the high-density compute power to execute AI and machine-learning algorithms reliably, helping autonomous vehicles get to their destinations safe and sound.

<![CDATA[Talent Attraction in a Digital World]]>, 06 May 2020 11:29:00 -0400

With continued growth and a demand for people who want to answer “why” they do their jobs instead of “what” their job is, Jamie Durkin, head of Talent Attraction at Mercury Systems, joins the MercuryNOW podcast. Listen as he discusses a broad range of topics including the synergy between talent attraction and growth, adjusting to hiring challenges due to Covid-19, creating a successful pre-boarding process, hiring from virtual interviews, and partnering with marketing to build digital awareness for a brand that relates to more people.

Read the transcript

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello and welcome to Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host Ralph Guevarez and today's topic, Talent Attraction in a Digital World. As Mercury continues to build its portfolio of talented and driven team members, joining me is Jamie Durkin, Director of Talent Attraction for Mercury Systems. Jamie, hello and thank you for joining me.

Jamie Durkin:

Hello, Ralph. Thank you for having me.

Ralph Guevarez:

Jamie, before we discuss the digital recruitment campaign, can you give our listeners a brief background on your current role at Mercury?

Jamie Durkin:

Absolutely and welcome, listeners. My name is Jamie Durkin and I'm the Head of Talent Attraction for Mercury Systems. I have been here for about two years and currently I work for Tim Aleck, who's the Global Head of Talent.

Ralph Guevarez:

Great. Let me paint a picture for our listeners who may be considering joining the Mercury team and I quote, "If you want to tell people why you do what you do, rather than simply what you do, Mercury's calling. We're a leader in making trusted, secure mission-critical solutions profoundly more accessible to aerospace and defense. We bridge the gap between commercial technology and defense applications to address the industry's most pressing high-tech needs. Why? To create a safer, more secure world." That is pretty powerful. Can you please comment on the thought leadership behind that statement?

Jamie Durkin:

Absolutely, Ralph. When I look at that statement there's a word that really strikes out at me and that word is why. The why is an powerful statement. It's a powerful word because it is at the very foundation of what we're doing as an organization, where we're bridging the gap between commercial technology and defense applications. Why? To get to market faster. To become more safer, more secure world faster. And we've really been able to not only have a mission statement like that, but really deliver on, on a regular basis.

Ralph Guevarez:

As a new member of the Mercury team myself and having adopted their culture and values only after a few months with the company, it's an exciting time to come aboard. Tell us about some of the synergies in place with talent acquisition these days.

Jamie Durkin:

You know the name of the game for us is really growth. We've had 11 acquisitions. Revenue growth has gone up more than 2X. The stock price since I've been here has more than doubled. We're a company that's really hovered around 500 people for the better half of 15 years. We're now at 1,800 people and we're not slowing down. So when we look at the synergies between talent attraction and the company as a whole, they're one and the same.

Ralph Guevarez:

How is the talent attraction organization coping with all this through unprecedented times with COVID-19?

Jamie Durkin:

So lucky for us, Ralph, we've always been agile in our approach to talent attraction. Between our passive recruiting, our proactive campaigns to high-value targets, we've always had the approach of we have to be hunters if we want to get the best talent in the door. With that effort, we've done a lot of diligence around partnering with our hiring managers, partnering with our hiring managers in transitioning them from traditional thought processes of going through a resume line by line, asking them basic questions, to converting the conversation to make a real impact. That real impact is around behavioral interviewing and asking them to explain times they've been in situations. Then they explain the why they did things, why they made that result, and if they could do it again, would they change?

              I mentioned that because with these unprecedented times, we're in a situation where we have to move to virtual interviews. And when you approach an interviewee in the manner of behavioral-based questioning, yeah, it benefits to see some of the mannerisms on someone, if you're face-to-face, but a very close second is doing that through Skype, which our IT partners have been a pivotal part in the success, so we have been able to make considerable amounts of hires from virtual interviews.

              The other thing that we really sunk our teeth into over the last call it 12 months is, is our onboarding process and our onboarding process more specifically within pre-boarding. So when you look at pre-boarding, that's the time after you sign an offer and before you really come into the organization and, Ralph, I don't know about you, but myself, that was the scariest time for me, right? I had been with the company for 10 years, I signed the offer and I was like, "Should I have done this? Is this the company I want to work for? What am I going to do?" So we put in place a subset of steps for the hiring manager to just have various touch points because those little things that happen in that, call it, two-to-four-week period are imperative to success.

              So we built that about 12 months ago and really built out a first week as well and the first week went from a quick session of "Here's the bathroom, here's your office, get moving" to really a week in equation period of what makes Mercury special? Why Mercury? Back to the why that we talked about earlier. We have sessions from our HR team on our HRS system, we have an IT session that gets you accustomed to the various platforms we use. We have a benefit session, a real benefit session that gives a person an understanding of our benefits and how they can utilize them and when.

              Then the third thing we've been able to do with this push is really partner with the marketing team for our revamped digital awareness campaign that is pretty exciting.

Ralph Guevarez:

Being a member of the marketing team and witnessing firsthand the time and energy that gets put into a campaign of this magnitude, I could see where the excitement comes from. Could you tell our listeners a little bit more about this digital awareness campaign?

Jamie Durkin:

Yeah, Ralph. The digital awareness campaign is something I'm really jazzed up about. Coming into Mercury two years ago, it was only by doing real research and understanding what makes us special was I able to get a grasp on us as an organization. The marketing team over the last two years has really sunk their teeth into building an awareness campaign and building a higher brand to relate to more folks. When you look at internally within the aerospace and defense market, people know us. People know us for our technology, people know us for our reputation in the market. But as we get broader and we grow from a 500-person company to upwards of 1,900 where we are now, this is needed to really build awareness at the top of the funnel and help us in the recruiting realm really grasp the talent that's going to help us grow to scalability for the future.

              The two biggest things that I look at are really a revamped career page. So prior to our careers page, it was a job site, right? It was, "Hey, these are our open positions, apply to them." Since then we've really put solid content around who we are as an organization, high level, what's our bigger mission and how does that mission relate to the common person?

              The last point that is important to mention is our brand message. You look at us organizationally, and it's really about how do we relate to a larger message, a larger population of people with our message? The marketing team has done an excellent job at that in relating some of the hardcore technology nuances into a larger population.

Ralph Guevarez:

It certainly sounds like we are putting a lot of effort into talent acquisition right now. I'm just curious why. Why now?

Jamie Durkin:

Ralph, I think this is a very steep question with a pretty simple answer. You know, the heart of everything we do, every advance we make, every life we save, it centers around our people, our people working towards a mission, working towards the why of the organization. Our cultural evolution over the last two years is nothing short of amazing. When you look at the five-plus acquisitions that we've had in the last two years and our ability to maintain this cultural epicenter I'll say, for lack of a better word, it's not just a picture on the wall for us. It's something that we embody in our day-to-day work.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well, having experienced the Mercury onboarding process firsthand, I can honestly say it is a great organization with unlimited amount of resources and I highly recommend it to anyone considering Mercury as a place of employment. So I agree with you on all points. Jamie, thank you for joining me today. Best of luck with the recruitment campaign, and I wish you safety and good health.

Jamie Durkin:

Thanks, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.

<![CDATA[Keeping an Eye on Quality through COVID-19]]>, 05 May 2020 10:48:00 -0400

As the nation addresses vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, defense readiness must be maintained. Threats still exist. And the products we make at Mercury Systems are a critical part of our nation’s defense readiness. As we saw in the early days of COVID-19, companies like Facebook, Disney, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and YouTube reduced streaming video quality in order to lighten the load on the internet in Europe. However, for companies like Mercury, a reduction in quality is never an option. We assure our customers and partners of our commitment to delivering the highest quality, which has always defined us.

The Quality Engineering group at Mercury always seeks to turn ideas into results for our customers, delivering trusted, secure mission-critical technologies as part of our commitment to Innovation That Matters®. Just as discussed in a previous blog called “Finding New Supply Chain Muscles in a COVID-19 World,” Quality Engineering has also innovated different solutions to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19. By sharing our ideas, we hope to spark solutions for others whose manufacturing does not allow for a reduction in quality.

Assuring the health of employees and customers with remote transparency

Mercury Systems maintains a position as a trusted partner who operates transparently with customers, and has demonstrated this by being open to visits to review or audit our processes and business systems. Social distancing has interjected challenges to this during the COVID-19 crisis. How do we continue to demonstrate transparency while minimizing visits to protect the health of our workforce and our customers?

One solution we have offered our customers is remote audits that eliminate the need to physically enter a facility and interact with the workforce. We provide process documents from our Quality Management System (QMS) and present evidence of compliance remotely through Skype. Our customers and certifying groups have embraced this solution, as it allows them to meet their supplier surveillance requirements, while also meeting warfighter needs. For example, one customer has partnered with us by conducting the entire remote workmanship (J-STD-001) and electrostatic countermeasures (ESD protection) protection audit off-site.

Delivering commitments with virtual customer source inspections

It’s not just processes that customers need to assess, it’s our final products as well. Many contracts require an on-site product audit known as a source inspection, which Mercury Quality Engineering has innovated to meet our delivery and quality commitments during the COVID-19 crisis.

First, working with our Supplier Quality and Mission Assurance groups, Quality Engineering has identified which items can have the source inspection requirements waived – typically those involving a long history between Mercury and the customer or those that do not have an external source inspection requirement. Second, for those items the customer cannot waive the source inspection, we have established methods to perform virtual product audits. This requires us to provide an abundance of process and test evidence as well as pictures of critical items on the product to be inspected. It is currently estimated that eight audits will be performed remotely over the next 12 weeks. Lastly, where there is no other solution, we have created an isolated area for the customer to review material without entering the shop floor.

A new category of waste for now and after COVID-19

One of the roles of Quality Engineering at Mercury is to provide tools to eliminate waste. In lean manufacturing, waste manifests itself in transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing and defects (TIMWOOD). We now treat “unnecessary contact” as a new type of waste. This is especially true during this crisis, but also applies to what we are calling the “next normal” after COVID-19. Transportation waste is traditionally mitigated by keeping concurrent workstations close together. However, with the need for social distancing, we are investigating new solutions, with one being the minimization and frequency of transportation – not the distance. Even after COVID-19, mitigating unnecessary contact will reduce financial and operational risk by helping keep our workforce strong and healthy.

Through our dedication to Innovation That Matters™, Mercury continues to make every effort to protect the health and livelihood of our employees, ensure business continuity, and meet customer commitments.

Keep Safe!

<![CDATA[Building Trust As We Move Toward a Next Normal]]>, 30 Apr 2020 09:35:00 -0400

As Winston Churchill said, “Never waste a good crisis.” Times of crisis in business can lead to overall improvement, and with the urgency around COVID-19 communications, Mercury Systems was faced with what I’d like to consider the “opportunity” to rethink the way we communicate within our organization. By flattening the decision-making process; altering the speed, mechanisms and cadence of conversation; operating with transparency in communications; and proving accountability, we have unlocked the trust of our team. And as we pivot and start to consider what the workplace looks like when we return, we must also consider how we will incorporate this new way of doing business as we move to the “next normal.”

So how did our evolution in communication begin?

Process. We broke down communication barriers in the early days of COVID-19. We recognized that we needed to be consistent and we needed to be constant. Most of all, we needed to be transparent. At the heart of the pivot was developing a series of tight processes and accountability in the MarCom team. As referenced in my previous blog, it became clear that one action team was not enough, that we needed several teams who were designed to be responsive for discrete areas of accountability. Our messages then populated all of our communications across all of our channels –allowing us to quickly scale and produce relevant, consistent, frequent content in every format.

Access. We activated a live video update between our CEO and our top managers, occurring as often as information needed to be disseminated – several times a week at first, then weekly. This provided an opportunity for managers to ask questions, voice concerns, share feedback and hear directly from leadership the decisions that had been made, what the response team was focused on, and what we required from this group. There was no anonymity. And while questions were few at first, with each gathering more questions and feedback emerged from the broader organization as managers engaged their teams by relaying messaging and content.

Tools. Managers were also given tools to share information with their teams: daily email updates and FAQs, prepared PowerPoint presentations summarizing the latest communications, previews of all employee communications, the opportunity to raise questions or concerns, and a survey following each weekly call to provide additional feedback to leadership. Feedback informed decision-making, which built trust and engendered more open communication and more feedback.

Accountability. In exchange, our CEO and leadership had to demonstrate they were listening to and acting on the feedback they received. By standing up new employee assistance programs, recording weekly all-employee video updates from the CEO, and fine tuning work-from-home capabilities, among other things, leadership was proving adaptability and encouraging teams to emerge more connected and resilient than ever before.

I read recently about moving from “panic to purpose” and it makes sense. As leaders, we must provide support, positive energy, and a sense of hope for the future to help nurture the trust we have built. We should also reinforce this through a renewed sense of relevance in times of uncertainty in accordance to and grounded by our purpose as we build a bridge to the next normal.

<![CDATA[Podcast: Developing a Return-to-Workplace Plan]]>, 29 Apr 2020 18:33:00 -0400

The ability to target, flex, optimize, and scale. These are the four principles guiding the development of a new companywide operating system at Mercury after Covid-19. Join Ian Dunn, SVP of Sensor and Mission Processing and leader of the Mercury Return-to-Workplace taskforce, as he discusses the return to healthy facilities and employee wellness and prevention.

Read the transcript

Ralph Guevarez:

Hello, and welcome to Mercury Now, a weekly podcast brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host Ralph Guevarez. Today we will be discussing the return to workplace task force. And joining me is Ian Dunn, Task Force Lead and Senior Vice President of Sensor and Mission Processing Group for Mercury Systems. Ian, hello.

Ian Dunn:

Hello, Ralph.

Ralph Guevarez:

Ian, before we dive into the task force and its functionalities, I was informed that you are amongst the few who were selected to remain at our corporate headquarters. Tell us, how have you adjusted and how long was it before there was a sense of normalcy to your workday?

Ian Dunn:

When we decided to send as many people as possible to work from home in the light of the crisis to flatten the curve, we used our business continuity playbook, which stipulates what emergency personnel will remain in the facilities and under what circumstances to ensure continued operation. As the emergency site lead for headquarters, I had remained in the facility and I've been part of the COVID-19 response deployment team, and continue to work with the staff that's still in the building on how we evolve the facility to be a safe place to work. Luckily, headquarters has very little manufacturing. So out of the almost 500 people that we had in the facility, we sent well over 80 percent of them home. In fact, there's really only about 20 people that come into the building on a regular basis.

              I'm normally on the road half the month in my role as an SVP for the company and kind of running one of the businesses. So I don't actually spend a ton of time in the facility like I am now, and have gotten in the habit of only going to the cafeteria a couple of days a week. So when you ask about, what's the facility like, obviously all of these things now are largely empty. With only 20 people in the building, I don't think I've run into someone in the cafeteria in weeks. At first, working in these nearly empty facilities was a little discombobulating. You don't run into people at coffee, people don't stop by your office. You don't even really have an excuse to get out of your chair that often, except just to go grab coffee or lunch.

              When you go to meetings, you're doing them virtually. I thought about hosting meetings in empty conference rooms, but thought that would be more distracting to the employees working from home than it was worth. So I've largely operated my job from my office and then I've just gone out as needed for lunch and snacks. One of the more interesting experience is I went down to the cafeteria on day one and thought, all right, well, I'll buy lunch. So the first thing I didn't really know was what lunch would be available because since everybody was out of the building, certainly the cafeteria was going to scale back and they had. I grabbed a salad and bought it and then I thought to myself, gosh, I don't really even know whether COVID-19 can be spread through food and this kind of food doesn't grow on trees, it has to be prepared.

              So for the first week, I have to admit, just out of sheer paranoia and not knowing what to do, I microwaved all of my purchases from the cafeteria, including one particular day where I microwave a salad, which in the end of the day, later in the week proved okay. You could eat a warm salad. But the bigger problem was the packaging that the salad came in was really not supposed to be microwaved. So I had a bit of a catastrophic packaging failure one day and so I'm used to it now. I've backed off on the protocols that I don't think are too useful personally, like microwaving salads, and have adjusted to it. Now I know fairly well who's in the building and stopped by to see how they're doing. So there's a little bit of a social protocol within the building, but not much of one.

Ralph Guevarez:

Well thank you for sharing that. I can tell you on behalf of the Mercury Team that is working from home, thank you for continuing to drive the ship, and I'm sure that I speak for many when I say we are anxious to join you again. Could you please give us a brief background on your current role at Mercury and also the scope of the task force leadership role?

Ian Dunn:

Sure. So I'm a senior vice president for the company in charge of one of the company's product divisions. In particular, the product division that I head up is really the historical core of the company. Mercury Systems used to be called Mercury Computer Systems, so the group that I run is really that original computer systems. We've done some acquisitions to augment it. So it also includes our facility in Geneva, Switzerland, it includes our new facility in Alpharetta, Georgia and also a facility in Mesa, Arizona that would not have been part of the original group that I head up.

              And all of it's focused on processing, digital processing. So really all kinds of computers and processing subsystems that go into other instruments. Defense sensors, weapons, helicopters, avionics panels. Anywhere you might now find computers in a defense environment, we're one of the potential suppliers.

              I have loved this business ever since I was here. I have been here 20 years, I came as a systems engineer originally. My graduate work was in computing, was in supercomputing and so I came to Mercury because of its status in the industry, it's still to this day one of the most important computer processing assets in the US arsenal, and so that's what brought me here and that's what drives me into those doors every day even though there I'm now one of the rare few actually in the buildings.

              As the crisis started to unfold inside of our supply chains in January, partly because we get much of our, not much of our supply, but an element or a key component of our supplies does come from Asia, from China, memory and other semiconductor components come from Asia. As the crisis unfolded in our supply chains, Mark Aslett appointed Amir Allahverdi, who was head of global operations, to manage our response from a business continuity perspective.

              At the time we didn't know how the crisis would unfold in the US and what it would mean to our employees, but to be on the safe side, Mark also established the COVID-19 executive team that meets daily actually to manage the company's overall response to the crisis. And he established a couple of really important goals at the beginning of this, that we've used on a daily basis to guide what we're doing and the decision making and the discussion that we're having around this crisis. First and foremost as he's told the employee base a number of times, it's really about protecting the health and safety and livelihood of our employees, which are really the heart and soul and kind of engines of the company. Number two, is to mitigate or reduce operational financial risk, really in support of that first goal around livelihood, to continue to deliver on our commitments to customers and shareholders, and then finally to deliver the mission critical work we do to the men and women in uniform really are our most important and customer for the company.

              So key to the success of these four principles are some very important cultures and values as well that we've found enhanced by this crisis, amazingly enough. And that's really teamwork, communication, and the overall goal that company community wants to establish, care for each other principal. And so all of that together has created an environment where we've been able to manage this crisis up to this date, create some leadership in the industry, we've been ahead of our peers and they've been asking us how we've been doing it. And so it's been a real honor and pleasure to have worked on this project so far.

Ralph Guevarez:

How is Mercury leveraging its approach to COVID to create its return to workplace strategy?

Ian Dunn:

Right, that's a great question. The leadership team, when we started this, it was started as a crisis response and we adopted a terminology that it was really a sprint. And for those of you who left on a Friday and didn't return to the facility the following Monday, it really was a sprint, right? You grabbed what you needed, the equipment, the files, the documentation, whatever you needed, and you went home with it, and many of you have been there ever since. The second phase of this, or the second period of this is really a marathon. And so Mark asked that we stand up a second task force effectively, a second group of people that we really look at this marathon phase and address the core principles that he had already established, but also work on a fifth principle then.

              And that was to foster an enduring kind of valuable legacy for the innovations that have driven us to this point, particularly the innovations in a business agility. So we've recognized some things that we do better now than we did before. And we want to take advantage of that and make that part of the Mercury culture going forward. Through surveys and direct feedback, we now know that this community led the way for its industry in that initial sprint period. And in many cases provided some guidance to people's personal communities, which we find very heartening, and we want to continue that tradition and continue to pioneer a special role for Mercury in this industry, and also continue to be a leader of information for our personal communities.

Ralph Guevarez:

So let's discuss the purpose of the task force and its desired outcomes both internally and externally. What are some of the essential principles embedded in this new Mercury operating system?

Ian Dunn:

Right, so we launched the task force really to develop a return to the workplace plan, and I'll articulate in terms of the working groups kind of what that means. But underlying that there were four operating principles that we wanted to adopt from the operations team, which has been rolling out a new operating system for the company at the company's manufacturing facilities. And when I say operating system, of course, as a computer scientists many know what that is. But in this case, we're really talking about the systems, the procedures, and the people that the company uses to conduct work, uses to conduct business. And so the four principles in this Mercury operating system are the ability to target, and that is to rapidly prioritize and refine the work that individuals and teams do to always keep in front of us the most valuable opportunities for improvement, and you can imagine how valuable that would be in a time of crisis.

              The ability to flex, right? So you don't always have the resources you need tomorrow, you need today, so you have to flex with what you have. You have to flex your systems, your people and your processes to create that, that outcome that drives future success. And that involves all the elements of your systems. So one of the fundamental key features of it is really communication. Because you have to put everything together and make people act coherently, create a systemic coherent view of what's going on and then execute opportunities for improvement against that. And again, you can imagine how important that was in this crisis where, on an hourly basis, the view of this crisis would change. Once you've targeted what you want to work on, once you've flexed up to, to create some results, built a team around what you're trying to accomplish, then you really move into optimization. And optimization is about making it a continuous enduring process, making it an efficient one and installing it in the system and getting adoption. And then the final dimension of these is scale. So target, flex, optimize, scale.

              With that in mind, we launched the taskforce and divided it up into seven working groups. And the seven working groups are a little bit time-based, and I'll describe that here in a second, but these seven working groups have the principal responsibility for designing our return to work place plan over the next couple of months, to highlight and instill in the organization that the systems and procedures we will use to execute this plan and to make some of the changes enduring, and we don't know exactly what changes yet will be in during that something that taskforce is working on.

              The two beginning work in groups are what we have named, the return to healthy facilities and the employee health wellness and prevention. These are the two foundational elements of the taskforce. Obviously our facilities, which we intend to go back to. And then the people that will be returning to them, primarily the work from home population. And so these two working groups are collaborating on that immediate plan of how to return the workforce to these facilities. Two very important, external working groups, focused on the externals are also working in coordination with these two teams. And one of them is the external benchmarking and liaison. This is the team of people that are really responsible for looking for best practices among our peers, government, industry organizations, whoever is going through the same thing we are, and of course, there's an entire globe of companies and governments doing that. This is the group that we want to hear from, with respect to, what are the best things we could be doing that's in line with our business, our cultures, and our values.

              The other external organization is really the government. The one that is responsible for monitoring government mandates and requirements that we have to meet in order to safely return our workforce to these buildings, to these facilities. If you shoot out a little bit ahead, and you say, once we start this process, or maybe once we're well underway, what would we like to preserve out of this process? We've established two additional working groups that are forward facing. One called rebooting external experiences and the other one called the workplace of the future. These are both the groups that will chart out that enduring legacy for us, be external experiences, One is about conferences and customer interfacing and visitors, all the things that we would have done just a few months ago without a second thought now need to be reinvented, rebooted, rebooted a little bit.

              And then the workplace of the future is really the one that speaks to what the facilities look like, how employees will work inside of them. There is a one other element of the task force that's diffused kind of across the whole task force, and that's really the use of technology. So those are the fundamental characteristics of the seven working groups. And we're looking already, they're formed. The teams have been working for a couple of a weeks now, and we'll probably start to see resuming the workplace plan coming out and start to be implemented over the next couple of weeks.

Ralph Guevarez:

Thank you, Ian, having a plan in place that will help reprioritize opportunities and discuss roadblocks is key to a successful return to the workplace. So, Ian, thank you for joining me today. Best of luck with the taskforce, and I wish you safety and good health.

Ian Dunn:

Ralph, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, stay safe, and I'll see you soon in Andover.

Ralph Guevarez:

This has been another edition of Mercury Now. The weekly podcast brought to you by Mercury Systems. I'm your host, Ralph Guevaraez signing off.

<![CDATA[The Hidden Cost of Compromise: Trade-Offs and Downsides of LPTA]]>, 28 Apr 2020 15:50:00 -0400

Sometimes, you just get it wrong.

Take the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Regardless of its supporters’ good intentions, it has been argued the 18th Amendment led to the transformation of criminal groups like the Mafia into sophisticated enterprises. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment; however, not in time to avoid the dramatic consequences of organized crime.

Another well-intended policy: Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA). In 2013, after numerous failed attempts to reduce the budget deficit, the U.S. Congress initiated the process of sequestration. LPTA became popular with procurement officials, but for the wrong reasons. Budget reductions and budget caps due to sequestration made cost rise to the top as a primary deciding factor in source selection—often to the detriment of technical performance. LPTA dominated the procurement mindset – grossly overshadowing the other sourcing option: the trade-off process. Where LPTA is appropriate when price is the only determining factor, the trade-off process allows for non-cost factors such as quality and performance to be considered when evaluating proposals.

The mandatory cuts to defense spending propelled the use of the LPTA initiative over the trade-off process, leading to concerns that DoD purchases of primarily low-cost products were negatively impacting the nation’s safety.

A good example of LPTA implementation proving disadvantageous can be found in defense avionics. Purchased with the LPTA policy in effect, commercially available displays, not designed for operation in avionic environments, were installed in the cockpits of both fixed- and rotary-wing military aircraft.

Commercial display products present a lower initial price tag; however, they make no guarantee of future availability, of performance within environmental constraints, of meeting optical requirements, or against electromagnetic interference (EMI). Built-to-purpose displays offer application-specific design control; long lifespans; and future form, fit, and function availability. By mitigating the risks of mission disruption from inoperability and EOL issues, purpose-built displays offer the lowest through-life costs.

Similar to the 18th amendment’s repeal, the DoD issued a final rule, effective October 1, 2019, that restricts the use of LPTA procurements. The final rule implements sections of the National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs), requiring the DoD to avoid using LPTA evaluations when doing so would deny the benefits of cost and technical trade-offs. The 2018 NDAA requires that eight conditions be met before the DoD could use LPTA procurements and sets forth a priority for best-value source selection.

  1. Minimum requirements can be described clearly and comprehensively, and expressed in terms of performance objectives, measures, and standards that will be used to determine the acceptability of offers;
  2. No, or minimal, value will be realized from a proposal that exceeds the minimum technical or performance requirements;
  3. The proposed technical approaches will require no, or minimal, subjective judgment by the source selection authority as to the desirability of one offeror's proposal versus a competing proposal;
  4. The source selection authority has a high degree of confidence that reviewing the technical proposals of all offerors would not result in the identification of characteristics that could provide value or benefit;
  5. No, or minimal, additional innovation or future technological advantage will be realized by using a different source selection process;
  6. Goods to be procured are predominantly expendable in nature, are nontechnical, or have a short life expectancy or short shelf life;
  7. The contract file contains a determination that the lowest price reflects full life-cycle costs of the product(s) or service(s) being acquired; and,
  8. The contracting officer documents the contract file describing the circumstances justifying the use of the lowest-price technically acceptable source selection process.

In addition to the above conditions, the use of LPTA procedures is expressly prohibited in procurements for the following goods and/or services:

  • Items designated by the requiring activity as personal protective equipment or an aviation critical safety item, when the requiring activity advises the contracting officer that the level of quality or failure of the equipment or item could result in combat casualties;
  • Engineering and manufacturing development for a major defense acquisition program for which budgetary authority is requested beginning in fiscal year 2019; and
  • Contracts for auditing services.

Conditions 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 speak directly to how the technological advantages of purpose-built displays were a casualty of LPTA and how its narrow, continued practice could be detrimental to the DoD’s mission. Mercury’s mission-critical display line delivers highly specialized AMLCDs with each characteristic of the AMLCD made configurable: resolution, color depth, color saturation, display technology, and mechanical packaging to fulfill all application requirements. Environmental factors, such as high and low temperature ranges, and vibration and shock exposures, are accounted for during the display’s design to bolster operation in rugged environments. Built-to-purpose displays, engineered to meet the demanding environmental and optical requirements of military applications without making critical trade-offs in performance, are especially affected – and stimulated – by this new final rule.

Sometimes, you just get it wrong. A rule put in place to solve one problem can create another. The DoD’s final rule endeavors to rectify the unwanted effects of the LPTA policy. The new rule clarifies that goods from commercial suppliers should not be given favor over the technological advantages gained through innovation provided by experts in aerospace and defense industry simply due to low cost. Cheers!

<![CDATA[Operating at the Speed of Relevance]]>, 20 Apr 2020 10:01:00 -0400

In my previous blog, “A Crisis Like No Other,” I shared the challenges the COVID-19 crisis has posed that have both reinforced communication best practices and motivated us to respond differently. In this blog, I wanted to focus on an idea I presented – Crisis response is not about perfection; it demands innovative solutions to difficult circumstances – and delve into the actions our teams at Mercury took to implement innovative approaches in a rapidly evolving time.

In the beginning, at the leadership level, our CEO began by pulling together and leading a cross-functional response team. We quickly defined four goals that would inspire our employees and guide our strategies: to protect the health, safety and livelihoods of our people; to continue to deliver on our commitments to customers and stakeholders; to mitigate or reduce operational and financial risks to the business; and to continue the mission-critical work Mercury does every day to support the ongoing security of our nation, out brave men and women in uniform and the communities in which we live.

He then charged the team to operate with a bias towards action: limit reporting, come with solutions, reach consensus, and implement. With dynamic decision-making the primary objective of the corporate response team, it quickly became clear that our Marketing Communications (MarCom) team needed to mirror this organizational and structural model so we could intercept, collaborate, and quickly operationalize the decisions that were ours to execute.

As MarCom took stock of what we needed to accomplish, it was important to determine how to best activate our team in order to respond to these new challenges. First, we had to quickly reorient everyone – evaluating who did what, what strengths or special skills each team member had, and how we could best leverage those while taking into considering the very human fact that different people have different reactions to crisis.

We also had to balance our various responsibilities to avoid burnout in what would no doubt require around-the-clock availability, so we implemented a “duty” calendar where “on-call” responsibilities rotated through the team leadership. There is a high-performance team aspect of crisis: you discover who you can lean on and what people can do. It was imperative that my team understand the priorities, the sense of urgency, and remained aligned with the corporate goals during the crisis; we were focused on the livelihood of our employees, so our communications and employee-engagement strategies and tactics needed to reflect this.

At the same time, our mantra was (and continues to be) to “move at the speed of relevance.” We immediately implemented a 30-minute daily crisis communications meetup with a core group tasked with alignment on prioritization and rapid execution. Our regular marketing team cadence was replaced with a new accelerated one. We focused on flexing – ‘reorganizing’ to ensure speedy decision-making – and were able to tighten up, partly by simultaneously ‘flattening’ the decision making process, and thus respond more nimbly and efficiently to continuous disruption.

It also became clear that one action team was not enough, that we needed several teams who were designed to be responsive for discrete areas of accountability. For example, in addition to our executive MarCom team, we stood up a team to focus on communicating to our external customers and a similar team to ensure the ongoing marketing initiatives stayed on track. By replicating and creating a network of teams, we were able to reap the rewards of being independent, taking personal responsibility of the decisions we made, and turbo-charging our decision making in order to “move at the speed of relevance.”

In my next blog, I’m going to discuss how we applied the concept of flattening the decision-making process to communications, breaking down barriers across the company and building trust. Stay tuned…

<![CDATA[Podcast: The Defense Industry Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic]]>, 14 Apr 2020 11:53:00 -0400

I was recently invited by John McHale, editorial director of Military Embedded Systems, to join him on his podcast, The McHale Report, and discuss some aspects of the defense industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As John points out, although defense-related businesses are deemed essential and allowed to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, this doesn't mean that our employees and supply chain are not feeling the impact of this global crisis. I wanted to highlight some standout moments for me from the conversation as we talked about what we are seeing and dealing with, how we’re doing it, and what we are seeing coming down the road.

Supply Chain. COVID has brought the supply chain to the forefront. And as our VP of supply chain, Ash Hall, wrote in his recent blog, “Supply chain is having to flex muscles we haven’t had to use in the past to mitigate the extreme risks this pandemic places on our business. And we’re not alone.” However, one of the topics I discussed with John was how supply chain disruption went from international at the outset to domestic in nature. As we saw a lack of certain companies granted “essential” status and different specific manufacturing locations being affected (such as Boeing in Puget Sound), the domestic supply chain became of more direct concern. In addition, we witnessed many in our industry ultimately pivoting to managing and leveraging our supply chain strength to focus on helping manufacturing companies assist with Defense Production Act-related scaling (creating medical devices, PPE).

Small Businesses in the Industry. I spoke with John about the progress around the DoD’s and major Primes’ support of small businesses within the defense industry. There is definitely a realization that for smaller businesses and small suppliers it comes down to cash flow, and we’re seeing performance payments with net-zero, net-eight and other terms favorable to these companies. I also reflected on lessons learned from the massive impact on the industrial base due to sequestration, and how our industry became more supportive more quickly during COVID as a result of that experience.

Mergers and Acquisitions. While COVID has impacted M&A at a base level related to general social distancing guidelines, because deals are so often dependent on face-to-face interactions, it has also slowed the process to a deafening quiet. We find ourselves in a turbulent economic market, which makes it extremely difficult to determine the value of an asset and to secure financing challenges.

Communications. Our engagement with all stakeholders has had to ramp up in order to achieve what we consider communications success. We are communicating far more frequently and remaining very engaged with our shareholders, industry associations and our customers. We also had to pause as we saw a slowdown in communications from our customers as they adjusted to new work-from-home situations and updated their workflow processes as a result, allowing our customers time for their own communications modifications. Equally as important is the attention we paid to internal communications happening at the “speed of relevance.” We had to implement a new rapid dissemination of information and decision making, and get alignment throughout the organization.

The Future for Employees. After moving to a virtual environment and finding ourselves in a prolonged socially distanced calendar, our upcoming challenge as leaders is to figure out how we get our people into a routine and way of working that is more sustainable in nature. In addition, we need to consider how we can continue our efforts to support employees and their families as they endure and eventually enter a recovery period from economic hardships due to COVID.

<![CDATA[A Crisis Like No Other]]>, 08 Apr 2020 10:59:00 -0400

As communications leaders, crisis communication has always been part of our professional responsibilities, but this crisis has posed a variety of distinct challenges that have both reinforced best practices and motivated us to respond differently. Why?

This crisis is global. Crises tend to be circumscribed, wreaking havoc on a single industry, a particular sector, or an individual company. This pandemic has affected and continues to affect everyone. That means we are all in crisis at the same time, making it all the more urgent to be present. How? Provide relevant and timely information; offer solutions to the new challenges being faced; and communicate with empathy at a time when compassion and reassurance are needed.

Consequences are social. Social distancing adds complexity to fostering community and engaging a remote workforce during a crisis. Many people are working from home – trying to do our work virtually – requiring patience and quickly adapting and learning new ways to operate. For some, the change blurs personal and professional demands – balancing the needs of children now schooling at home and sharing household responsibilities in ways that require greater flexibility. And while the need for relevant and timely communication is as important now as with any other crisis, communication during COVID-19 requires engaging stakeholders in ways that leverage the tools that serve largely remote and dispersed workforces. Now more than ever, our teams are craving community, so our challenge is to find new ways to nurture community and to inspire new methods in our digital workplace.

COVID-19 is personal. We all know, or soon will know, someone who is severely affected by the virus – battling COVID-19, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of community – and as a result, we are connected in our struggles with grief and loss. Rebuilding will take time. It will challenge us to be patient. And, it will require transparency and trust. Though we need to be resilient, we also need to treat each other with kindness and respect. We must find ways to promote courage and innovation in a time of change and loss and demonstrate confidence that we will get through this together and be stronger for it.

New Solutions for a New Normal

Crisis response is not about perfection; it demands innovative solutions to difficult circumstances. A global pandemic provides a sober reminder of the criticality of moving at “the speed of relevance,” and enabling rapid decision making to unleash inventive solutions to pressing challenges. While we at Mercury have prided ourselves on a culture that values, among other things, a sense of urgency and a commitment to our purpose – Innovation That Matters – the COVID-19 crisis propelled our team into a new orbit. Innovative approaches across the business have emerged and have been implemented in rapid sequence, from a new process to mitigate supply chain risk in real time to standing up an employee relief fund in 48 hours.

Now more than ever, we must strive to inspire trust and hope. In addition to adhering to the traditional tenets of crisis communications, such as transparency, consistency and timeliness, this crisis has required us as leaders to ensure we are clearly communicating our goals and strategies while also providing hope for a future that will be different from our current experience. As we navigate the path ahead, we must begin to consider who we want to be when we emerge from this crisis and, perhaps more importantly, how we convey that to our team in a way that inspires trust, confidence, and hope—all of which are necessary as we prepare for the New Normal.

<![CDATA[Finding New Supply Chain Muscles in a COVID-19 World]]>, 03 Apr 2020 16:49:00 -0400

While I’ve tried to refrain from using the new cliché “these are unprecedented times,” I can’t think of a better way to describe what we are facing with COVID-19.  Like the other functions within Mercury Systems, supply chain is having to flex muscles we haven’t had to use in the past to mitigate the extreme risks this pandemic places on our business. And we’re not alone.

In late January/early February, when news of the coronavirus and its devastating wake in China became more well known, I felt a brief moment of relief that Mercury Systems doesn’t have direct suppliers from China (except for very few/one-off situations). That naïve security was quickly shattered as I considered the levels within our supply chain – our suppliers, their suppliers, their suppliers’ suppliers, etc. At some point, someone will be reliant on components from China. Supply chain managers whose previous concerns were one or two levels down into their supply chains now find themselves rolling up their sleeves and diving more deeply.

Assessing Risk

For complex systems of materials and factories, the basic assumption that underlies success is that risk is diffused throughout the supply chain and can be managed through lead-time optimizations and evaluation of individual supply chains. For COVID-19, this process proved to be not only inadequate, it also ran the risk of further exacerbating supply chain risks.

Within weeks, this was no longer a China or an Asia issue. We quickly realized the standard supplier risk management process we launched at Mercury Systems only last summer had to be adjusted, yet again, to more accurately pinpoint COVID-19-related risks to enable effective mitigation actions. Some of the criteria we are using to assess the risk of each supplier are the impact their failure could have on the business, based on the time and cost to recover, and the likelihood of failure. For COVID-19, we streamlined the model to focus on three areas:

  • Sourcing options (single/sole sourced, supplier-owned IP, availability of alternate parts or sources)
    • Financial stress on the supplier (will the supplier be able to weather this storm?)
    • Likelihood of supplier being shut down by local government

Based on the assessments of the suppliers, which are now reviewed and updated daily, we generated a heat map and focused on the suppliers in the “red risk” areas to determine appropriate mitigation plans. 

Mitigating Risk

We determined the number one action to mitigate risk would be to pull in the supplier deliveries of material required for Q4 as soon as possible, with Q1 and Q2 as a second priority. This process requires a stronger alignment across functions, starting from revenue forecasting through planning down to procurement—a precursor to the SIOP process (sales, inventory and operations planning) that is being piloted across certain sections of our business. That sounds simple, but in practice, the amount of time it takes to get information across an entire supply chain can be challenging. In this current crisis, we are able to evolve this process much faster than it would have taken under normal circumstances.

Other mitigation actions to reduce supplier risk are:

  • Identifying alternate suppliers
  • Identifying alternate parts
  • Partnering with sales, programs, contracts and engineering on expedited customer approvals for sourcing changes
  • Providing financial support to struggling suppliers (especially small businesses)

But there are many other new ways we can all consider and questions to ask as we wrestle with better managing our supply chains, including:

  • Performing a deeper analysis of our suppliers’ supply chains – where do our suppliers’ sub-tier fabricate, manufacture, assemble, test, etc.?
  • Tying the delivery of our material to the customer programs, directly linking procurement impact to revenue
  • Implementing a structured daily cadence across all procurement teams to ensure delivery to manufacturing schedules

While this pandemic is driving my organization – and many others – out of its comfort zone, we are learning to build a coalition of people and practices that will be vital tools long after this virus has been contained. Since working from home, I’ve started exercising again (more for my mental than physical health), and I am feeling aches and pains I haven’t felt in a long time.  Much the same, as we continue to flex these unfamiliar supply chain muscles to tackle the new challenges presented by COVID-19, I am certain we will become a stronger function within company operations.

<![CDATA[Reigniting the Defense Innovation Base for a New Industry Paradigm]]>, 01 Apr 2020 10:23:00 -0400

Our industry finds itself at a critical juncture.

In recent months, the global pandemic COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world, infecting and killing tens of thousands of people, with few signs of slowing. The global supply chain and many regional economies have ground to a halt as countries seek to mitigate the impacts of the virus. Like many other essential businesses, our industry has had to quickly assess the impact of COVID-19 and maintain continuity of mission-critical business operations, all while focusing on the health and safety of our employees.

However, even before the threat of a global crisis, companies have been operating within a new geopolitical paradigm, and the U.S. government has faced an entirely new generation of potential threats. In recent years, the global landscape has continued – if not accelerated – its shift to a multipolar structure led by a handful of primary adversarial powers. In parallel, the threats for which these powers are preparing are undergoing rapid and foundational change. From electronic warfare to space superiority, international governments are grappling with an increased set of unfamiliar risks and new battlespaces that necessitate a fundamental shift in their approach to national security.

The future remains uncertain, in large part due to this global crisis, and once we emerge from the pandemic, we must take a close look at the changes needed throughout the defense contracting industry to ensure its future success. 

A Robust Industry – With a Need for Change

A paradox is manifesting itself in the defense contracting industry. Defined by historically consistent returns, our sector has traditionally been a healthy vertical overall. Defense companies have a distinct financial advantage – particularly compared to our commercially focused counterparts – because the DoD funds much of the upfront capital, R&D expenditure and production working capital for any given project. The DoD then purchases products at higher margins for many years as programs shift to production. Coupled with infrequent – albeit relatively expensive – upgrades, high-margin international sales and the fact that incumbents hold a distinct advantage in the industry, many defense contractors find themselves operating in a business-friendly environment.

Nevertheless, we are facing several new and growing potential vulnerabilities that require an evolved approach. In addition to the unknown future impacts of COVID-19, a growing national debt, historically low interest rates and increases in non-defense discretionary spending are potential headwinds in defense spending overall. Across the industry, we have continued to witness consolidation that winnows both the volume and diversity of technology providers. From Northrop Grumman’s acquisition of Orbital ATK, to the industry-altering mergers between Raytheon and United Technologies Corp. and Harris Corp. and L3, respectively, the number of innovative public-sector specialists has shrunk considerably in just the past few years.

Moreover, from a research and development standpoint, we’ve collectively settled for IR&D and capital expenditure rates of 2–3 percent as an acceptable status quo. However, we should not and cannot settle for rates that are inadequate for the goals we define for ourselves. For example, our high-tech counterparts on the commercial side regularly invest upwards of 10 percent of revenue on IR&D. With federal IR&D rates that pale in comparison, and acknowledging that the public sector is often too small and complex for high-tech commercial companies to penetrate, the defense industry finds itself at a distinct disadvantage for readily accessing the foremost technologies for mission-critical and national security needs.

A Long-Term Framework for Success

As new, emerging threats become more prevalent and require dedicated attention, contractors must make substantive investment in new technologies and innovations a strategic priority.

Complicating matters, the continued global spread of COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented acute threat to the vitality of our business and presents an issue we will need to collectively address. In its wake, we must evaluate the industry overall and must especially consider material and fundamental changes to our approach in order to ensure our long-term success, including: 

  1. Evolving defense procurement and acquisition policies. Whether due to bureaucratic red tape, cumbersome regulatory policies or the complex nature of defense technology, there is a lack of defense industry participation among high-tech commercial companies. By creating ease of entry into the public sector, the addition of more high-end commercial expertise will challenge industry incumbents to innovate and deliver, driving the industry forward as a whole.
  2. Reestablishing and fostering a healthy, innovative mid-tier base. In some respects, industry consolidation has been a boon to the sector, increasing the scale of solutions that we’re able to provide to our customers. But what we’ve gained in scale we’ve lost in diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. In order to foster continued innovation, we must recognize the importance of and reestablish a robust mid-tier base.
  3. Making a greater effort to attract and retain talent by focusing on both innovation and purpose. Companies are only as successful as the people within them. We must not only undertake a dedicated effort to attract the foremost talent in technology, but also foster a culture of both purpose and innovation in order to retain and develop that expertise for years to come.
  4. Fostering partnerships with peers. Whether with traditional or non-traditional partners, as an industry, we must make every effort to collaborate with others – including commercial, government and academic entities – in a way that unlocks new efficiencies and increased investment to drive the industry forward.

Our industry finds itself with a steady track record of success but also a need to evolve to realize our collective potential.

Getting there will not be easy. It will require shifting priorities, making difficult decisions, forging new relationships and transforming our approach to the industry as we currently understand it.

As we look to the future and continue to function at the service of the public sector, these are vital decisions that will determine the success of our industry, and the defense industry’s capabilities, for decades to come.

<![CDATA[The Importance of Maintaining our National Security in Times of Crisis]]>, 27 Mar 2020 13:54:00 -0400

The United States currently finds itself in an unprecedented human health crisis that will test the collective resolve of both the U.S. government and the American public. In just a few short weeks, we’ve transitioned from a historically robust economy to one in which there is a dedicated focus on essential goods and the health of Americans. At Mercury, we’re committed to doing our part to help ensure the health and financial safety of all of our employees.

But in this time of crisis, we cannot lose sight of critical strategic priorities, including the United States’ national security. Safeguarding our nation requires continued persistence in the face of challenges. The president recently issued updated Coronavirus Guidance for America. This guidance states that:   

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security…you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”   

However, this is just guidance, not law. While our experience, thus far, has been state-level recognition of the importance of “critical infrastructure industry” businesses like ours, making exceptions to “stay-at-home” orders, it is still our nation’s defense being decided at the state level. We need legislation that reinforces the importance of these industries and keeps them operational and stabilized in times of crisis.

While continuing to comply with global and local health authorities’ guidance and protecting our employees remains our top priority, we must continue our work on critical programs that help ensure our collective safety and security. These are trying times, but I have as much confidence as ever in America’s ability to rally around a common goal in service of our country’s success. For our part, Mercury is committed to continuing the advancement of Innovation That Matters in support of the aerospace and defense industry, which will play a key role in America’s national security for decades to come.

<![CDATA[Message From the President & CEO – Coronavirus Update ]]>, 26 Mar 2020 13:27:00 -0400

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact people and countries around the world. This is a time of extraordinary circumstances and uncertainty. It’s also a time when the work we’re doing in support of strategic national priorities is recognized as critical.

At Mercury, we remain laser-focused on four goals we established: To protect the health, safety and livelihoods of our people; to mitigate or reduce operational and financial risks to the business; to continue to deliver on our commitments to customers and shareholders; and to continue the mission-critical work Mercury does every day to support the ongoing security of our nation, our brave men and women in uniform, and the communities in which we all live. We are also increasingly focused on “leading from the front,” communicating as frequently and openly as possible to help keep all stakeholders informed of the latest developments here, which are occurring at a very rapid pace.

I’d like to lead off by saying we have no confirmed COVID employee cases and our collective goal is to do our very best to keep it that way. Even before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we recognized the need to take advantage of early windows of opportunity, to develop plans to possibly prevent or at least minimize the impact of an incident to employees and the business, and to have continued decisive, proactive responses to a constantly developing situation that are in keeping with our purpose, our commitment to corporate stewardship as well as our culture and values. I’d like to share the things we are doing to accomplish company goals established many weeks ago.

Teams and Communications

To best keep our company informed as a whole, from an overarching leadership perspective we have:

  • Involved our executive board, creating a steering team that meets multiple times each week;
  • Created a COVID-19 FAQ document for employees, which is updated daily to include the most recent company information as well as that of local, state and federal authorities; and,
  • Established a weekly call with all managers to discuss business continuity information, which is then disseminated across the company.

Health and Wellness

At Mercury, our number one priority is to protect the health, safety and livelihoods of our employees. As such, we have:

  • Instituted a policy of 120 hours additional sick leave for employees for Coronavirus-related circumstances to incent unwell people to stay home;
  • Increased pay for all overtime to two times the regular rate from March 28–April 13 (or beyond if we need to extend our current work-from-home timeline);
  • Established a relief fund, starting at $1M, to assist eligible Mercury employees, including temporary agency employees, experiencing unexpected financial burdens as a result of this crisis;
  • Committed to covering our employees’ base pay during the time a facility may be shut down;
  • Waived the telemedicine co-pay for employees;
  • Announced an Uber Eats account for employees to have access to company-paid meals;
  • Set up a work-from-home program, moving more than 900 employees off sites until April 13;
  • Expanded network capacity for work and home;
  • Moved to virtual interviewing and onboarding where possible;
  • Created information packets and curated online resources for managers and employees to maximize productivity;
  • Put in place segregation areas and other social distancing requirements at all of our facilities in adherence to recommended guidelines; and,
  • Placed a hold on all international and domestic travel, requiring 14 days of self-isolation after any business and/or personal travel.

Facility Protocols

Because much of the critical work we do cannot be done from home, we have implemented the following preventive measures at all of our facilities and are working every day to improve upon these measures.

  • Limited non-essential site visits by internal and external visitors;
  • Limited essential site visits to specific conference rooms/areas;
  • Implemented environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols based on CDC and other recommendations;
  • Instituted a no-physical-greeting policy, i.e., handshakes, etc.;
  • Ordered masks and sanitizers for all on-site employees;
  • Posted COVID-19 CDC information sheets throughout all facilities; and,
  • Created plans and protocols for confirmed-case and site-shutdown scenarios.

I’d like to offer my most sincere gratitude to the people working on the frontline of this crisis who put their health at risk every day. Their selfless acts serve as inspiration. For our part, we will continue to lean forward and continue to take care of our employees and customers, but in keeping with our culture and values, we ask that you continue to help those in your communities who are in most need during this crisis. There are many people and companies in our communities who will be impacted more severely than we have been thus far. And it is in times like these that we so often see the best in people. Let’s work together to be agents of good.

<![CDATA[The Role of HR in a Time of Crisis. It’s All About Trust]]>, 23 Mar 2020 18:47:00 -0400

Over the past few years, the Mercury HR team has been focusing on building strong relationships between us and leadership, employees and external business resources. It may be an odd thing to think about, but the COVID-19 pandemic has now shown us the importance of that focus. In a time of stress and the unknown, those relationships are helping us be a critical part of what is going on in these unprecedented times. It has allowed us to make innovative decisions quickly with input from multiple sources, to get information out to our employees faster than ever, and to be there for them as they deal with the unknown by providing reassurance that the company will take care of them. Given the massive and rapid changes to workplace culture, we now find ourselves with a need to further commit to a trust-based workplace culture: Business and management trust employees working from home to be productive; HR trusts our external providers of work-from-home (WFH) technology to deliver; employees trust HR to keep them informed, protected, and engaged. #OneMecury thrives on trust.  

The coronavirus has imposed a WFH culture on myriad businesses in many countries. But this has allowed HR professionals to lean in – to put our education and training into practice by providing information, protection, and engagement to our employees who look to us…who trust us. 

There are several things we are doing at Mercury specific to recent COVID-19 developments that nurture our new, trust-based workplace culture.

Working from Home – Protected, Engaged, and Connected

Nearly everyone is doing this now. Placing the care and protection of employees as priority one was an early signal to them that trust is foundational; that we are committed both to protecting them and to treating them as the professionals they are.

However, there are several intricacies that we incorporated with our WFH program to better reinforce our commitment to living up to the trust placed in us. So, yes, we employed the tools we have been investing in over the years, although on a much larger scale than perhaps originally planned, to help our people work ably and comfortably from home. However, it seems we are now understanding their value in new ways.

For years, Mercury has used Skype—the communications app that provides video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices—and Basecamp—a project management tool that helps create efficiencies—among other tech tools. And our teams have continued their use during our current mandatory WFH policy, but what is emerging is a new value beyond business applications. We’re seeing these business tools put to use to remain virtually connected, helping combat a feeling of social isolation since we are no longer collocated. Our managers are hosting daily video check-ins with teams – seeing their faces, sharing their days, sharing their struggles. And now we are seeing the rise of virtual happy hours hosted by management/leadership, with families and friends welcome to attend. Project management platforms are becoming spaces for casual chats, places to post pictures of WFH setups, inspiring stories of service, and tools to share cartoons or memes related to the challenges of working from home while your whole family is hunkered down with you. By supplying our employees with tools like these, we are earning the trust they have placed in us to help them still feel engaged in a moment of crisis. Using connection for connection.

Economic Well-Being – Offering Another Level of Protection

Our continued support also means addressing and helping remove undue burdens that are outside of our employees’ control – especially those that are financial in nature – caused by the change in landscape due to COVID-19. Navigating this uncharted territory has particular challenges. Perhaps our employees are juggling responsibilities with limited or no childcare, taking on home-schooling duties they never anticipated, dealing with the stress of a partner who finds themselves temporarily unemployed, or suddenly having more family members at home to care for. With this comes unexpected financial strains. At Mercury, we have established the Mercury Employee COVID-19 Relief Fund, an employee reserve initially capitalized at $1 million, to support those in most need. This includes an immediate relief payment for hourly employees who are not able to work from home. It also includes discretionary funds to be allocated to those hourly employees struggling with severe financial challenges brought about by COVID-19. While there may be more to do in the coming days and weeks, our hope is that this financial relief fund will help mitigate impacts of the virus on our most valuable stakeholders – our employees. We also updated our PTO policy to include an additional 80 hours of sick leave for those with Coronavirus-related circumstances. We didn’t want our employees to lose well-deserved vacation time or burn through regular sick time because of this unexpected crisis. We want them to trust we always have their overall well-being in mind – financial or physical – and rest assured they can count on it as we move forward.


How else can we live up to the trust our employees have in us to keep them informed in times like these other than to communicate – early and often. As our HR policies rapidly evolve to keep up with changes necessitated by this pandemic, our employees will understandably feel uncertain and look to us for ongoing and clear communication of policies. At Mercury, we placed an easily recognizable link to COVID-19 resources and documents on our company intranet, accessible with just a click. This includes the following:

  • FAQs that are regularly updated, with update alerts emailed companywide
  • Social distancing guidelines
  • News articles
  • A link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Company documents
    • CEO messages/videos
    • How to submit time-off requests due to COVID

In addition, we employ Everbridge, an application that automates and accelerates our operational response to critical events in order to keep people safe and business running. During public safety threats or critical business events, this mass alert system enables us to quickly and reliably aggregate and assess threat data, locate people at risk, identify responders able to assist, automate the delivery of pre-defined, secure communications to a variety of employee devices, and track progress on executing our response plans.

I believe we are at a crossroad with COVID-19. As HR professionals, we should use our experience with COVID-19 as an opportunity to lean in to developing and nurturing a trust-based workplace culture, inventing new and different ways to convey this to our employees. At Mercury, we believe the opportunities presented us by the challenges of this new landscape will only reinforce the values of our culture and the purpose to which we are all committed: Innovation That Matters.

<![CDATA[Our Commitment to Combating COVID-19]]>, 17 Mar 2020 12:30:00 -0400

As the world – especially government and business leaders – continues to respond to the novel coronavirus taking center stage on the global agenda, we recognize that these uncertain times require an even greater responsibility to our people, customers and partners.

As ever, we remain focused on the health and safety of our teams – and supporting them through myriad ways in keeping with our culture and values as well as our purpose.

From promoting social distancing through flexible work from home arrangements and suspending nonessential travel, to establishing a cadence of regular communication and conducting deep cleaning at all of our facilities, we have taken immediate action to help ensure our workforce’s safety.

Our continued support also means removing undue burdens from our employees that are outside of their control – especially those that are financial in nature.

As a step in that direction, we have established the Mercury Employee COVID-19 Relief Fund, an employee reserve of up to $1 million USD, to support those in most need. This includes an immediate relief payment for hourly employees who are not able to work from home. It also includes discretionary funds to be allocated to those hourly employees struggling with severe financial challenges brought about by COVID-19. While there may be more to do in the coming days and weeks, our hope is that this financial relief fund will help mitigate impacts of the virus on our most valuable stakeholders – our team members.

These are trying times and uncharted territory for businesses around the world. The days ahead will be challenging, but now more than ever, I am proud to represent an organization defined by a collective spirit of compassion and steadfast resolve in face of adversity. As One Mercury we are working hand-in-hand – both internally and with our customers – to ensure our continued success. Thank you for your continued support.

<![CDATA[Mercury and HPE have teamed up, and here are five reasons aerospace and defense should care]]>, 03 Mar 2020 17:51:00 -0500

Earlier this month, we announced an exciting new collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to bring the world’s most comprehensive ecosystem of hardware and software modules to the edge of the battlefield. This will deliver an exceptional balance of performance, storage, reliability, manageability and efficiency for data-intensive defense and aerospace applications such as aeronautical engineering, satellite communications, guidance and tracking systems, destructive and non-destructive materials testing, propulsion and engine testing, surveillance and electronic warfare, impact studies, mechanical testing and vibration analysis.

Our new RES-XR6 Alliance server line makes this a reality, leveraging HPE’s mature and field-proven data center server platform (ProLiant) with its market-leading technologies and vast ecosystem of hardware/software modules, and coupling that with TAA-compliant components, U.S.-designed firmware, and threat-protection enhancements.

RES-XR6 HPE Mercury Systems Alliance
The power of HP Enterprise solutions meets the rugged, trusted, mission-critical technologies of Mercury Systems in the RES-XR6 Alliance servers

Top Five Benefits 

  1. Trade Agreements Act (TAA) compliance. The new RES-XR6 Alliance product line integrates TAA-compliant components with advanced threat protection features along with U.S.-designed firmware embedded in HPE silicon to meet customer requirements and reduce the risk of possible malicious components.
  2. Scalable compute platform. Allows users to scale HPE infrastructure, features and the applications that rely on them from the data center to edge/defense applications. This includes key features such as processor and memory sparing (redundant processors and memory) that deliver high availability and prevent single points of failure.
  3. Enterprise-grade management. Embedded management with HPE iLO 5. HPE Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) allows users to configure, monitor and update HPE servers seamlessly from anywhere in the world. Featuring the latest innovations in simplified operations, performance and security, HPE iLO allows the management of an entire server infrastructure with ease.  For HPE ProLiant Gen10 servers, iLO 5 provides several new improvements in security, speed and simplicity (some features require an optional iLO Advanced license).
  4. Reduced latency and reliable performance. HPE’s jitter-smoothing technology mitigates processor frequency fluctuation to reduce latency and deliver deterministic and reliable performance, ideal for high-performance computing such as the processing of sensor mission data. Jitter smoothing is available on all Intel-based Gen10 servers with iLO 5 and an iLO Advanced (or above) license.
  5. Secure supply chain. ProLiant components are shipped directly from HPE’s secure shipping with tamper-evident seals and tracking. For customers building highly sensitive mission-critical applications, these components can be assembled in a secure U.S. facility with TS/SCI-cleared personnel. Mercury and HPE flows down NIST 800-53 Supply Chain Security and DFARS counterfeit requirements to component manufacturers.

Our collaboration with HPE is an excellent example of how we make trusted, secure mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible to the aerospace and defense customers that need them. In this case, deploying hyperscale data center processing to accelerate mission-critical defense and tactical edge applications. But don’t just take it from us—see what Sam Ceccola, HPE’s DoD Account Technologist, had to say about our partnership and the benefits it will deliver.

Earlier this month, we announced an exciting new collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to bring the world’s most comprehensive ecosystem of hardware and software modules to the edge of the battlefield.

<![CDATA[ETT 2020 Recap: Accessibility and Innovation in Embedded Technologies]]>, 06 Feb 2020 14:02:00 -0500

On January 27 and 28, Mercury Systems joined VITA and some of the leading minds in embedded systems in Atlanta, Georgia, for Embedded Technology Trends (ETT) 2020 – a comprehensive forum on the latest trends and developments in the industry. This year, suppliers of component-, board- and system-level solutions joined industry media to discuss the path forward for continued innovation in embedded systems, and how best to carry that innovation over into the government and defense sectors.

Mercury Systems is proud to work in close partnership with our peers and organizations like VITA on the most challenging and important issues facing aerospace and defense. As in years past, ETT 2020 surfaced several key observations that validate our commitment to enabling affordable public-sector access to the most advanced commercial technologies.

AI Applications Driving the Industry Forward

More than almost anything else, the promise of new AI applications for embedded computing was top of mind at ETT this year. Among other topics, attendees wrestled with how to integrate the immense computing power required by AI into existing and upcoming platforms.

On Monday, January 27, Mercury’s Devon Yablonski, Principal Project Manager for Artificial Intelligence, gave a detailed look at how new applications leveraging AI are being translated to the defense industry, specifically at the tactical edge.

Devon demonstrated how a mirrored datacenter architecture is being built into aerospace and defense platforms that may not have access to the cloud, creating potentially significant challenges for data processing. As a solution, high-performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC) is transferring the data center to the edge, with the built-in security, trust, miniaturization, environmental protective packaging and cooling required for in-theater operation. This in turn is making military platforms smarter, more independent and more autonomous.

Moore’s Law Continues to Prevail

There was also much discussion at ETT regarding how (and how quickly) embedded computing technology will develop moving forward. As advancement through transistor miniaturization approaches an end, some have questioned whether Moore’s Law – the notion that the number of transistors on a given microchip will double every two years, with simultaneous reductions in costs – will hold true.

In his January 28 presentation, Mercury’s Tom Smelker, Vice President & General Manager of Custom Microelectronics Solutions, described advances in 2.5D packaging which dispelled some of those doubts, and suggested that the next phase of development will come from heterogeneous integration of silicon or chiplets – as predicted in the last page of Moore’s Law.

Among other advancements, 2.5D packaging will help continue to drive the industry forward by increasing time-to-market roughly 3x compared to monolithic design, reducing timelines from 3-4 years to 12-18 months.

Open Standards Are a Must

While there was collective optimism at ETT 2020, there was also some doubt regarding the future of open standards at the chip level. At present, chiplet manufacturers design using different, sometimes proprietary, chip-to-chip interfaces, creating inherent inefficiencies that have the potential to hamper growth.

In his presentation, Tom suggested that continued stagnation on establishing universal standards might ultimately dampen projected advances in cost efficiency and development time, as companies continue to operate under multiple standards.

Of course, the question then becomes how best to move forward on open standards. While that question remains unanswered, the conversations we had at ETT 2020 – including detailed analyses of new technologies as well as best practices for consensus-building – leave us ever optimistic about the path ahead.

<![CDATA[Delivering Trusted and Game-Changing Technology and Answering Industry Demands: Observations From AUSA 2019]]>, 05 Nov 2019 12:57:00 -0500

On the Main Stage

Mercury Systems recently joined some of the foremost defense and technology companies in the world at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The annual gathering is one of the most prominent events for companies operating in or with the public sector, and brings private sector innovation together with some of the senior-most military officials in the world, all in the name of supporting and protecting the warfighter.

This year’s meeting was particularly special for us here at Mercury Systems as we announced a $15M USD investment in our secure microelectronics capabilities, the latest step in an ongoing effort to enhance our capabilities in the space dating back to our 2016 acquisition of Microsemi’s custom microelectronics business. As a company working hand-in-hand with some of the most prominent names in silicon technology, and with a proud legacy of partnership with the public sector, we are uniquely positioned to transfer private-side innovation to the defense industry. 

An Exciting Time for Our Industry

From in-person meetings with our peers, to broader industry buzz on the show floor, to our own events on-site, this year’s event revealed some key insights that remind us of the challenges ahead, and give us confidence that we’re on the right path.

Silicon Manufacturing Is Moving Just as Fast as We Thought

It’s no secret that silicon manufacturing is moving at breakneck speed – made even more apparent during a fireside conversation between our new Chief Technology Officer Dr. William (Bill) Conley, our VP and GM Tom Smelker and Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Their discussion focused on the state of play in secure microelectronics and reaffirmed the need for innovation that matters in the public sector.

Private Sector Investment Is an Absolute Imperative

Conversations at the event not only underscored the speed with which the industry is moving, but also made clear the need for private sector investment in order for the defense community to keep pace with the latest technologies. Silicon technologies are advancing at a rate that simply cannot be met by the defense community alone, so it is critical that public sector entities with mission-critical needs have access to innovation via a trusted private sector conduit. At Mercury, we’re packaging the foremost advances in silicon technology at DMEA-accredited facilities, transferring private sector innovation over into the defense community in a secure manner.

Trust is Key

This month’s event also further highlighted the eagerness in the industry for a bridge from the public to private sector that will advance the U.S.’s national security interests and protect its warfighters, and I’m especially proud that we are helping to transform the intersection of technology and defense, making leading-edge ‘defense-ready’ processing capabilities profoundly more accessible. While we drive innovation, the Department of Defense must ensure military technology is being manufactured in a secure, trusted environment. Mercury is uniquely equipped to resolve these immense impediments by transferring breakthrough advances in technology to the defense industry affordably and with a proven history of making trusted and secure high-tech solutions.

Full Speed Ahead

The defense community wants and needs a trusted partner not afraid of the pace of change in the private sector. We’re proud to serve that role, making trusted, secure mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible. Our path is clear, and we have the right industry-leading team to deliver innovation that matters. We look forward to sharing more in the coming months as our recent investment becomes a reality.

<![CDATA[GPU Processing at the Edge]]>, 04 Nov 2019 11:51:00 -0500

Uncompromised data center processing capability deployable anywhere

Evolving compute-intensive AI, SIGINT, autonomous vehicle, Electronic Warfare (EW), radar and sensor fusion applications require data center-class processing capabilities closer to the source of data origin – at the edge. This has driven the need for HPC to evolve into high performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC). Delivering HPEEC capabilities presents challenges as every application has its own survivability, processing, footprint, and security requirements. To address this need, we partner with technology leaders, including NVIDIA, to align technology roadmaps and deliver cutting-edge computing in scalable, field-deployable form-factors that are fully configurable to each unique mission.

What it delivers: HPEEC leverages the latest data center processing and co-processing technologies to accelerate the most demanding workloads in the harshest and most contested environments. Customer benefits include:
· The ability to scale compute applications from the cloud to the edge with rugged embedded subsystems that adhere to open standards and integrate the latest commercial technologies.
· Maximized throughput with contemporary NVIDIA® graphics processing units (GPUs), Intel® Xeon® Scalable server-class processors, contemporary field-programmable gate array (FPGA) accelerators, and high-speed, low-latency networking. 
· Advanced embedded security options that deliver trusted performance and safeguard critical data.

Fig 1. Compose your HPEEC solution with Mercury EnsembleSeries OpenVPX building blocks that include CPU blades powered by Intel Xeon Scalable processors, wideband PCIe switch fabrics and powerful GPU and FPGA co-processing engines that form a truly composable HPEEC architecture. Highly rugged and with built-in BuiltSECURE SSE, these compute solutions are ideally suited to the most hostile and size, weight and size (SWaP) constrained environments characteristic of defense and aerospace applications.


We work closely with technology leaders to deliver a composable data center architecture that can be deployed anywhere. As a Preferred Member of the NVIDIA OEM Partner Program our engineering teams leverage their collective capabilities to embed and make secure the latest GPU co-processing resources for defense and aerospace applications. Packaged as rugged OpenVPX modules, these system building blocks are a critical HPEEC scaling element. For even greater interoperability and scalability, these GPU co-processing engines are aligned with the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA). In this age of smarter everything, SOSA seeks to place the best technology in the hands of service men and women quicker.

Maximized throughput

Delivering uncompromised data center performance at the edge requires environmental protection. Our proven fifth generation of advanced packaging, cooling and advanced interconnects protect electronics from the harshest environments, keeps them cool for long reliable service lives and enables the fastest switch fabric performance in any environment. The ability to work closely with technology leaders like Intel enables us to package the most general processing capability with hardware enabled AI accelerators as miniaturized OpenVPX blades that form another pillar of a truly composable HPEEC solution (fig 1).


Security has always been important and today it is critical. The closer processing goes to the edge, the more critical this requirement becomes. Proven across tens of defense programs, our embedded BuiltSECURETM technologies counter nation-state reverse engineering with systems security engineering (SSE). BuiltSECURE technology is extensible to deliver system-wide security that evolves over time, building in future proofing. As countermeasures are developed to offset emerging threats, the BuiltSECURE framework keeps pace, maintaining system-wide integrity.

What’s next?

We will soon be announcing an expansion to our portfolio of NVIDIA-powered OpenVPX co-processor engines with the introduction of dual Quadro TU-104 GPU powered configurations. These rugged co-processing engines will feature greater BuiltSECURE capabilities making them exportable as well as enabling them to be deployed anywhere. These options will have NVIDIA’s new NVLinkTM high-speed GPU-to-GPU bus fully implemented to deliver uncompromised data center capability at the edge.

To learn more visit GTC and see Devon Yablonski present “GPU processing at the edge” live - #GTC19

<![CDATA[An Emerging Opportunity in Next-Generation Custom Microelectronics]]>, 15 Oct 2019 08:44:00 -0400

In September of this year, after a ten-year career in public sector defense industry positions – including serving as the Director for Electronic Warfare at the Department of Defense for almost four years – I switched tracks to the private sector, joining Mercury Systems as Chief Technology Officer. Mercury Systems is revolutionizing the intersection of technology and defense, advancing leading-edge capabilities to a microelectronics industry currently guided by two prevailing themes which together pose immense opportunity.

First, silicon manufacturing and technology are evolving at breakneck speed, which in keeping with Moore’s law have simultaneously driven advancements in computing performance and decreases in cost. To date, this innovation has been most apparent in the high-tech private sector, however there is tremendous opportunity to transfer this innovation over to the public sector and to make it defense-ready. At the same time, however, industry challenges and macro-level geopolitical trends have created an environment in which secure, trusted solutions are an undisputed imperative for U.S. government agencies and defense Primes.

I believe Mercury is uniquely positioned to address these challenges, and this is one of the reasons I joined the Company. Operating in the private sector and with a wealth of experience in electronics from chip level to system level , we have the expertise and ambition to drive real innovation in microelectronics. At the same time, our legacy in servicing the defense community, combined with our Defense Microelectronics Activity-accredited (DMEA) trusted secure manufacturing capabilities, puts us in a unique position as the only commercial industry player capable of serving as an ideal conduit for bringing trusted microelectronics innovation to the public sector.

An Industry at an Inflection Point

We’re excited to be sharing our optimism for the future of public sector microelectronics with the defense community and our peers at the 2019 AUSA Annual Meeting being held this week in Washington, D.C. We’re confident – based on prevailing trends and industry attitudes – that the industry is ripe and eager for change, and we’re excited to share our first step in bringing about that change.

A Bright Future

This week, we announced a $15 million capital investment to bring next-generation trusted commercial silicon technology to the defense community. This initiative represents one of the first commercial applications of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) and directly aligns with the ERI’s stated goal of “creating a more specialized, secure, and heavily automated electronics industry that serves the needs of both the domestic commercial and defense sectors.”

This announcement and our activities at AUSA’s Annual Meeting set the stage for a bright future in microelectronics for defense applications. We look forward to translating our investment into manufacturing and implementation, and to driving further progress and innovation that matters in microelectronics for the public and private sector.

<![CDATA[Happy Birthday US Air Force]]>, 18 Sep 2019 23:14:00 -0400

From all of us at Mercury Systems, happy 72nd birthday to the US Air Force. Originally established as the Signal Corps - the first aeronautical force in the US - during the Civil War, its missions focused on providing visional communications via flags and torchlight from aerial balloons. Since then, the military air service has gone through many names and commands including Air Service of the US Army, Air Corps, and Army Air Force. Finally, in 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act establishing the United States Air Force as a separate branch of the military.

It’s focus on pursuing advanced technology and superior airmen established the USAF as the swiftest tactical force ready to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice. #AirForceBirthday

AFA's Air, Space & Cyber Conference took place in National Harbor, MD

During his keynote address today, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said,

“Some of our long-held advantages have started to diminish. Great power competition has once again returned to the global stage. If we are to remain the world’s pre-eminent military power, then we must change course away from the past and face the challenges of the future head on.”

Esper said his priorities include giving warfighters more of what they need to deter adversaries, fight and win, including a review of how the US is positioned around the globe. He stressed that the USAF needs to organize, train, and equip airmen to be prepared for a “full spectrum” of threats, both kinetic and non-kinetic, and in realms such as space and cyber in order to “balance the needs of today with the requirements of tomorrow.” 

Meanwhile, at Mercury’s booth, visitors had the opportunity to see firsthand how our solutions help solve the military’s toughest challenges including cyber, data security, secure processing, safety, testing, multi-domain, and SWaP. 

Our mission computing presentation demonstrated how we support multiple military branches. These highly-secure solutions are built on open architectures and standards with a focus on minimizing SWaP. The ASURRE-Stor® solid state drive, NanoSwitch® network switch, military-grade DDR Memory, and RESmini rackmount server were well received by all visitors.

The avionics podium in our booth featured the ROCK II flight safety-certifiable modular system optimized for C4ISR applications along with a FACE-compliant Ethernet routing device that provides high-speed networking for Apache helicopters. These are great examples of high-TRL products that deliver advanced commercial technologies to the battlefield. 

Our electronic warfare display was very popular, which is not surprising given all the interest in EW these days. We showcased the HD-Slim, a mobile high-density server that is used to protect against cyber threats and the RFM3101 digital transceiver that demonstrates how advanced microwave technology can be delivered in an open standard OpenVPX form factor, even for systems pushing the upper end of frequencies for EW applications. 

Finally, we demonstrated our Radar solutions pedigree with a new Radar Environment Simulator, the mmW seeker transceiver and the HSD6605 OpenVPX Xeon® server blade which represents the highest-performance embedded compute solution we have ever developed. Mercury is a technology leader when it comes to embedded Radar solutions and we wanted to demonstrate how we can bring commercial innovation, advanced security and artificial intelligence to such a compute-intensive application such as radar. 

It was a pleasure and honor to meet so many of our military personnel, to exchange information, and listen to their needs and ideas. We hope you enjoyed reading our reports from the AFA show floor, and we look forward to continuing to drive the competitive edge through innovation that matters.

<![CDATA[News From The Floor]]>, 17 Sep 2019 18:44:00 -0400

We are at the AFA 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, where attendance appears to be significantly higher than last year, perhaps by as much as 20% or more. It’s impressive to see so many of our armed forces keenly interested in learning about defense technologies, and to see their willingness to provide input that may lead to even more powerful solutions.

One of the hottest topics at our booth is multi-domain operations - the ability to counter and defeat a near-peer adversary capable of contesting the US in all domains (air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace) in both competition and armed conflict. The military professionals visiting our booth are interested in learning about Mercury’s investment in the technology needed for data fusion to enable multi-domain applications at the tactical edge.

Mercury Booth - Multi-domain operations discussion

For example, our solutions help unmanned surveillance aircraft take radar, SIGINT, location and visual sensor feeds, combine them into a comprehensive picture and quickly communicate that to ground forces.

To achieve this, we integrate the latest commercial technology innovations into rugged subsystems that can perform and survive in challenging defense environments. Our solutions include AESA radar processing for fighter jets, rackmount cloud servers for ships and submarines, and mobile EW subsystems for ground vehicles. To learn more, read our white paper, Next Generation Integrated Defense Electronics Manufacturing – Deploying innovation at the speed of technology.

This morning, we hosted a breakfast for the industry’s leading trade and business media. In addition to one-on-one discussions, our guests enjoyed a lively roundtable discussion with Mercury’s Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Georges, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Didier Thibaud, and Mercury Board Member Lisa Disbrow. A key take-away was that multi-domain operations is an important focus for the Air Force and virtually every other branch of the military.  

Many vendors this year are touting open architecture systems, which is a high priority for the DoD. Mercury has always been a pioneer in open standards, leading the adoption of the OpenVPX system standard for embedded computing as an example. This leadership helped establish a robust ecosystem of technology providers which, when taken as a whole, has begun to reduce internal R&D costs and force better cost certainty within the prime contractor base and in the DoD itself. Today, there is better interoperability, cost certainty, risk mitigation, affordability, and technology innovation in part because of the rise and adoption of the OpenVPX standard.  

As our COO, Didier Thibaud explained to one visitor to our booth,

Mercury sees open standards as a path to standardizing embedded computing within defense electronics. We are now working with the industry on the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA) initiative, a collaborative effort with the DoD to define a modular architecture that aims to deliver significant improvements in affordability, interoperability and reduced time to market all while maintaining the performance and reliability for mission-critical applications.

Our recently announced EnterpriseSeries™ RES Aero rugged rackmount server product line captured the attention of our customers and military personnel alike. This unique solution delivers enterprise-class data center-caliber processing to compute-intensive airborne applications and is well-suited to mission computing and sensor processing applications. Its completely fanless design enables optimal performance at high altitudes, while a specialized power supply is tailored to aircraft requirements. The new RES Aero line offers a wide variety of benefits, including improved reliability, tailor-made high-speed processing, and proven performance. The RES Aero 1U server is on display this week at our booth, #126.

We’ll continue to report from the show floor. Look for our next installment tomorrow!

<![CDATA[Expanding the Competitive Edge]]>, 16 Sep 2019 21:49:15 -0400

The AFA 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference is in full swing and we will be bringing you the latest news every day.

This year’s conference theme is “Expanding the Competitive Edge.”  AFA Executive Vice President and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg noted that companies who are expanding the competitive edge are looking beyond the horizon and helping the industry think innovatively, creatively, and specifically to the future.

AFA 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference

Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder, billionaire businessman, and space entrepreneur kicked off the conference today with a keynote address on thinking outside the box.

Branson talked about his goal for Virgin Galactic, which is to make space accessible in a way that has only been dreamed about previously, and in doing so bringing positive change to life on Earth. Their new space port in New Mexico will be among the first to offer commercial space travel.

Branson also discussed their work with Virgin Orbit and announced that it will launch a small satellite from Guam for the Air Force in the next few months using a rocket carried by a 747 aircraft. The Guam launch would be the first Air Force launch for Virgin, via its US subsidiary VOX, under DoD’s Space Test Program. 

This test is a vital step forward in Virgin Orbit’s plan to perfect the ability to replace downed low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in a day or less—a capability that could make satellites less desirable targets of cyberattacks. Branson said that this capability can also make networks more reliable by eliminating the need for network disruptions when LEO satellites fail.

When asked how he continues to expand the competitive edge for his companies, he said,

“My attitude in life is giving everything I have to solve a problem. I get enormous satisfaction trying to achieve something that has never been achieved before.”

At Mercury’s booth #126, our team will talk about how we are focused on solving tough computing challenges, from secure AI-enabled processing solutions to safety-certified avionics subsystems, and more. We are talking to airmen coming directly from real-world operations as well as to defense companies looking for innovative approaches. The exchange of ideas and joining of creative minds gives us the opportunity to develop more advanced solutions that meet the needs of warfighters today and into the future. Like Branson, we too are driven to give our all for our customers to help them solve their toughest challenges. 

What are your toughest challenges?
Bring them to Booth #126

Check back with us tomorrow. There is a lot going on and we’ll be bringing you another update from the show floor.

<![CDATA[Growing and Grateful]]>, 24 Jul 2019 15:44:00 -0400

By: Emma Woodthorpe

Last week we celebrated another milestone at Mercury when Boston Business Journal named us one of the “Fastest-Growing Public Companies in Massachusetts.” Earlier this year, we ranked No. 27 on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Fasted Growing Companies in 2018” list. It’s worth noting that we’re the only aerospace and defense company to receive either of these accolades. And just this week, we made the “Top 100” list compiled by Defense News, which identifies the world’s biggest defense companies.

As I reflect on how far we’ve come in just a few short years ago, it’s both exhilarating and humbling. We often chide ourselves for being results driven, but our ability to achieve four straight years of double digit revenue growth, which has taken us from a $350 million company, when I joined three years ago, to almost double that today, is nothing short of amazing.

As I reflect on Mercury’s many accomplishments, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the unique factors that have contributed to our remarkable growth and success:

  • We’re fortunate to be in a market that is growing
  • Our culture and values are foundational to who we are and why we win in the market
  • We have an incredible team that drives our vision and works to achieve ambitious goals
  • Our employees embody the scrappy mentality of a start-up despite our continued growth

I am proud of the team we have created and all that we continue to achieve. I am also incredibly thankful for the dedication and hard work of our team members. Mercury has a bright future thanks to all of them!

We believe our hyper-growth is proof positive that there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of Mercury. And in fact, we just hired our 1,665th employee this week! Interested in joining our team? Check out our Career Site to learn more about the opportunities that exist at Mercury.

<![CDATA[#PAS19 Day Three: The Right Flight Stuff]]>, 20 Jun 2019 15:08:00 -0400

It’s Day Three of PAS 2019 and we were fortunate to spent some time down on the flight line with the skilled pilots of aircraft such as the F-35 and the KC-46, who were excited to pose for photos with fellow flying enthusiasts.

These pilots have the Right Stuff: they have honed their tactical training flight skills for thousands of hours in order to do their jobs to ensure our safety and security. When you see them in action— the Boeing A350, behemoth that it is, flying in what seems like slow motion without falling straight out of the sky or the F-22 flying low and faster than the speed of sound, then up so high it seems it will touch the sun and back down in a nose-dive spiral—you can sense, if only vicariously, that these pilots are consummate professionals.

But these aviators are the first to tell you that they are only part of a larger team: they need their mechanics, their flight engineers, and their ground crew in order to fly these exquisite machines. Mercury is part of this larger team as well.

The Mercury team’s commitment to safety, innovation, agility and security delivers the Right Stuff to these pilots, mechanisms, engineers, and crews that allows them to practice their skills and to maximize the potential of their aircraft in order to accomplish their missions. We salute them.

<![CDATA[#PAS19 Day Two: Agility and Mobility]]>, 19 Jun 2019 12:29:00 -0400

We’ve just wrapped Day Two at the Paris Air Show and much like the latest Parisian fashions, “agility” and “mobility” are all the rage. Today’s climate demands our collection of offerings is versatile,  runway-ready, with the ability to adjust on the fly, literally.

In this video Philippe Weber, Sr. Director, International Sales at Mercury explains how our RES series rackmount servers provide the latest in battle management resiliency and thrives in handling multi-domain combat operations. RES Mini fits in a brief case and is smaller and lighter than a carry-on.  Completely modular and composable. If that isn’t pret-a-porter, we’re not sure what is.

<![CDATA[Assured signal integrity in stacked, high-speed DDR4 and DDR5 memory]]>, 18 Jun 2019 19:00:00 -0400


Edge processing architectures in today’s autonomous and AI military systems process an ever growing amount of sensor data. Many of these systems or devices used for edge processing applications in forward-deployed environments need to be small, rugged and agile. To handle this extreme workload, system architects must design boards using the fastest field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices and multicore processors. These devices cannot provide peak performance without massive amounts of high-speed DDR4 memory for resident data and real-time execution. Faced with additional challenges, the system architect must design these systems to meet the size, weight and power (SWaP) constraints of smaller, more agile edge processing platforms integral to our warfighters’ mission success. To support the system requirements, each embedded board within the system could need a minimum of 64GB of memory per processor, equating to more than 128 separate commercial-grade memory devices or multiple dual inline memory modules (DIMM) for layout on a printed circuit board. This is not a feasible solution for the embedded boards at the core of ultra-compact edge processing architectures in military systems operating in harsh, forward-deployed environments. High-density, military-grade memory manufactured with state-of-the-art 3D packaging technology must be utilized for space and power savings while maintaining reliability in harsh environments.

The problems are stacking up

The complexity of die stacking and wire bonding increases with each additional die needed to design high-density memory, such as Mercury’s single 16GB DDR4 device or a custom multi-chip module (MCM) device. With so many circuits in a tightly stacked configuration, signal integrity is at the forefront of design considerations. The two main components of compromised SI in the context of this discussion are crosstalk and return loss performance.

  • Crosstalk is the unwanted voltage noise coupling due to strong mutual inductance and mutual capacitance. More simply stated; it is the interference to a signal in one circuit caused by the signal transmission in an adjacent circuit in the die stack.
  • Return loss is the loss of signal energy due to impedance discontinuities, which reflect a portion of the signals energy back to its source instead of carrying through to the final termination.

Left unaddressed, these performance issues limit data speeds in stacked memory devices, thereby comprising overall system performance and reliability. In mission-critical military applications, this can lead to catastrophic events.

Traditional die stacking design topologies have their limits


Figure 1: DDR die stacking and wire bonding using branch topology with stubs

Traditional multi-chip stacking design methodologies use a branch topology where multiple transmission lines are routed from the same electrical node. This is an effective design method for DDR2 and DDR3 devices as it enables the required data rates and densities those generations of devices can deliver. Skillfully designed stacked DDR4 devices are feasible with this method, as seen in Mercury’s 4GB DDR4 device. However, there are inherent limitations for high capacities as the increased termination path or bus length causes signal distortion and limits the maximum bandwidth of the transmission line due to reflections.

As the number of die stacked increases, these parameters continue to degrade to a detrimental point. Branch topology reaches its maximum capability thereby ruling out this method for use in highly dense, high-speed DDR4 and DDR5 devices. SI engineers must look at alternative design methodologies to enable the next generation of smaller, more agile military systems for the highest density DDR4 and DDR5 devices.

Eye diagrams are used in this blog to show the quality or bit-error performance of the high-speed digital signal(s). Each eye diagram provides a visual representation of millions of transmitted bits, with signal amplitude on the vertical axis and unit interval (UI) or bit period on the horizontal axis. As digital signals are degraded by frequency dependent losses such as crosstalk, the actual signal deviates from the ideal signal. The deviation from the signal amplitude is called noise, and deviation from signal time is called jitter. These unwanted frequency-dependent losses compromise signal quality, ultimately reducing the signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) below receiver detection thresholds and producing bit errors. The diamond in the center represents the bit error compliance mask with both minimum amplitude and minimum bit period limits. If any bits violate the bit error compliance mask, the digital signal fails to meet the minimum performance requirements.


Figure 2: 2400 Mbps DDR4 using branch topology


Figure 3: 4400 Mbps DDR5 using branch topology

High-density DDR4 innovation realized

Now to reach the high-speed requirements of DDR4, SI engineers face two main challenges:

(1) Reducing crosstalk, prominent with designs using non-transverse electromagnetic (TEM) conduits such as a redistribution layer (RDL) and bond-wire.


(2) Meeting a minimum of -12 dB return loss performance.


The solution: Enhancements to the interconnect layer by way of a coplanar topology that supports higher frequency operations than branch topology. This method shortens the path between the two terminations while eliminating stubs, consequently improving signal integrity and timing. To achieve this, routing signal paths sequentially from one die to the next eliminates reflections associated with stubs or extra traces previously seen in branched designs. High-speed data rates are achieved through the creation of a contiguous signal return path and linear bus path by using microstrip transmission line technology. Additionally, considerations made to signal and return path trace geometry further enable higher data rates and improvements to return loss.

With this topology, achieving a return loss of -16 dB through a delicate balance with crosstalk enables the miniaturization of 18 memory devices in a single compact package while offering 2666 Mbps date rates over military temperature ranges. With this achievement, Mercury introduced the first 16GB DDR4 device. However, while return loss is optimized with this method, improvement to crosstalk performance is still needed to meet DDR5 data speeds.


Figure 4: 4400 Mbps DDR5 using advanced coplanar topology


Figure 5: 6400 Mbps DDR5 using advanced coplanar topology

The path to military-grade DDR5

With expected double bandwidth and density over DDR4 along with improvements to power and channel efficiency, advanced edge processing architectures will utilize DDR5 devices to increase performance. However, even with Mercury’s advancements in the coplanar topology for a high-density multi-chip package previously discussed, the higher data speeds for DDR5 still cannot be attained.

Further improvements to crosstalk performance and the inter-die network are necessary. Developing a unique multi-planar ground and signal trace layout applied to the RDL increases crosstalk isolation resulting in a performance improvement of 6dB. No other known die stacking design methodology is available today for the commercialization of high-density DDR5 in a singular device with data rates up to 6400 Mbps.


Figure 6: 6400 Mbps DDR5 using advanced multi-planar topology

With the DDR5 JEDEC standard still in development, commercial DDR5 devices are set to release in 2019. Mercury’s military-grade, high-density devices supporting speeds up to 6400 Mbps using our new advanced topology techniques will follow shortly after with release in 2020. Designers and users of next-generation military edge processing systems will soon realize the maximum performance of their high-speed multi-core edge processing systems due to the integration of high capacity, high-speed stacked DDR5 while simultaneously benefiting from a much smaller system footprint.

To learn more about high-density, military-grade DDR4 and DDR5 and custom microelectronic devices, contact Mercury Systems at or download the full white paper.

<![CDATA[#PAS19: Cleared for Takeoff!]]>, 18 Jun 2019 09:21:00 -0400

Day one of the Paris Air Show is in the books and it was all systems go. Our stand was packed with our product displays and partners from Daedalean attracting a crowd. Watch this short video of Daedalean’s Boris Videnov talking through their demo and you’ll see why.

The floor was overflowing and full of energy, and we at Mercury had our fair share of the action. Over the course of the day, we hosted over 30 of our valued customers and even scored a visit from Italy’s the Prime Minister , Giuseppe Conte! Other notables included: the AIA Roundtable with Ellen Lord conversations with Acting Air Force Secretary, Matthew Donovan and a meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Dr. Will Roper. We even ran into  President  Macron.


Tomorrow will be another full day. Stay tuned as we share some of the technology highlights from the floor!

<![CDATA[Assured Signal Integrity in stacked, high-speed DDR4 and DDR5 memory]]>, 18 Jun 2019 08:29:00 -0400

Edge processing architectures in today’s autonomous and AI military systems, process an ever growing amount of sensor data. Many of these systems or devices used for edge processing applications in forward-deployed environments need to be small, rugged and agile.  To handle this extreme workload, system architects must design boards using the fastest field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices and multicore processors. These devices cannot provide peak performance without massive amounts of high-speed DDR4 memory for resident data and real-time execution.  Faced with additional challenges, the system architect must design these systems to meet the size, weight and power (SWaP) constraints of smaller, more agile edge processing platforms integral to our warfighters’ mission success.   To support the system requirements, each embedded board within the system could need a minimum of 64GB of memory per processor, equating to more than 128 separate commercial-grade memory devices or multiple dual inline memory modules (DIMM), for layout on a printed circuit board. This is not a feasible solution for the embedded boards at the core of ultra-compact edge processing architectures in military systems operating in harsh, forward-deployed environments. Instead, high-density, military-grade memory manufactured with state-of-the-art 3D packaging technology must be utilized for space and power savings, while maintaining reliability in harsh environments. 

The problems are stacking up

The complexity of die stacking and wire bonding increases with each additional die required for high-density memory design, such as Mercury’s single 16GB DDR4 device or a custom multi-chip module (MCM) device.  With so many circuits in a tightly stacked configuration, signal integrity is a requirement at the forefront of design considerations. The two main components of compromised SI in the context of this discussion are crosstalk and return loss performance. 

  • Crosstalk is the unwanted voltage noise coupling due to strong mutual inductance and mutual capacitance.  More simply stated; it is the interference to a signal in one circuit caused by the signal transmission in an adjacent circuit in the die stack.
  • Return loss is the loss of signal energy due to impedance discontinuities, which reflect a portion of the signals energy back to its source instead of carrying through to the final termination.

Left unaddressed, these performance issues limit data speeds in stacked memory devices, thereby comprising overall system performance and reliability.  In mission-critical military applications, this can lead to catastrophic system failure.


Traditional die stacking design topologies have their limits


Traditional multi-chip stacking design methodologies use a branch topology, where multiple transmission lines are routed from the same electrical node.  This is an effective design method for DDR2 and DDR3 devices as it enables the required data rates and densities those generations of devices can deliver.  Skillfully designed stacked, DDR4 devices are feasible with this method, as seen in Mercury’s 4GB DDR4 device. However, there are inherent limitations for high capacities as the increased termination path or bus length causes signal distortion and limits the maximum bandwidth of the transmission line due to reflections. 

As the number of die stacked increases, cross talk and return loss performance continue to degrade to a detrimental point.  Branch topology reaches its maximum capability thereby ruling out this method for use in highly dense, high-speed DDR4 and DDR5 devices.  SI engineers must look at alternative design methodologies to enable the next generation of smaller, more agile military systems for the highest density DDR4 and DDR5 devices. 

Eye diagrams are used in this blog to illustrate the quality or bit-error performance of the high-speed digital signal(s). Each eye diagram provides a visual representation of millions of transmitted bits, with signal amplitude on the vertical axis and unit interval (UI), or bit period, on the horizontal axis. As digital signals are degraded by frequency dependent losses such as crosstalk, the actual signal deviates from the ideal signal. The deviation from the signal amplitude is called noise, and deviation from signal time is called jitter. These unwanted frequency-dependent losses compromise signal quality, ultimately reducing the signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) below receiver detection thresholds and producing bit errors. The diamond in the center represents the bit error compliance mask with both minimum amplitude and minimum bit period limits.  If any bits violate the bit error compliance mask, the digital signal fails to meet the minimum performance requirements.

DDR4 2400 Mbps using branch topology
Figure 2: 2400 Mbps DDR4 using branch topology
Figure 3: 4400 Mbps DDR5 using branch topology






High-density DDR4 innovation realized

Now to reach the high-speed requirements of DDR4, SI engineers face two main challenges:

  • Reducing crosstalk, prominent with designs using non-transverse electromagnetic (TEM) conduits such as a redistribution layer (RDL) and bond-wire.
  • Meeting a minimum of -12 dB return loss performance.

The solution: Enhancements to the interconnect layer as a result of a coplanar topology that supports higher frequency operations than branch topology.  This method shortens the path between the two terminations, while eliminating stubs, consequently improving signal integrity and timing. To achieve this, routing signal paths sequentially from one die to the next eliminates reflections associated with stubs or extra traces previously seen in branched designs. High-speed data rates are achieved through the creation of a contiguous signal return path and linear bus path by using microstrip transmission line technology. Additionally, considerations made to signal and return path trace geometry further enable higher data rates and improvements to return loss.  

With this topology, achieving a return loss of -16 dB through a delicate balance with crosstalk enables the miniaturization of 18 memory devices in a single compact package while offering 2666 Mbps date rates over military temperature ranges. With this achievement, Mercury introduced the first 16GB DDR4 device. However, while return loss is optimized with this method, improvement to crosstalk performance is still needed to meet DDR5 data speeds.

Figure 4: 4400 Mbps DDR5 using advanced coplanar topology


Figure 5: 6400 Mbps DDR5 using advanced coplanar topology

The path to military-grade DDR5

With expected double bandwidth and density over DDR4, along with improvements to power and channel efficiency, advanced edge processing architectures will utilize DDR5 devices to increase performance.  However, even with Mercury’s advancements in the coplanar topology for a high-density multi-chip package previously discussed, the higher data speeds for DDR5 still cannot be attained. 

Further improvements to crosstalk performance and the inter-die network are necessary.  Developing a unique multi-planar ground and signal trace layout applied to the RDL increases crosstalk isolation resulting in a performance improvement of 6dB.  No other known die stacking design methodology is available today for the commercialization of high-density DDR5 in a singular device with data rates up to 6400 Mbps.

Figure 6: 6400 Mbps DDR5 using advanced multi-planar topology

With the DDR5 JEDEC standard still in development, commercial DDR5 devices are set to release in 2019.  Mercury’s military-grade, high-density devices supporting speeds up to 6400 Mbps using our new advanced topology techniques will follow shortly after with release in 2020. Designers and users of next-generation military edge processing systems will soon realize the maximum performance of their high-speed multi-core edge processing systems due to the integration of high capacity, high-speed stacked DDR5 while simultaneously benefiting from a much smaller system footprint.

To learn more about high-density, military-grade DDR4 and DDR5 and custom microelectronic devices, contact Mercury Systems at or download the full white paper.

<![CDATA[#PAS19: Forklifts and Nail Guns and Drills, Oh My!]]>, 15 Jun 2019 11:49:00 -0400
Paris Air Show 2019 - Arriving on the Scene

Arriving on the scene at le Bourget today, was akin to being immersed in the first sketch of a pointillist painting dotted with “hi-vis” yellow and orange safety vests. Those wearing them are the smart, safety-conscious people who are working to get the 53rd International Paris Air Show ready for launch (pun intended). It doesn’t look like much now (truthfully, we’re struggling to fathom how it will all come together in time), but by Monday, thanks to the long days and all-nighters of talented carpenters, electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, IT/AV professionals, security and law enforcement officers, among many others, it will be spectacular, fully realized Seurat of 142,000 professionals blending together to create their own Sunday Afternoon at Le Bourget.

Our exhibition space (Hall 4, stand B41) will be host to myriad flight-safety assurance offerings including the ROCK-2 mission computing platform, as well as our esteemed Mercury ground team, nine GIFAS delegations and in our conference room, upward of 50 meetings with both existing and prospective customers and partners. Stay tuned for daily updates and a vlog or two so you can share in the action of the Mercury stand!

<![CDATA[Safe AND secure avionics? You can do that? Yup!]]>, 19 Apr 2019 15:02:00 -0400

Although we all love connectivity and the benefits it brings us, there is a downside. By now, we’ve all heard about cars that have been hacked. Wired magazine even has an entire section of their website dedicated to the subject. Anytime you connect to a network, you open up your system to vulnerabilities.

Avionics systems are the same. These critical systems operate our airplanes, helicopters and airborne unmanned vehicles. Everything is moving to digital and they are increasingly being networked.

Digital display in cockpit
Increase use of digital cockpits

Historically (despite the recent 737 max 8 incidents), avionics systems have been remarkably safe – much safer than driving. One example of this can be found in this USA Today article quoted below.

“In absolute numbers, driving is more dangerous, with more than 5 million accidents compared to 20 accidents in flying. A more direct comparison per 100 million miles pits driving's 1.27 fatalities and 80 injuries against flying's lack of deaths and almost no injuries, which again shows air travel to be safer.”

How has air travel achieved such safe success? Through very diligent design methodologies combined with testing and verification procedures. These procedures are captured in the certification process known as DAL (Design Assurance Level). And the intensity of the testing and compliance depends on the system involved as noted below.

Design Assurance Levels

There are two components of this process, one for software and one for hardware:

The move to digital

But now the world is changing. These platforms are being networked for a number of reasons:

  • Connections to satellites for flight information, on-board entertainment and more
  • Nose-to-tail connectivity
  • Increasing use of AI and machine learning algorithms
  • Predictive real-time system monitoring

Even when a plane isn’t flying, it gets connected to testing equipment that receives updates through the internet. Any of these networks can introduce security issues.

Add to this, there is a push for open system architectures. For avionics, FACE is one of these important design paradigms. The goal of FACE is to make military computing more robust, interoperable and portable through use of a common operating environment.

So now design engineers need to balance the needs and requirements of safety with open architectures and security. Here are a couple of recent articles on the topic:

  • From Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine:
    Safety- and security-critical avionics software
    Functionality of avionics software continues to expand. Additional software capabilities bring many more lines of code, and greater opportunity for error. At the same time, the more critical an avionics software suite becomes, the higher its risk of cyber terrorism and of being hacked, so current and future avionics software offer safety and security through software development tools, testing and verification utilities, and operating systems that are tamper-proof.

What to do?

Mercury has invested in security for defense electronics for many years. We have designed techniques to detect and prohibit intrusion to key systems. Combined with our avionics safety capabilities, we are uniquely prepared to address the convergence of safety, open architectures and security.

Listen to this podcast

Scott Engle, Business Development Director for Mercury, was just interviewed for a podcast entitled Wheels Up! In this episode, Scott talks about the coexistence of safety and security in world of avionics and why the key to security in aviation may be tied to the reclassification of security-related failures.

And to learn more about secure design and manufacturing, read our recent whitepaper entitled: Next Generation Defense Electronics Manufacturing

<![CDATA[City Year - Spring Into Service]]>, 01 Apr 2019 20:06:00 -0400

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."
- Elizabeth Andrew

Boston City Year Spring Into Service Volunteer Event
March 22nd, 2019

On a rainy March day, 5 Mercury employees based in Andover trekked into Boston to participate in our first Boston City Year volunteer event. Cutting a wide swath across functions (HR, Engineering, Marketing, and IT) we represented Mercury with a good cross section of the company.

City Year, a part of the Americorps national service network, strives to place college graduates, who commit to one year of service, in schools throughout the country. Their mission is to support at risk children based on 3 key indicators: attendance, poor behavior, and failure in math and English. Through "near-peer" relationships, City Year members work to provide academic and social-emotional support.

Our role was to support the City Year members any way we could so we made pencil and pen holders that would be part of an MCAS kit students would receive. With duct tape in every color imaginable, the competition was on.

Susan Steward wins the day!

After our shift was over, it was time for lunch and to talk about future volunteer endeavors. I think we all had almost as much fun talking about our different day jobs as we did volunteering. Many thanks to the Andover Engagement Team for their support and to Emma Woodthorpe, CHRO, for her advice and guidance.

If you have a volunteer idea, make sure to contact your Site Engagement team and get their support. Start small and just get out their and do something. Remember, big things often have small beginnings!

<![CDATA[Enabling Edge Processing in Military Intelligent Sensors]]>, 14 Mar 2019 08:03:00 -0400

In military environments, seconds can be the difference between life or death and mission success or failure. A soldier in hostile territory needs their mobile system to rapidly process sensor data to accurately analyze threats and take action. Intelligent sensor systems using artificial intelligence (AI) to make automatic critical decisions without human intervention rely on sophisticated algorithms to process sensor data real-time at the point of generation to ensure a rapid and accurate decision can be made. This real-time processing of data at the point of generation and consumption, decentralized from a data center or the cloud, is

Edge Processing. Each local system or device at the “edge” is self-sufficient to collect, process, store and disseminate data into action enabling the intelligent sensor and effector mission systems our military needs to carry out daily operations. These systems that enable mobile computing and artificial intelligence could be part of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV),unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) or a base camp collecting surveillance data of its surroundings to warn of incoming threats. Edge processing architectures require high speed, powerful processors, FPGAs specialized ASICs and many sensors supported by large amounts of high density memory and secure storage to accomplish their mission. A distributed network of devices and systems acquire various types of data from acoustic wave, biometric, optical, seismic and magnetic sensors. These connected platforms enabled by advanced application software, process this raw data and communicate meaningful insights real-time to the necessary local devices. The process data can then to sent to a centralized data center or the cloud for further use and storage.

Many of these systems or devices used for edge processing applications in forward deployed environments need to be small, rugged and agile relative to their data center counterparts. With limited space and high performance requirements, these architectures can benefit from custom microelectronics that combine processing, memory, sensors and other integrated circuits into a size, weight and power (SWaP)-optimized multichip module (MCM) or system in package (SiP). With expertise in system-level hardware and software architectures and ASIC devices, defense primes see little return on investment cultivating in-house capabilities to design and manufacture microelectronics using 3D packaging techniques. To simplify and optimize their design and development cycle, defense primes turn to trusted suppliers with expertise in advanced 2.5D and 3D packaging, high reliability manufacturing and specialized test capabilities.

Mercury Systems delivers a trusted and assured chain of custody from initial design through assembly and test for our defense customers requiring custom microelectronics to achieve best-in-class size, weight and power (SWaP) performance. Our world-class Phoenix, Arizona facility is Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA)-accredited for design, assembly and test for classified and ITAR solutions. Tightly integrated engineering, manufacturing and test resources enable production velocity, reduce security vulnerabilities and program risk. Our highly skilled and experienced employees coupled with our investments in state-of- the-art equipment and tools allow our customers to focus on creating next generation technologies to enable and protect our warfighters. Through the entire development cycle design, manufacturing to test, Mercury brings unique qualities to custom microelectronics solutions not offered by competitors.

  • Design: Expertise in advanced miniaturization, 2.5D and 3D stacking and ruggedization technologies enable a custom microelectronic solutions in a size, weight and power (SWaP) optimized footprint.
  • Thermal Management: Thermal design techniques channel heat dissipation from 160 to 800 W of power generated by today’s most advanced processors and FPGA devices through the use of multi-layer interlocked spreaders, customized thermal zones and the selection of ideal thermal composite materials to avoid overall CTE mismatch.
  • Ruggedization: Recognizing that no two missions are identical, we design all of our solutions to meet mission-specific environmental performance requirements to gun-hardening levels.
  • Simulation: Simulation and modeling of our complex designs enables rapid product development cycles and mitigates program risk. Mercury invests in world class tools to provide thorough performance data to drive successful custom designs.
  • Manufacturing: World-class commercial manufacturing capabilities enable customers to jump to the front of the deployment race through rapid, low-risk, low-cost of ownership manufacturing. Our DMEA-trusted facility contains state-of-the-art equipment to realize the most complex custom solutions by mixing die attach, flip chip, wire bond and surface mount technology on the same device.
  • Test: Mercury’s investment in comprehensive environmental test stations effectively test to MIL STD PRF-38534 (H and K) for hybrid microcircuits, STD PRF 38535 (M) for integrated circuits and MIL STD 883 for microelectronic devices. We specialize in developing custom test protocols to address application- and mission-specific reliability requirements.

To learn more about how Mercury can create a custom microelectronics solution to enhance your edge processing architecture with a SWaP-optimized device, visit custom microelectronics website or contact us at  

<![CDATA[Encryption Keys: The Cliff Notes Version, Part 4]]>, 08 Mar 2019 10:27:00 -0500


In my prior three posts, I provided an overview of encryption key fundamentals and the various encryption key mode strategies that can be implemented in a Mercury secure SSD. If you did not read those, stop everything and go back to them now! Or, stay here, keep reading and you'll find a simple, easy-to-use process flow diagram to guide you to the best key management mode for your application.

It is important to note, these are only general guidelines. If you have questions or doubts, consult with a security implementation expert. In this entry, I will also share our new key management mode for secure boot which is under development and releasing soon.

The first question to ask when getting started: will the data be stored on an end user device for a CSfC-approved implementation? If so, the key management mode options are limited to either Mode 1 or Mode 6. If the program is a black key program, Mode 6 is required.

If your data storage implementation is not intended for the CSfC program, answering these questions below will help in your decision:

  1. Is data recovery after key purge required? The answer to this question determines whether you need a self-generated key (Mode 1) or a user-generated key (Modes 2 through 6).
  2. Is the program a black key program? If so, Modes 5 and 6 are appropriate. Mode 6 includes an ATA password authentication, which is recommended unless there is a specific justification to avoid doing so.
  3. If not a black key program, is automatic key purge beneficial or required for the mission? Session keys provide automatic key purge when power is removed from the device.
  4. Is the added security layer of an ATA password required for the specific security implementation? If unsure of the answer to this question, it is best to err on the side of caution and implement an ATA password.

Future Directions in Key Management Modes

In Modes 0 through 6, the secure SSD operates as a data drive, independent of the host operating system. The host BIOS sends the ATA password and key to the SSD device to authenticate and access the drive after the system has booted. We now introduce the concept of secure boot for a secure SSD.

In secure boot mode, the host system will be configured to boot from an external device such as a USB flash drive containing a secure boot operating system and necessary encryption key. After the initial firmware is loaded with key and soft boot initiated, the drive operates normally.

As an example of practical secure boot implementation, consider a CO designing a new security implementation. A secure SSD with secure boot functionality is installed into a laptop as a boot drive. Because the laptop is easily portable, it would be a security risk to enable the laptop BIOS to initiate secure boot functionality. Instead, the CO loads a special secure boot operating system onto a USB flash drive. This secure boot operating system is designed to work only with the particular secure SSD installed in this laptop.

The end user is required to insert the USB flash drive and boot a small authentication-collecting program from the flash drive. The flash drive, containing the authentication firmware, challenges the user for authentication parameters such as a strong passphrase or even an encryption key value. The authentication information collected by the firmware is then conditioned and filled into the SSD. After this, a soft boot is applied and the SSD is then able to perform normal read and write operations. It is important to note that the encryption key is filled into the device through the secure boot operating system.

If you are interested in the implementation of secure boot mode or have questions regarding the right key management mode for your specific application, please contact us at

<![CDATA[Sailing Through the Fog into the Edge]]>, 05 Mar 2019 08:53:00 -0500

Cloud, Fog and Edge Computing for Defense Applications

More or Less the Same Cloud

Confined to fixed sites, commercial cloud-computing servers are scalable, cost-optimized systems with abundant storage, high processing power, and low latency I/O. With plenty of space, air conditioning and reliable electrical power provided through the grid and backup generators, these systems don’t typically need to be environmentally resilient.

Although cyber security does cut across all layers (edge, fog and cloud), cloud facilities can provide higher levels of on-site physical and personnel security to prevent tampering or reverse engineering, somewhat reducing the requirements on tamper-proof hardware. However, there are some unique demands on defense cloud computing solutions versus their commercial counterparts, such as added security requirements and slower upgrade rates that impact technology sustainment.

One high-profile example is the Pentagon, who will soon move towards a commercial ‘secure’ cloud system to maximize capabilities and store classified data.

Sailing Through the Fog

Located between the cloud and edge layers, fog computing reduces the cloud workload by providing distributed computing, storage, and networking. Fog systems perform data analytics and data reduction to improve response times back to devices that cannot be at the edge due to mobility restrictions.

For defense applications, fog computing may be thought of as mobile micro-data centers. A Naval destroyer, for example, contains hundreds of fog computing elements that carry out functions ranging from target acquisition, tracking, fire control, communications, sensor fusion and battle management. Fog computing facilitates communication and collaboration between “nodes”, such as Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) or sensor buoys, in the edge layer.

In the defense domain, fog-computing requirements are shaped by factors such as:

  • Greater latency: Outdated networking caused by large time gaps between hardware purchase and deployment.
  • Restricted cloud connectivity: In part caused by closed systems and nation-state level security concerns.
  • Platform mobility: On the move platforms require processing resources with protection from shock, vibration, and wide temperature fluctuations.
  • Unknown adversaries: Increasing the need for security and fast response, adaptive systems.

Defense fog layer processing resource features include:

  • Redundancy and reliability: To ensure uptime of key systems in all environments.
  • Reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP): To pack more compute power into the same volume and reduce consumed power.
  • Higher performance: Sometimes even higher performance than fog systems found in the commercial world due to closed defense systems and restricted cloud links. Sending data to and from the cloud for analytics processing and response actions can be inefficient for latency sensitive applications.
  • Deploying the latest technology: To counter new adversary technology developments.
  • Security: While the commercial marketplace has privacy concerns, leakage of or tampering with sensitive data in the defense domain can compromise missions and/or lead to national security concerns.

To meet this expanding range of requirements, our EnterpriseSeries servers feature over 50 form-factors that can be configured to meet a variety of performance, security, and reliability needs. By collaborating with component technology leaders, like Intel, we align technology roadmaps with product designs and defense customer deployment timeframes. This allows us to ensure technology solutions remain available for current and future deployments. For example, newer Intel processors are available for 15 years, providing the foundation for long-life, standards-based, network-ready solutions for defense applications, backed by Intel’s 30+ years of experience in delivering world-class computing and communications solutions.

5G networks, which have been touted to overcome current communication liabilities and restrictions, will require robust and secure fog computing to deliver on all of the promised benefits. Their proximity to the edge significantly reduces service response times and improves QoS/QoE levels, resulting in a superior user experience. These benefits are not limited to commercial users, as U.S. military forces are poised to leverage 5G to improve connectivity, provide massive bandwidth for advanced analytics, empower mobile mission capabilities, increase situational awareness and enhance real-time mission command capabilities, just for starters.

Flying into the Edge

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not confined to the commercial world. The proliferation of sensors, data and new technology is driving the need to migrate computing power from the data center, across the fog layer, and into an increasing number of defense edge applications. Defense applications deployed at the tactical edge, such as smart autonomous vehicles, cognitive radars and smart sensors, necessitate edge computing systems to perform mission critical analytics and real-time processing at the site of deployment.

Consider an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that communicates with a fog infrastructure and performs sensor (EO/IR, radar, LIDAR) processing and fusion, and PNT computation to execute its mission. The processing power required to perform these operations has to be simultaneously powerful, small, light, and reliable.

Key trends that are shaping edge layer compute resources include:

  • Mobility: Higher levels of size, weight and power efficiency for mobility and mission endurance.
  • Reliability: Processing resources need to be extremely rugged for deployment in harsh and demanding defense applications. Redundancy is also important to avoid single points of failure.
  • Powerful: Autonomous missions require real-time responses derived from huge torrents of sensor data with massive on-platform processing power.
  • Processing density: By “doing more” at the edge, bandwidth and security issues associated with data transmission to the cloud are minimized and responses become real-time. Response time can determine mission failure or success.
  • Security: Cyber-security threats due to widespread mobile use and a vast, increased number of physically remote devices that can be exploited to gain access to the network.
  • Safety: When lives are at stake, safety is of utmost importance. The exponential increase in distributed, powerful, and potentially destructive platforms in the field directly impacts the requirement for embedded safety capabilities.

Meeting these trends requires:

  • SWaP: Engineering the latest electronic packaging, miniaturization, cooling and power management technologies to maximize compute density and increase reliability.
  • Ruggedized hardware: Developing and applying advanced design and manufacturing techniques at the component, board, assembly and box level assures performance under extreme environmental conditions.
  • Embedded processing: Embedding the most contemporary high compute, low-latency technology such as FPGAs, GPUs, and Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors.
  • Built-in security: Building in system security engineering and cyber resilience for holistic system integrity.
  • Certifiable safety: Designing the highest level of hardware and software flight-safety design assurance for platform avionics and vetronics.

Mercury’s pre-engineered building blocks based on the industry-leading processors from Intel® enable powerful, rugged, trusted, safe and secure processing resources to be embedded into edge defense applications. Enabled with flight safety certification for critical effector operation, these processing subsystems can be deployed in civilian aerospace and on public roads as well as in the most contested, remote and harsh military environments.

Expertise is Key

To successfully design, develop, and deploy the latest and most relevant technology platforms at increasingly shorter cycles, significant engineering investment combined with proven expertise is essential. Due to logistics and government processes, upgradeability is an issue for both Fog and Edge Computing systems. To simplify technology refresh, open system architectures, modularity, composability, and extensibility need to be built-in at the design level. This ensures long-term sustainability, reduces the total cost of ownership, and streamlines deployment.

Stay tuned for our next post where we'll explore these fog and edge computing trends and their enabling #IoT technologies as they apply to both defense and commercial domains.

This post was written by Shaza Khan, Laura Hanks, and John Bratton. @IntelIoT

<![CDATA[The Military Digital Convergence]]>, 05 Mar 2019 08:15:00 -0500

Since the Wright Brothers first free-powered flight in 1903, air vehicles have relied upon discrete, analog sensors to supply the information required by their pilots. These sensors and their dashboard-clustered indicators may be regarded as the first and the analog approach to platform situational awareness. The evolution of electronics and more recently, digital processing has augmented these sensors, giving them greater capability. As platforms have become more complex and the array of effectors they can implement has grown, electronics and computers aid the pilot here, too. Mission and flight computers help the pilot execute a host of critical functions from avionics, to countermeasures, to fire control. These effectors, like sensors have evolved and been introduced over time and for similar reasons. Both are integrated into platforms in a distributed, federated manner, which has become the de facto sensor and mission processing architecture for military platform processing. Meanwhile, commercial enterprises have invested billions of dollars defining platform processing architectures that are delivering driverless cars and other platforms that will ultimately dominate many aspects of the autonomous domain with their IP which is based on digital convergence. Digital-Convergence.jpg Commercial digital convergence has created converged media, information systems, smartphones and autonomous vehicles. Military digital transformation enables platforms to shrink and become more capable and adaptable for mission autonomy. This transformation leverages the digital convergence architectures created by billions of investment dollars made by the commercial sector and coincides with other prevailing trends to make the military digital convergence inevitable. With a proven technology roadmap and the availability of powerful processors and sensors, vehicle autonomy has passed its technological event horizon. Many next-generation flying taxi startup companies are working towards similar commercial solutions that fly without pilots. Autonomous commercial vehicles in general are emerging and may soon be commonplace. The availability of this technology will necessitate a digital convergence in the military domain. This military digital convergence has already begun. To learn more, read our whitepaper, The Military Digital Convergence.

<![CDATA[Encryption Keys: The Cliff Notes Version, Part 3 - Key Management Modes]]>, 27 Feb 2019 16:08:00 -0500

In the first two posts of this series, I reviewed fundamental terms and concepts of encryption key classifications and discussed roles of passwords versus keys and hash algorithms.  In this post, I will provide detail on each key management mode available on a Mercury secure SSD, not all of which may be supported by other SSD manufacturers.

Encryption Key Modes

While the complexity of implementation increases from one mode to the next in the following discussion, end user responsibility also increases. It is imperative to ensure that end users have the proper knowledge, training and infrastructure to successfully create, store, protect and distribute encryption keys and passwords. With these capabilities, the flexibility and security benefits of the more complex modes can be fully realized.

Mode Key Type Key Generation Mode ATA Password Data Recovery After Key Purge FIPS-140-2 Support CC Profiles Supported CSfC- Eligible Requires Guns and Guards
0 Permanent Self No No No EE No Yes
1 Permanent Self Yes No Yes EE AA Yes No
2 Permanent User Yes Yes Yes EE No No
3 Session User No Yes Yes EE No No
4 Session User Yes Yes Yes EE No No
5 Black Key User No Yes Yes EE No No
6 Black Key User Yes Yes Yes EE AA Yes No


Mode 0: Self-Generated Permanent Key, without ATA Password

Mode 0 uses a self-generated permanent key and operates normally whether installed into its intended host system or any other system. This is the factory set mode. A purge of the encryption key in this mode leaves all data permanently encrypted, inaccessible to both adversarial and friendly forces. The data cannot be recovered after the key has been purged.

Mode 0 is not a FIPS 140-2 certified mode because there is no authentication. This mode is not recommended for any military data storage applications. Mercury includes this mode in its secure SSD portfolio to allow basic read/write operations of the drive to be tested for users unfamiliar with the security features of the more advanced modes.  

Mode 1: Self-Generated Permanent Key with ATA Password

Mode 1 uses a self-generated permanent key with the added authentication layer of an ATA password. Created by the CO during initial configuration, the ATA password must have high entropy (degree of randomness) for maximum security. The hash of the ATA password, as discussed in my previous post, is stored on the drive and used for authentication every time power is applied to the device. The ATA password is conditioned and then used to encrypt and decrypt the permanent key which remains on the device through power cycles, unless purged by command.

This mode is simple to implement and therefore well suited to individuals seeking to protect military data without substantial training in the more advanced key management modes. Because the identity of the self-generated key is unknown to both users and adversaries, it requires no additional infrastructure for protection and distribution of the key.

It is important to consider the scenario where the encryption key has been purged, as the key purge option has consequences that cannot be mitigated. In this scenario, the encryption key purge leaves stored data permanently encrypted; the key cannot be refilled by friendly or adversarial forces to access data again.

Because of these important security features, Mode 1 can be used to protect data up to the top-secret level in approved CSfC end user device implementations.

Mode 1 meets all requirements for FIPS 140-2, CC AA, EE and CSfC-eligible solutions.  

Mode 2: User-Generated Permanent Key and ATA Password

Mode 2 employs a user-generated permanent key created by the CO during initial configuration along with the ATA password. The CO must own and manage both values, requiring significantly more resource investment than Mode 1. As such, the CO maintains full authority to change and refill these values into the device at any time.

This mode is more complex than Mode 1, as the responsibility for creating key values with high entropy is placed on the CO. However, the end user gains the benefit of data recovery after a key purge event.

Like Mode 1, the SSD conditions the ATA password and uses the conditioned value to encrypt the permanent key. No plain text is stored on the drive. During normal operation, the ATA password is needed to decrypt the drive’s stored key to decrypt data.

Let me provide a common scenario for Mode 2. A secure SSD device storing high-value data must be transported to a new location. Prior to departure from the original location, the key is purged from the drive leaving the data in an encrypted state (with no installed key) ready for transportation. Once the device securely arrives and is installed in a new location, the ATA password and the key are input into the device. Normal read and write operations commence. Under normal circumstances, the permanent key will remain on the drive, encrypted, so the drive will operate normally when accessed with the correct ATA password.

If the drive were captured by an enemy in transit, the enemy would require both the key and the password to decrypt the data.

Mode 2 meets all requirements for FIPS 140-2 and CC EE.  

Mode 3: User-Generated Session Key, without ATA Password

In Mode 3, the CO generates the session key during the initial device configuration. The CO must take ownership of the key, ensuring that it is stored in a secure location away from the SSD device. When power is removed from the device, it automatically purges the key. When power is applied to the device, the session key must be loaded into the SSD to decrypt the contents of the drive.

Session keys are useful when the mission cannot rely on a user or system command for a key purge initiation. In military environments, events can happen quickly and unpredictably. Consider an unmanned vehicle containing sensitive intelligence data crashing in enemy territory after a missile attack. Using a session key mode in this scenario guarantees the key is automatically purged at power off, securing high value data without human intervention.

A session key adds yet more complexity to the end user’s key management process. The CO is responsible for creating the high entropic key value, securely storing the key and having it available at every power up for device operation.

Mode 3 meets all requirements for FIPS 140-2 and CC EE.  

Mode 4: User-Generated Session Key, with ATA Password

In Mode 4, the CO creates both the ATA password and the session key during initial configuration. Every time the device is powered, it needs both the ATA password and session key to operate normally.

While session keys can be automatically transmitted over network lines at power on, it is always preferable to require additional user authentication prior to giving access to high-value military data. When it is practical to have an individual directly engaged with the data storage system, the addition of an ATA password validates the user prior to key transmission. Thus, the combination of session key with ATA password makes Mode 4 more secure than Mode 3.

The addition of the ATA password adds further complexity to the key management mode process. There may be circumstances where it is desirable to have the encryption key and the ATA password managed by different individuals. While the complexity of this key management mode is high, the security benefits realized from this approach outweigh this complexity.

Mode 4 meets all requirements for FIPS 140-2 and CC EE.  

Mode 5: Key Encryption Key with a Black key, without ATA Password

In modes 0 through 4, keys are input into a device as a red, or plain text, key. In Mode 5, KEK with a black key, the key is input as a black, or encrypted, key.

First, the CO generates two random 256-bit numbers: a red key and a KEK. The KEK, described in the encryption keys section of the first post of this series, encrypts the red key, thus creating the black key.

Both the KEK and the black key must be entered into this device for normal operation. However, the order of entry matters. The KEK must first be entered into the SSD before the correct black key is accepted.

Readers may question when the use of a KEK with black key is warranted. Some military applications do not allow the transport of plain text key values. When this requirement is in place for a specific military program, a KEK with black key is required. These applications typically require the use of a simple key loader (SKL) for secure storage and transfer of keys between cryptographic devices.

Mode 5 meets all requirements for FIPS 140-2 and CC EE.  

Mode 6: Key Encryption Key a with Black key and ATA Password

In Mode 6, the CO generates three pieces of critical information which must be managed properly throughout the lifecycle of the mission:

  1. Random 256-bit red key
  2. Random 256-bit KEK
  3. ATA password

As in Mode 5, the red key and the KEK are used to generate a black key. Both the KEK and the black key must be input into the device, but in this mode, after the ATA password, for normal read/write operations to commence. Mode 6 provides the highest level of security, yet demands the most stringent implementation and management requirements.

You may recall earlier in my first post that self-generated keys are considered more secure in the sense that the key is unknown, and therefore self-generated keys cannot be refilled after the key is purged. Yet the paragraph above states that the highest level of security is attained through the use of Mode 6.

This discrepancy is easily explained. Although beyond the scope of this blog, there are stringent stipulations surrounding the creation, storage, protection, distribution and destruction of black keys. These protocols used by our government and military forces deem the KEK with black key mode the most secure choice for encryption key management. As a result, this mode is certified for use in CSfC-eligible solutions to protect data up to the top-secret level in accordance with CSfC program guidelines.

Mode 6 meets all requirements for FIPS 140-2, CC AA, EE and CSfC-eligible solutions.

Up next in the final post of this series, I’ll provide an easy to use framework to determine which key management mode is best for your application and discuss a new mode for secure boot. To learn more, you can download the entire white paper “Unlocking the True Value of Encryption and Key Management Modes for Military Data Storage Applications” or contact me at

<![CDATA[Encryption Keys: The Cliffs Notes Version, Part 2]]>, 15 Feb 2019 14:03:00 -0500

In my first post of this series, I explained terms relating to encryption keys and the standards that exist governing encryption key algorithms. Now I will spend some time on ATA passwords and how they correlate to encryption keys.

Clarifying the Functions of an Encryption Key and ATA Password

The role of an encryption key is commonly confused with the role of an ATA password. The only purpose of an encryption key is to convert data to cipher text so it is illegible to anyone accessing the data without proper authorization and to then decrypt data back to plain text.

The purpose of an ATA password is two-fold:

  1. Authenticate that the user is authorized to access the data
  2. Re-create the KEK required to decrypt the encrypted permanent key

Encryption keys using AES-256 bit encryption are 256 characters in length. While the length of the ATA password varies based on the BIOS programming, it is typically 32 characters. For higher levels of security, some SSD devices, such as Mercury’s ASURRE-Stor and TRRUST-Stor secure SSD devices, accept ATA passwords of up to 64 characters.

When selecting a password, strength is an important consideration. It is also important to understand the strength of a password as compared to an equivalent encryption key. The table below provides this comparison.

Password   Length Password bit strength using all printable characters except the space.     (6.555-bits entropy per symbol) Password bit strength with all possible   8-bit values.   (8-bits entropy per symbol)
8 52 64
12 78 96
16 104 128
24 157 192
32 209 256
64 419 512

After a user enters the ATA password, the system’s BIOS sends the ATA password to the drive for authentication. If the ATA password matches, data access is granted. However, this access does not mean that data will be automatically decrypted for the user. In order for the device to perform normal read (decryption) and write (encryption) operations, the encryption key, which is distinct from the ATA password, must also be present on the drive.

Only after both the correct key and ATA password are provided to the device will the drive perform normal operations. Requiring both an encryption key and an ATA password reduces the probability that an adversary can access unauthorized data without these two pieces of information.

What happens if an adversary uses a brute force approach in an attempt to identify the key and/or ATA password? A secure SSD, as defined by Mercury Systems, will be configured to limit the number of failed ATA passwords and key entry attempts. Upon reaching the designated limit, which could be as few as one attempt, drive sanitization will automatically proceed. The entire contents of the drive will be erased, and an overwriting procedure will commence to render the data forensically unrecoverable.


ATA Password and Key Storage on the Device

Manufacturers of most SSD devices rarely provide details of their encryption and key storage methodologies. The end user is left unaware if ATA passwords and keys are stored in plain or cipher text. An SSD device that stores ATA passwords or keys in plain text should never be used for a military application. It is theoretically possible, though extremely difficult, for an adversary to disassemble a captured SSD device (with an ATA password or key stored as plain text) and complete a reverse-engineering process where the individual memory devices are probed to reveal the appropriate values. Mercury SSD devices never store ATA passwords or keys as plain text.

So how do you safely store ATA passwords and keys on a device? A cryptographic hash algorithm. Hash algorithms, such as SHA-2, are integrated into a device’s encryption engine. These algorithms permanently alter the original ATA password or key values before they're stored on the device. Hash functions are a one-way transformation of an ATA password or key that create a new, safe value that is distinct from the original value. Several attributes of a hash algorithm are noteworthy:

  1. The original ATA password or key cannot be determined from the hash.
  2. A hash algorithm will always convert the same ATA password or key to the same unique hash, thereby enabling a comparison to be made to authenticate the correctness of an entered ATA password or key.

In the event that an adversary captures an SSD where the ATA password and/or key is stored as a hashed value, the adversary will disassemble the device and attempt to identify the memory devices where the values are stored. Assuming he/she is successful in this extraordinarily challenging endeavor, the adversary will have discovered the hash values only; the adversary has no way of transforming the hash values back to the original values to enable normal read and write operations.

Other algorithms exist to convert an ATA password into a key that is used as a KEK. These algorithms condition an ATA password or apply a pseudorandom function. By repeating the process many times, a new 256-bit key is derived. The output, a KEK, is used to encrypt and decrypt the device’s encryption key.

In my next two posts, I will review details of each key management mode supported by Mercury secure SSDs with an easy-to-use chart to determine which mode will be best for your application. To learn more on this topic, you can download the full white paper, "Unlocking the True Value of Encryption and Key Management Modes for Military Data Storage Applications" or contact us at

<![CDATA[Women in STEM]]>, 07 Feb 2019 14:48:00 -0500

A few months ago, Mercury partnered with the Society of Women Engineers to host our first Women in Technology Night at our headquarters in Andover. I was fortunate enough to have panelists Star Dargin, CEO of Star Leadership and Susan Macchia, Senior Manager at Endeavor Robotics join me in giving insight on our career progression, experiences, and steps taken to earn leadership roles. I was thrilled to see a room full of participants networking and hearing our stories, as well as an engaged audience on our livestream and Facebook Live.

I walked away from this event thinking more about two important topics: women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and work-life integration.

From left: Susan, Lynne, and Star

Women in STEM

One question on this topic really stuck with me. Someone asked, “What advice would you give to the next generation of young women about entering a STEM career? Is this something that you would encourage or not?” As I digested this question, I thought, of course we would encourage them. My full answer is that we want to help as many young women as possible to follow their dreams and feel empowered to enter a field where females are the minority. It’s the only way that we can impact change in the workforce.

Our partner, Raytheon, sets a perfect example of encouraging young women to learn about STEM through their collaboration with Girl Scouts of the USA. With Raytheon’s help, “Girl Scouts will launch its first national computer science program and Cyber Challenge for middle and high school girls. The program aims to prepare girls in grades 6–12 to pursue computer science careers, including cybersecurity, robotics, data science and artificial intelligence, among others.”

At Mercury, we're doing our part to educate young women (and men) about work in a STEM field through our participation in the Corporate Work Study Program at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School. This program places students into entry-level positions at companies like Mercury to gain invaluable experience in the workplace, while both funding the school and earning tuition. The NDCR students that work here in Andover at our HQ have the opportunity to explore different areas of STEM, whether it's working closely with our engineering, IT and program management teams or even our finance/accounting and marketing teams.


Work-Life Integration

The question of how to balance work and family was a hot topic at the Women in Tech event. I especially enjoyed the story that Star Dargin told about why she decided to start her own consulting company, Star Leadership.

She was working over the weekend and felt something tugging at her pant leg – it was her two young sons. In that moment, she realized her attention was always on work, and she took the rest of the day to play with her children. This was the turning point for her to change direction and allow more flexibility for her young, growing family. Since then, she has been a successful coach and public speaker on these topics for over 20 years. That’s leadership through example.

As we move forward, I hope to see more young women exploring opportunities in STEM and leadership. My advice is to have courage, work hard, and know that you can have it all, whether it’s your dream job in engineering, a family, or both.

-Lynne Currier, Vice President of Engineering

<![CDATA[The Inside Scoop: Joining Mercury]]>, 07 Feb 2019 10:24:00 -0500

From the interview process to now working at Mercury, I’ve found that the company holds true to its high ratings on Glassdoor.

I interviewed in person at the San Jose office for my first post-graduation role. There were many aspects I enjoyed about the interview, but the honesty, energy, and thoughtfulness in the questions asked really made the company stand out from others. I could feel the interviewers’ enthusiasm as they spoke about Mercury and their roles, and it became clear to me that they were truly committed.

During my interview, I was asked about the worst and best managers I have encountered at my previous jobs. This question opened up the door to reflect on the different types of management styles that have worked (or not worked) for me in the past. Unique questions similar to this one challenged me to better understand how I work.

At the end of my interview, it was my turn to ask questions. During our discussion, the hiring manager was completely transparent, honest, and professional. I was sold, as I strongly value these traits in a manager.


In my first week, I was pleasantly surprised with a streamlined and organized onboarding process, including a modern approach with online paperwork. My manager, Philip, encouraged me to ask questions and made the effort to check in with me to ensure that I was comfortable. This type of close communication helped accelerate my onboarding process because we were able to address bottlenecks immediately.

I was given a detailed onboarding plan which laid out my objectives for the first four weeks and the “bigger picture” goals for my role. The combination of the close communication and a well-structured plan, created a smooth onboarding process that left no room for ambiguity.

Getting up to Speed

One key aspect of the onboarding process I really appreciated was how well Philip and his team simplified both technical and defense industry concepts, which can be overwhelming for a first-timer. They explained these concepts by first addressing the “why” and provided plenty of relatable examples to supplement my understanding. As someone without an engineering or defense background, I was able to comfortably grasp the concepts at a high level without getting lost in the smaller details. With tools like the innovation centers and collateral, there was a concerted effort to bridge the gap between technical and nontechnical employees.

Following the Leaders

During my onboarding process, our CEO, Mark Aslett, held a video call with all new hires to introduce the company and discuss our culture and core values. Listening to Mr. Aslett speak about the company made the culture and value posters hung in our office more meaningful as he highlighted the importance of each core value. As a new employee, that video call provided a mix of inspiration to work hard, clarity on employee expectations, and sense of direction on how our leaders will pave the way.

Lookin good Charlie!


Today, I could not be happier to be a part of this family; a company that strongly invests in its people. ”We are lifelong learners” are not just words in our culture statement – lifelong learning is truly encouraged, providing employees opportunities to seek new challenges, skills, and knowledge. The leadership team will also make book recommendations from time to time for a good read!

At Mercury, we foster a two-way dialog at all levels. From weekly 1:1’s to impromptu meetings, we have a highly collaborative environment that enables us to comfortably give and receive feedback. We are always looking for ways to improve ourselves professionally and personally with this feedback. Thinking ahead, I look forward to growing and taking on tough challenges with the hard working people in this company. Thanks to everyone in the San Jose office and marketing department for making my time here so far an enjoyable experience.

If you’re interested in Mercury Systems, take a look at our Careers page. We’re hiring!

Ugly Sweater Day!

<![CDATA[Encryption Keys: The Cliffs Notes Version, Part 1]]>, 31 Jan 2019 13:42:00 -0500

Imagine a US operative on a covert mission is comprised in enemy territory. His laptop, now in the hands of the enemy, contains highly sensitive data stored on the factory-installed SSD and protected only by his 12-character Windows password. A skilled adversary using a brute force attack will quickly gain access to this data. Would you feel safe having our national interests stored on the same type of drive as your laptop? Without the use of a secure storage device with properly implemented encryption and encryption keys, data could easily fall into the enemy’s hands.

In two of my previous blog posts, Encryption Decoded and Diamonds are Forever, Encryption Keys Last Longer, readers learned about the importance of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) XTS technology to encrypt and protect data at rest (DAR) in a secure solid-state drive (SSD). In this blog series, I will continue this discussion by providing a more in-depth look at the fundamentals of encryption keys and key management mode classifications, including relevant use cases. My goal is to help you understand encryption key basics and how to determine which key mode is best for your application when using Mercury’s TRRUST-Stor and ASURRE-Stor secure SSD's.

Before we dive into the encryption key terms and concepts, let's circle back to the encryption standards that are critical when implementing data security solutions in military applications.


When protecting high-value data with encryption, it's critical to have assurance that the encrypting hardware or software is effectively securing the stored data. Standards and certifications for encryption algorithms and key management are in place to ensure just that.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) oversees the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) that provide criteria for the proper implementation of cryptographic algorithms. FIPS 197 validates the correctness of the AES-256 algorithms, while FIPS 140-2 provides the standards for key management and authentication algorithms. The National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) oversees evaluations of commercial Information Technology (IT) products for use in national security systems. Hardware and software products must meet the criteria established in the relevant Protection Profiles (PP) and pass evaluation by the Common Criteria (CC). Encrypted SSD devices must meet the Authorization Acquisition (AA) and Encryption Engine (EE) protection profiles prior to evaluation for the Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program.

The CSfC program was launched by the National Security Administration (NSA) and the Central Security Service (CSS) to protect classified, secret and top secret data by simultaneously implementing two compliant commercial security components in layers. For more information, you may refer to our white paper on hardware full disk encryption technology for the CSfC program or check out our CSfC webpage.

The single goal of a CSfC security solution is to emphatically ensure that no unauthorized user obtains access to highly sensitive data. The CSfC program is particularly relevant for this blog series, as only two key management modes are approved for use in devices integrated into fully compliant CSfC solutions. These two modes, introduced in a later blog, include compliance to the above standards while also incorporating the most stringent key generation, storage, distribution and destruction methods. Now to begin our journey, let's explore a few key terms and concepts.

Types of Text

Data encryption is comprised of two forms of text:

  • Plain text data refers to information in its normal, legible form either before encryption or after decryption. Plain text is the input to an encryption algorithm.
  • Cipher text data is the encoded or encrypted information that is illegible until decrypted into plain text data. Cipher text is the output from an encryption algorithm.

Encryption Keys

An encryption key, or data encryption key (DEK), is a random string of bits generated by an algorithm that is used to encrypt and decrypt data, converting either plain text into cipher text or cipher text into plain text. To further this concept, encryption keys are classified as either:

  • A red key: plain text key
  • A black key: encrypted key

A key encryption key (KEK) is designed to encrypt a red key into a black key or decrypt a black key into a red key. The specific use case of a KEK will be explored in my next blog. The critical point to remember for the purposes of this discussion is that a black key is used for missions and programs requiring the highest levels of security.

Encryption Key Creation

There are two methods to generate an encryption key.

  • A self-generated key is created by the random key generator logic located in the SSD device. Self-generated keys are never known to users and therefore cannot be refilled after the key is purged.

Performing the important step of key generation on a certified SSD device removes complexity and encryption infrastructure on the end user. The drawback of a self-generating key is the inability to refill a key after it's purged, leaving data permanently encrypted to friends and foes alike.

When an encryption algorithm achieves FIPS certification, the random key generator within the encryption engine produces a key that is just that -- random. This eliminates the risk that a pattern in the key could be determined, resulting in adversarial discovery of the key’s complete identity.

  • A user-generated key is created through a user-defined random key generator independent of the SSD device. This key is known to the user, usually the Crypto Officer (CO), and can be stored and refilled into the device after a key purge has occurred.

User-generated keys are inherently more complex to implement since the end user assumes 100% ownership for random key generation and secure key storage. These trade-offs are necessary when data needs to be accessible after a key purge. A user-generated key is the preferred method when the end user has FIPS-certified algorithms. It's important to note that this choice also demands the proper key management infrastructure and system security for key maintenance.

Permanence of Encryption Keys

Depending on your security requirements for a specific mission, an encryption key can be entered into the device as either a permanent or a session key.

  • A permanent key remains on the device through power cycles. It can be purged through user-defined commands.
  • A session key is automatically purged when power is removed from the device. To enable a normal read and write operation, the session key must be input every time the device is powered on.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will review ATA passwords, how they relate to encryption keys and how these critical values are stored on secure SSD devices. In Parts 3 and 4, I will take a deeper look at self-generated, user-generated, permanent and session keys with use cases.

To learn more on the fundamentals of encryption keys and key management modes, you can download my white paper, "Unlocking the True Value of Encryption and Key Management Modes for Military Data Storage Applications" or contact me at

<![CDATA[Multi-Domain Operations: Becoming Today's Swiss Army Knife]]>, 25 Jan 2019 11:26:00 -0500

Defense News recently released their annual Outlook . If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great read consisting of a few dozen essays by world leaders looking at the trends and issues, like multi-domain operations, that will most impact the global defense industry.

This year, one essay in particular jumped out at me. General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, wrote an insightful article about multi-domain operations. His analogy of lanterns from the Revolutionary War is very apt, and it helps put into perspective the challenges we face today. Perhaps this quote from his essay is most concise:

“Whoever figures out how to quickly gather information in various domains and just as quickly direct military actions will have the decisive advantage in battle.”

When General Goldfein talks about multi-domain, he is referring to the military's work on land, at sea, in the air, in space and in the electromagnetic and cyberspace realms. Traditionally, most defense forces have focused on one domain at a time – in silos. Hence, why we have the Army (for land), Navy (for sea) and Air Force (for air). But domains are not mutually exclusive. They need to work interactively in order to gain the most benefit. As was quickly discovered as early as WWI, air supremacy can significantly improve land operations.

Today's challenges

Today, you can add in the complexity of electronics and how they have changed the battlefield. You quickly realize why the multi-domain initiative is so important. Communication and coordination between historical “domains” is critical.

One way to break down these traditional silos of information is through data fusion at the tactical edge. Battlefields now have a plethora of sensors collecting data and information. The challenge is to take all that data and make sense out of it – quickly. Doing this requires powerful software algorithms and the secure hardware systems that can deliver cross-domain answers.

Over the past few years, through R&D and acquisitions, I have seen Mercury Systems continue to invest heavily in developing the hardware needed for data fusion enabling multi-domain applications at the tactical edge. For example, our solutions help an unmanned surveillance aircraft take radar, SIGINT, location and visual sensor feeds, combine them into a comprehensive picture and quickly communicate that to ground forces.

In order to do this, we take the latest commercial innovations in technology and integrate them into systems that can perform and survive in defense applications. Partnering with firms like Intel, NVIDIA, Xilinx and others, we leverage their latest products to manufacture electronics specifically designed for use in rugged environments. Examples include:

  • AESA radars in the nose cone of jets
  • Rack-mounted cloud servers in ships and submarines
  • Mobile EW systems in land vehicles

To accomplish this, we design and manufacture many of our systems in our trusted and DMEA-certified facility in Phoenix, Arizona. To learn more about how we do this, read our whitepaper, Next Generation Integrated Defense Electronics Manufacturing – Deploying innovation at the speed of technology.

<![CDATA[Embedding Data Center Compute Capability at the Tactical Edge with Open Systems Architectures]]>, 23 Jan 2019 09:57:00 -0500

At a high level, the vast majority of contemporary compute processing hardware may be divided into two domains: powerful data center processors and smaller, embedded devices. Embedded devices have the support of their data center big brothers via a network connection, giving them access to big data applications.

This approach works for many applications, but not all. Remotely accessed military tactical clouds require data center-like capabilities without data center support. This is achieved by embedding data center processors into military platforms using open system architectures (OSAs) and is ushering in next-generation military mission capabilities.

 military tactical clouds require data center-like capabilities without data center support  

Contemporary OpenVPX™ (ANSI/VITA 65-2017) packaging, design and fabrication capabilities enable Intel® scalable Xeon® server-class devices from the same processor families that power the largest commercial clouds to be embedded into military applications. Miniaturization, protective packaging, efficient cooling, unrestricted I/O, and embedded system-wide security enable high-performance processing to be performed on military platforms remote from data centers. These enabling technologies include:


To reduce a 19-inch rack server footprint to a small, defense-grade OpenVPX module requires a volume reduction of over 90%, which can be achieved through miniaturization. This includes shrinking the vast amount of memory servers require into a smaller area. System memory is stacked as monolithic, multi-level entities that reduce the amount of circuit board real estate required by nearly 80% without degrading performance or reliability.

Rugged Packaging

Scalable Xeon devices are intended for benign data center environments. Their thousands of I/O connections are made via land grid arrays (LGAs) that handle planar inequalities well. LGAs are cost-effective for data centers but unusable in defense applications due to shock and vibration (LGAs are not “hardwired”). Proven fabrication processes solder Xeon processors to their respective substrate/PCB for robust hardwired connections. This fabrication process uses military-grade tin/lead (SnPb) solder to mitigate gold embrittlement and reduce tin whiskers, both of which are found in commercial solders.


Effective and efficient conduction (VITA 48.2), air (VITA 48.1, 48.5 & 48.7), liquid (VITA 48.4) and hybrid cooling technology are available for open system embedded processing. This cooling technology enables densely packaged Xeon processors to operate reliably at full throttle for unrestricted, sustained, deterministic processing. OpenVPX cooling technology removes heat to lower each device’s temperature by several degrees to increase mean time between failures (MTBFs) and enables thermally dense devices, including Xeon processors to be deployed in small packages.

Unrestricted Switch Fabrics

As switch fabrics get faster and faster, modular open system compute architectures are facing bandwidth limits within their interconnects and backplanes. New OpenVPX transmission line fabrication technologies, guided by VITA 68.2, can enable full, unrestricted fabric performance (currently 40Gb/s) across the processing subsystems and temperature ranges. This technology is scalable, with a roadmap to 100Gb/s fabrics across OpenVPX systems.


For foreign military sales (FMS) and deployment, military compute systems require the ability to counter nation-state reverse engineering through systems security engineering (SSE). This SSE should be built-in to enable turnkey or personalized security solutions to be quickly configured and evolve over time, building in future proofing.

To learn more, visit Mercury's Integrated Manufacturing page.

<![CDATA[Electronic Protection: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 5]]>, 18 Jan 2019 08:16:00 -0500

In the first post of this series, we discussed the history of electronic warfare as it was being developed during WWII. While much has changed in the last 80 years, one constant remains true—the cat-and-mouse game to develop the superior technology that grants the owner control over the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). When one nation deploys a new radar system, its adversary begins work on the technology to jam the radar. This prompts the first nation to modify their radar system with new features to protect it from the jammer, which brings us to the final topic in this series—electronic protection.

What is Electronic Protection?

Electronic protection (EP) is the set of technologies and methods that protect against the effects of electronic attack (EA). When an EA system attempts to jam a radar, the radar’s EP technology resists the jamming.

It's important to make the distinction between the self-protection element of electronic attack and electronic protection. A self-protection jammer provides protection from a radar-guided missile and is including under electronic attack since the jammer “attacks” the radar. In this case, electronic protection would be a feature of the missile’s targeting radar designed to provide protection from the effects of the jamming.

Before jumping into the details, I recommend reviewing my previous posts on radar, electronic support and electronic attack. With that background, we are now going to look at a few examples of common electronic protection systems.


In this image, we see a plot of antenna gain as a function of direction. While the main lobe has the greatest gain, a signal originating from a direction corresponding to a sidelobe is also received. By reducing the sidelobe levels, the radar antenna is able to focus on the target and will have reduced sensitivity to a jamming signal originating outside of the target area.

Radar Detection

Before a jammer can affect a radar, it must first detect the radar. This is often the role of an electronic support system. By modifying the radar signal to make it more difficult for the adversary to find, it becomes more difficult to deceive the radar. For example, reducing the length of the radar pulses can make them more difficult to detect.

Radar Burn-Through

Radar burn-through describes the maximum distance from the jammer to the radar for which the jamming is effective.

As we discussed in the post on radar, the received reflected power is a function of the transmitted power, distance to target, the target’s radar cross section, and additional parameters. For the jamming to be successful, the power level of the jamming signal at the radar receiver must overwhelm the power level of the actual reflected radar pulses. When the jammer is out-of-range, the power incident on the radar receiver decreases, which reduces the effectiveness of the radar countermeasures.

From the perspective of the radar system designer, increasing the radar’s transmit power improves the radar’s ability to resist jamming. With a higher radar output power, at a given range, the received radar reflection is larger and therefor easier to detect in the presence of interfering signals.

Frequency Agility

In terms of radar, frequency agility is the ability to shift the operational frequency to mitigate the effects of jamming and other forms of interference.

If a radar system operates on a single frequency, it is easy to develop countermeasures focused on that single frequency. However, by operating over multiple frequencies, a radar system is more likely to find a frequency outside the range of the jammers.

Additionally, by quickly shifting frequencies, a radar system can actively stay ahead of the countermeasures. Even if a jammer is able to operate over the radar system’s frequency range, it takes a finite amount of time to determine and match the radar’s frequency. If the jammer can’t quickly match the radar’s operational frequency, it fails to be effective.

Using modern technologies such as GaN power amplifiers and digital active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs), an advanced radar system can shift its operational frequency for each pulse. This makes it very challenging for an adversary’s system to track and interfere with the radar.

Waveform Diversity

In addition to adjusting the radar’s operational frequency, the radar system designer can also adjust the specifics of the radar waveform. While the details of radar waveform shaping are outside the scope of this article, the concept is relatively straight forward. Optimizing the specifics of each radar pulse allows them to be easier for the radar receiver to detect and more difficult to jam.


As we conclude this series on electronic warfare, I’m reminded of a comment made by a professor during a physics course I took during undergrad. He warned us that unlike mechanics and thermodynamics, you can’t see electromagnetics in action. We all have an intuition that can guide our understanding of the equations that describe heat transfer. Additionally, we know that if we apply a force to an object there’s a good chance it will move. However, since electromagnetics isn’t as tangible, it can be challenging to develop an equivalent intuition.

Consider Gauss’ Law, which is one of Maxwell’s Equations, it states that the electric flux out of any closed surface is proportional to the enclosed charge. We can numerically solve Maxwell’s equations, but it is harder to make that connection to everyday life. We don’t forget which way something will move if we push it, but how easy is it to remember the direction of the magnetic field that results from an electric current?

Similarly, electronic warfare (EW) is an invisible battle. We can’t easily see who has control over what parts of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). However, our dependency on the EMS only continues to grow. We now rely on wireless communication, radar and GNSS navigation. Just because we can’t tangibly interact with the EMS, doesn’t mean that the effect on our life is minor

 I hope that this series not only described an overview of electronic warfare, but in the process provided the conceptual background to help develop a more intuitive understanding of the theory. For comments or questions, please contact me at

<![CDATA[Electronic Attack: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 4]]>, 21 Dec 2018 07:49:00 -0500

Who remembers that scene in the movie Spaceballs where Lone Starr jams the enemy radar using raspberry jam, causing it to lose the “bleeps, the sweeps, and the creeps”? While Mel Brooks does show what electronic warfare can do, the details aren’t exactly accurate. In this post, we will clear up some of these details in our discussion on electronic attack.

M. B. (Director). (1987). Spaceballs. United States: MGM.

What is Electronic Attack?

Electronic attack (EA) is a key component of electronic warfare and includes the set of technologies and methods that use electromagnetic energy or anti-radiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities or equipment. Most commonly, EA is used to impact an adversary’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS).

For example, an anti-radiation missile such as AARGM will follow an enemy’s radar signal back to the transmitter, destroying the enemy’s ability to use radar for anti-aircraft operations. There are many other examples of EA applications, but in this article we will focus on how electromagnetic energy is used against an enemy radar system.

In my previous post we discussed electronic support, and more specifically, radar warning receivers. We now return to the example from that article. An aircraft is flying through a hostile area when suddenly an alarm goes off indicating that it has detected an enemy’s search radar. A few seconds later, the radar warning receiver detects the targeting radar from a ground-to-air missile. In this case, the role of the electronic support system is to warn the pilot of the threat; however, it quickly becomes the role of the electronic attack system to neutralize the threat by attacking the missile’s targeting radar.

How do Radar Jammers Work?

Radar jammers are a type of electronic attack technology that either blinds a radar with high-power noise or generates false targets to obscure the true location of the target. There are two approaches to utilizing radar jammers. Self-protection jammers are installed directly on the platform they are protecting, while support jammers attack the radar from a separate location to protect other targets from an enemy radar.

From the previous post on radar technology, we recall that a radar system identifies a target when the energy reflected from the target is greater than the radar receiver’s noise floor. If the reflected signal is below the noise floor, it becomes much more difficult to recover. By transmitting high-power noise, a jammer can cause the noise floor of the radar receiver to increase, thereby decreasing the range and sensitivity. If the noise power is high enough, it can saturate the radar receiver, resulting in non-linearities that completely blind the system. While generating this much power is difficult, advancements in broadband GaN amplifier technology are enabling new types of radar jamming systems.

A more complex approach is to modify the radar signal to create false targets. This usually involves a digital RF memory (DRFM) system that receives the radar signal, modifies it, and then retransmits the modified signal. Using high-performance, low-latency hardware, the radar signal is either down-converted and digitized or directly digitized. Real-time processing modifies the signal by altering parameters such as the phase delay. The modified signal is then converted back to analog and transmitted to the radar receiver. The digital signal processing allows for a wide range of custom algorithms that create false targets or perform other operations to obscure the true location.

While easy to describe, implementing this technology is extremely difficult. The system must have very low latency such that it can digitize and process the radar signal in real time. Similarly to the radar warning receivers described in my previous post, the DRFM systems must be broadband with low noise figure in order to maximize flexibility and range. On top of all this, the constantly changing threats necessitate a system that can easily be updated through the adoption of an open architecture, such as OpenRFM™.

The New Global Reality

It isn’t just the US and our allies that have advanced electronic attack capabilities. Russia demonstrated their advanced electronic warfare capabilities during the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Using UAVs and other platforms, they were able to jam satellite and radio communication as well as perform GPS spoofing. Additionally, they were able to track the Ukrainian positions by monitoring their RF transmissions and even send disturbing text messages to the Ukrainian solders in order to lower moral.

In the final post of this series, we will look at what can be done to protect against an adversary’s use of electronic attack.

Part 5: Electronic Protection

<![CDATA[Key Takeaways from the 55th Annual AOC Symposium and Conference]]>, 20 Dec 2018 13:13:00 -0500

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how quickly technology progresses. It’s only been about a decade since Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. And today, between checking email, navigating to a new restaurant, sharing photos with family and turning the lights on or off in my kid’s room, it’s hard to image life without a smart phone.

Let’s go back in time to the year 1992—about 15 years before the iPhone and the beginning of the Joint Strike Fighter program. While the earliest prototypes flew in late 2000, it wasn’t until 2006 that the F-35 had its first test flight. Then, in 2011, almost two decades after the program began, the first production aircraft rolled off the assembly line. While this was a very long development time when compared to smart phones, no one would trust a smart phone with their life. That said, the digital revolution of the last decade is finding its way to the electronic warfare (EW) industry, and it's forcing us to change how we deploy EW systems.

This new and continually changing reality was on everyone’s mind at the recent AOC Symposium and Conference held in Washington, DC. The symposium theme, "Winning the Electromagnetic Spectrum Domain: A Culture and Mind Shift", captured the sentiment clearly.

Fifty years ago, the high cost and extended development time of RF systems limited operation in the electromagnetic spectrum. You could choose your frequency with the confidence that interference from others operating at the same frequency would be minimal, or at the least, delayed. However, the times have changed. Using readily available digital technology, our adversaries are able to quickly deploy advanced electronic warfare technology that has the potential to massively change how battles are fought.

While the symposium discussed many topics, there are two key takeaways I believe are worth focused attention. The first takeaway is the challenge of operating in the congested and contested electromagnetic spectrum. Not only can the adversary employ jamming technology, but our own use of the spectrum limits the available frequency bands. Additionally, with the availability of high-performance commercial components and the ability to digitally implement EW techniques, the adversary can quickly develop an advanced electronic attack capability. As General Paul Selva said in his keynote address, in the digital space, fast followers can quickly jump right past you.

For a more detailed discussion of these two topics, take a look at my guest blog post on the Military Embedded Systems website.

As the show wrapped up, we had the opportunity to see how various suppliers were addressing these challenges. Here at Mercury, we leverage the best commercial technology to develop solutions that are reliable and module. Using open system architectures, products can be developed at a rapid pace, easily installed into our customer's systems and quickly updated as new technology becomes available.

An example is the RFM3101 microwave transceiver, which we exhibited at the conference and earned us a Best in Show Award. This ultra-wideband module incorporates OpenVPX™ to enable easy integration into the customer’s system and OpenRFM™ to support rapid customization. By incorporating a modular design approach, the transceiver can quickly be upgraded to take advantage of new technology.

RFM3101 wins Best-in-Show Award

<![CDATA[The Three C's of Talent Attraction]]>, 17 Dec 2018 15:08:00 -0500

As we embark on the digital age of recruiting we must, more than ever, ensure we are delivering on the key elements of talent attraction that serve to optimize hiring manager satisfaction, while also providing a best-in-class experience for the candidate. Having careers in both agency (3rd party) recruiting and the corporate world (scale operations, early career, executive recruitment, sourcing and leadership) for 15+ years, I have found successful recruiting organizations have the following three elements ingrained in each of their recruiters to serve at a high level on a consistent basis.  


Keeping all parties involved throughout the process

Industry leading TA professionals understand the importance of account management. At the base of this is making sure that everyone involved in the hiring process knows their place and the expectations of them. Once a candidate is put in process, they should never be left in the dark with regard to where they stand with the organization.  

Open and honest conversations about openings - “must haves” vs. “nice to haves”

An introductory meeting with the hiring managers is essential to any hiring process. As the expert in the field, it is the sole responsibility of the recruiter to compose the job description and identify key requirements to focus the sourcing process. All too often, hiring managers use “cookie cutter” descriptions that do not really reflect what the business needs in the prospective employee. Additionally, by having these conversations on the front end, the recruiter is subliminally building credibility with the hiring manager, which in turn will build a stronger rapport.  

Managing expectations up front for hiring managers, interview team, and TA support team

Ensuring everyone knows their role in the hiring process is essential to a timely, efficient hire. During the introductory meeting, hiring managers should designate interview team members. Recruiters will then prepare the team for the interview process and review the roadmap for this role. When everyone is equipped with the tools they need to do their job, they subsequently become more confident, which makes for a best-in-class experience for the candidate.Identify the communication method that candidates and hiring managers prefer, and stick to

Everyone communicates differently. In order to deliver at the highest level, a recruiter should make an effort to determine and use the most effective channel to communicate with candidates and hiring managers. This trait also serves as a learning opportunity for recruiters in “style flexing”.



Intake meetings

When a job requisition is assigned, the recruiter should set up a call with the hiring manager immediately. It is really important to get as much information as possible about the role to optimize the search (standardized intake forms are always beneficial – the “McDonalds” approach).  

Natural cadence

Recruiters and hiring managers should speak on a regular basis. Recruiters should not fear the “no new candidates” conversation. They have to understand the action is just as important as the result when it comes keeping the hiring manager “in the know”.  

Automated status updates for candidates in a candidate-driven market

Use your ATS! A quick email to a candidate that is lingering in the same status for a period of time can make a big difference in their candidate experience. The goal is to keep their interest at a high level.  

Leave the light on!

Candidates should not be in the dark at any point in the process. To the best of their ability, recruiters should provide feedback in real time. A candidate who misses the mark this time around could be a spot on match for the next opening.  

Formalized debriefs

Getting the hiring manager together with the interview team is essential. The dialog should be open, however interviewers should concentrate feedback on their areas of expertise. The highest ranking person should speak last - no one should be swayed based on leadership’s preference.



Connecting people to positions based on skills

First and foremost, it is essential that the candidate’s skills match the description for the opening. Whether a candidate should proceed to the next level can be determined through a discovery conversation, versus an interrogation session. Initial screens should be 75% candidate talking. Utilizing STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) methodology when talking to candidates is always a sure fire way to recognize mastery versus understanding.  

Using foundationary sourcing strategies to find top talent

From a detailed intake meeting, a recruiter should be able to understand the three or four major skillsets essential to be successful in the role. Boolean queries should be detailed, and recruiters should not be afraid to make adjustments several times until the right talent is coming to the surface. It’s also important to avoid scripted emails such as, “Hello, My name is Jamie and I have a position for a…we need someone who has a background in…”. This approach will NEVER attract the passive talent recruiters need. Partner with marketing to draft a standard template that leaves room for artistic freedom and customization then, Ask yourself “would I respond to this email?”  

Utilizing Value Proposition to attract the right cultural fits

As important as a skills connection is in finding a match, a cultural/behavioral match is equally important. With this element, recruiters must be able to draw out behaviors characteristics that make the candidate run! Leveraging your organization’s Value Proposition, you should then be able to make a recommendation on cultural fit. Because it’s imperative to diagnosing talent, I should mention that recruiters need to let candidates speak!  

Personalizing the Value Proposition in candidate conversations

The talent team should know the organization’s Value Proposition inside and out and pair it with the candidate’s hot buttons to solidify their interest.  

Connecting with hiring managers to build rapport for partnership throughout the hiring process

Trust is essential to building a partnership. Building a rapport is essential to building trust. Get to know what makes hiring managers tick and find opportunities to connect or partner with them. Teamwork makes the dream work!

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Dennis Vied]]>, 27 Nov 2018 13:46:00 -0500

Dennis Vied, Lieutenant (retired), a native of Wyatt, Missouri, began his service in the US Navy after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1960. Reporting to the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) aircraft carrier, he served as an Assistant Navigator and Radar Navigation Officer with collateral duties as Officer of the Deck and CIC (Combat Information Center) watch standing.


After two years in the Coral Sea, he attended Terrier Guided Missile School and reported aboard the USS England (DLG-22) as a Guided Missile Officer and part of the nucleus crew of the ship under construction. The ship was commissioned on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1963, and LTJG. Vied was honored to be a Plank Owner, served as the ship’s first Officer of the Deck, and wrote and signed the ship’s first log entry.

In 1964, after four years of service, Lt. Vied accepted a commission in the Naval Reserve and left active duty to pursue a career in commercial aviation. With over 28 years at Trans World Airlines (TWA), Captain Vied qualified in the Lockheed 1011, Boeing 727, 757, and 767, and retired in 1998. He then joined Themis Computer (acquired by Mercury Systems) in 2010 as a Technical Editor.

Service Highlights

  • Completing two WestPAC cruises on the Coral Sea
  • Being part of a nucleus crew, commissioning a new warship and putting her into service

Interesting Moments

  • On the first cruise, arriving off the coast of Japan in dense fog, launching airplanes on the port side while taking on fuel from an oiler on the starboard side. I thought I had arrived in hell and wondered what I had gotten myself into.
  • The Coral Sea lost an elevator during the first cruise. When it descended to the hangar deck, it just kept going, losing the aircraft on the elevator and the crewman who was in it.
  • During night operations, an aircraft hit the deck edge on approach, broke in half, skidded down the deck, and killed two sailors who had the misfortune of being in the port catwalk at the time.

Reflections and Remembrance

"I remember the people with whom I served with great fondness. We forged bonds which may never be broken. I felt I could trust every one of them with my life, which became more than a saying; a fact of everyday life. I will never forget."

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Tim Willis]]>, 26 Nov 2018 07:57:00 -0500

Timothy Thor Willis, Electronics Petty Officer (retired), grew up in the Trinity Mountains of Northern California. He was studying psychology in San Diego when the attack of 9/11 occurred. When this devastation hit the country, Tim felt compelled to do something and joined the US Coast Guard in 2002. After completing Basic Training in Cape May, New Jersey, he attended various electronics schools and specialized training courses. Tim was then stationed on the 378' High Endurance Cutter “Rush” out of Honolulu, Hawaii (WHEC-723) for three years.

 Timothy Thor Willis, Electronics Petty Officer (retired), Veterans at Mercury

Service Highlights

  • Incredible adventures in Alaska performing search and rescue in the Bearing Sea
  • Off the coast of South America, chased down drug runners with modified speedboats loaded with drugs
  • With access to the entire vessel, ran critical equipment to prevent navigational issues during pressing times such as rescues or drug interdictions

Most Interesting Moment

As a qualified rescue swimmer, Tim volunteered to test the Mustang survival suits by jumping through the ice in Kodiak Bay one early winter morning. The suit worked, thankfully!

Reflection and Remembrance

“I am very proud of my time in the service. Met some lifelong friends and learned so much about what teamwork is all about. I learned it’s better to do something right, than do it twice! Semper Paratus!”

Veterans at Mercury

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Mike Schneider]]>, 21 Nov 2018 08:04:00 -0500

Mike Schneider, Colonel (retired), was a soldier for over 30 years and held a variety of US Army and Joint Command and Staff positions at all echelons of the Department of Defense. He served in operational assignments in Europe, the Pacific, the Middle East, and throughout the United States, commanding multiple units at the company level, an air assault battalion, and an airborne brigade. Mike served in a variety of strategic and operational planner positions at US Army Pacific, Multi-National Force Iraq, and both the Joint Staff and Army Staff in the Pentagon.


Mike holds a BS from the United States Military Academy, an MS from West Point, NY, The Naval Post Graduate School, an MMAS from The Army Command and General Staff College, The School of Advanced Military Studies, and an MS from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Service Highlights

  • Chief of the Joint War Plans Division on the US Joint Staff, The Pentagon
  • Special Assistant for Strategy to the Chief of Staff of the Army, The Pentagon
  • Senior Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of the Army, The Pentagon
  • Chief of Security Strategy at Multi-National Force, Baghdad, Iraq
  • Commanding Officer of an Airborne Brigade and Airborne Battalion, Fort Bragg, NC
  • Chief of Operation 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barrack, HI
  • Senior Operational Test Officer for a variety of Army C3 Systems, Fort Hood, TX
  • Multiple Company level Commands, Augsburg, West Germany
  • Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (w/OLC), Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Army Staff Badge, Joint Staff Badge

Most Interesting Moment

"Too many interesting moments to pick the most interesting, but one of many was witnessing a mass reenlistment ceremony while in Iraq. It was truly humbling to see so many young men and women renew their commitment to service while in the midst of a combat zone, thousands of miles away from friends and family, and knowing first-hand the sacrifices that would be asked of them."

Reflection and Remembrance

"I wish everyone in America could have the opportunity to live and work with the amazing young men and women who raise their right hand, at a very young age, and swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Serving beside countless American soldiers from all walks of life, of every ethnicity and religion, has enriched my life beyond anything I can describe."

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Mark Bruington]]>, 20 Nov 2018 08:07:00 -0500

Mark Bruington, Captain (retired), served in the US Navy for 28 years as a Naval aviator. Before joining the Navy, he received a BS in Physics from San Francisco State University.

In his initial assignment with the A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, he supported a deployment for Operation Southern Watch in the Persian Gulf on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Following the retirement of the A-6, he transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat where he joined multiple squadrons all deploying aboard the John C. Stennis (CVN-74), mainly supporting Operation Southern Watch.

Mark then attended US Naval Test Pilot School where he was assigned to the Strike Test Squadron in Patuxent River, MD, flight testing both the F-14 and F/A-18 aircraft. During his time on shore duty, he received an MS in Systems Engineering from John Hopkins University. Following the events of 9/11, Mark once again deployed aboard the USS Stennis during Operation Enduring Freedom, flying missions in direct support of US and coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.

Veterans at Mercury - F-14 from the USS Stennis
Mark launching on a mission over Afghanistan in an F-14 from the USS Stennis

In his next assignment, he became an instructor pilot at US Naval Test Pilot School, and then transitioned to the F-35 Lightning Joint Program Office. He was later assigned to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), earning an MS in National Resource Strategy, followed by a year assignment on the OPNAV staff as a tactical aircraft and weapon systems requirements officer (N88).

Mark returned to Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, this time in the F/A-18 Hornet and EA-18G Growler program office (PMA-265) as the deputy program manager. He went on to be assigned as the Principal Director, Programs at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), focused on foreign military sales and excess defense article sales.

Mark’s final assignment in the Navy was as the 38th commanding officer of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) where he reported to the Chief of Naval Research and was responsible for conducting broadly-based, basic and applied research to answer the Navy’s science and technology strategy.

Service Highlights

  • Flew 3,200 tactical flight hours
  • 70 combat missions over Iraq & Afghanistan
  • Flew 41 different aircraft
  • Designated a Naval aviator in 1992 and a US Naval Test Pilot in 2000.
  • Graduate of Industrial College of the Armed Forces
  • DAWIA certified Level III in PM, T&E, SPRDE
  • Formally a member of the Navy Acquisition Professional Corps.
  • Fun fact: last combat mission flown was in March 2017 in a VXS-1 P-3C Orion over Northern Iraq/Southern Syria

Most Interesting Moment

"As I was walking on the flight deck of the USS Stennis to man our jets on a mission to attack the caves in Tora Bora, Eastern Afghanistan, along came a French and German destroyer each streaming the largest American flags I’d ever seen. It was truly moving and proved we were all part of something bigger than we could comprehend."

Reflection and Remembrance

"After 9/11, I was always humbled how individuals would go out of their way to thank me for my service when they saw me in uniform. I could tell it was genuine and quite different than what my father experienced when he returned from Vietnam in 1969."

Mark with his daughters when returning home from flying

<![CDATA[Electronic Support: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 3]]>, 19 Nov 2018 07:59:00 -0500

“They have a missile-lock on us!” is a phrase we’ve heard countless times in movies and is usually a sign that a radar-guided missile is incoming. Ever wonder how the aircraft’s systems detect this type of threat? In this post, we'll discuss how a radar warning receiver provides information on an adversary’s radar, as well as some general information on electronic support. Before we get into the details, I recommend reviewing the two previous posts for a brief background of the history of electronic warfare and an overview of radar.

What is Electronic Support?

Electronic support (ES) is the set of technologies and methods designed to receive and analyze an adversary’s transmissions of electromagnetic signals. This includes locating the sources of radar signals as well as identifying the adversary’s communication signals.

There is crossover between ES and signal intelligence (SIGINT), but the key difference is that ES is more tactical while SIGINT is more strategic. For example, while an ES system might identify an adversary’s communication signal so it can be jammed, a SIGINT system will intercept the transmission for longer-term strategic planning. Additionally, electronic support is less concerned with the content of the signal and instead is focused on the technical details of the transmission itself.

While both ES and SIGINT are critical, this article focuses on electronic support and its objective of improving situational awareness.

Radar Warning Receivers

The purpose of a radar warning receiver (RWR) is to detect and analyze radar signals in order to provide actionable information. For example, a radar detector in a car will detect police radar to notify the driver that if they don’t slow down, they might get pulled over.

However, the below discussion will focus on airborne RWR systems. These systems detect radar signals using wideband antennas placed in key locations on the aircraft. Amplifiers located near the antennas boost the signal before it's sent to either a downconverter or directly digitized. The system then analyzes the signals and compares them to a threat library to determine information such as the type of radar, the direction to the radar and an estimate of the distance.

Consider an aircraft flying through a hostile area. Suddenly, an alarm goes off indicating the detection of a ground-based search radar. The pilot adjusts course to avoid the radar site but then sees a second alarm indicating the detection of a targeting radar from a ground-to-air missile. Using this information, the pilot is able to take actions to evade the missiles.

The Battle for Best Noise Figure

Looking back at the above example, we find that by increasing the range of the RWR, we give the pilot the maximum amount of time to respond to the threat. In the case of a search radar, the RWR ideally detects that threat before the aircraft is discovered.

Detecting a radar signal requires the signal to be greater than the noise floor. Similarly to radar, one of the first approaches to increasing the range is to improve the noise figure. This is why the low noise amplifiers are placed near the antennas—by reducing the cable length before the amplifiers, the loss is reduced thereby improving the noise figure. This clearly illustrates the back-and-forth competition between radar and electronic warfare. The radar system designer tries to maximize the radar range, and the EW system designer works to optimize the RWR range. Since technology is continually improving, the most successful systems are the ones that can quickly be updated to incorporate the latest technological advancements.

In this competition between radar and radar warning receiver, the RWR designer is faced with an additional challenge. While the radar system designer knows the operational frequency of the radar, the RWR must have sufficient bandwidth to detect multiple types of radar. This is a key concept that differentiates electronic warfare systems from most other technologies and one that we will see in all types of EW system design. For example, as mentioned in the previous post, search radars operate at lower frequencies and targeting radars operate at higher frequencies. In order to accurately detect these different threats, the EW receiver must have a very broad bandwidth, which is why it's common to see multi-octave electronic warfare tuners and converters. In the next post, we will discuss another key element of electronic warfare—electronic attack.

Part 4: Electronic Attack

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Lisa Disbrow]]>, 16 Nov 2018 10:31:00 -0500

Lisa Disbrow, Colonel (retired), served in the US Air Force and US Air Force Reserve as an Operations Intelligence Officer, Operational Planner, and Programmer. Lisa retired from the USAF Reserve with over 23 years of total service. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1984 and received her commission from the Air Force’s Officer Training School, Lackland AFB, TX in 1985.

Lisa was an Indications & Warning Officer in the global watch center during the Cold War, tracking Soviet force disposition, including bomber and submarine movements. She was competitively selected by the Defense Intelligence Agency for a Master’s Degree and Arabic language training.

During Desert Storm, she produced US Central Command’s Tactical Electronic, Air and Missile Orders of Battle for joint targeting. She then transitioned to the Reserve after Desert Storm, serving as an operational planner in “Checkmate” global planning office, and a programmer developing the USAF’s annual budget request at the Pentagon.

Service Highlights

  • Deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Northern Watch
  • Helped develop initial, all-source intelligence reach-back support for forward forces, Operation Northern Watch
  • National intelligence support during war in Bosnia
  • Graduate of Command & Staff College, National War College, Capstone

Most Interesting Moment

  • Supporting the Joint Force Air Component Commander when Iraq began flying after Desert Storm
  • During the war in Bosnia, providing national intelligence support to locate downed pilot Scott O’Grady

Reflection and Remembrance

“It was an honor to train and deploy in support of our nation’s defense. Working with soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to plan and execute joint missions was a highlight of my career.”

<![CDATA[Management of Complicated Systems]]>, 14 Nov 2018 12:25:00 -0500

Complicated systems, like the ones created here at Mercury, beg for access to a management module that can monitor health and control the behavior of modules that make up these systems. These management modules can be separate, integrated on each module/board, or strictly software applications. Our SMP Engineering team has dealt with these many types and have incorporated them, depending on the customer’s application and the level of security that is required.

Intelligent Platform Management Interface

Mercury's system management uses the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) that is available on most modules. Some systems use the System Management Module (SMM) to control payload configurations and processes distributed throughout the system. Others use a Management Controller (MC) and/or Baseboard Management Controller (BMC). All of these communicate to each other over the Intelligent Platform Management Bus (IPMB).

The Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) has been around for quite some time and is the standard for system monitoring, employed by many system technologies including AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA, VME, VPX, VXS, CompactPCI, and CompactPCI Serial. IPMI also works with other standard software, such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Desktop Management Interface (DMI).

This architecture enables IPMI to be throughout a system, from board-level management to system-level management, on just about anything that can be monitored. System Management capabilities defined by IPMI include event logging, sensor monitoring, manual and automatic system recovery when sensor readings exceed pre-defined thresholds, the ability to collect information such as serial numbers, etc.  

Chassis Management

The new VPX Chassis Manager (CM) enables remote access to any board and chassis that supports VITA 46.11. The primary functions of the VITA 46.11 Chassis Manager are inventory management, sensor management, system configuration, recovery and diagnostic management. The layers of management referenced by VITA 46.11 are IPMC, Chassis Manager and System Manager, which are hierarchical in nature. IPMC (board level management) communicates with the Chassis Manager, which then reports to the System Manager that's capable of monitoring multiple chassis.

The Chassis Management Controller (ChMC) can be implemented in several ways. These could be on one of the front-loading VPX plug-in modules, as a mezzanine board that plugs onto the backplane, or as a standalone board. Advantages of a VPX Chassis Management Controller:

  • External access - The Chassis Manager, which has access to every IPMC in the system over the IPMB, supports an Ethernet interface to the System Manager.
  • Cooling control - A typical method is to monitor board and chassis temperatures, then adjust the fan speed to maintain the predetermined range.
  • Inventory management - The chassis manager maintains a full list of all intelligent Field Replaceable Units (FRUs) and boards as well as any other components that support VITA 46.11.
  • Sensor management - A list of all sensors connected to each intelligent FRU in the system, along with any threshold or limits.
  • Sensor Event log - Although the actual log size will vary among chassis managers, it provides a history of all events such as an over temperature condition or an under voltage condition, which will typically begin to overwrite the log when full, removing the older messages first.
  • Diagnostics and recovery - The specific VPX boards in a system, and their compatibility with VITA 46.11, will determine the level at which the chassis manager can diagnose and respond to system events.

System Manager

At the top of the logical management layer is the System Manager, which oversees multiple chassis and will communicate with multiple chassis managers. The System Manager capability can be based on middleware, a SNMP MIB browser, custom software, RMCP, or something as simple as the ability to Telnet into a system. As more advanced monitoring functions are implemented, existing shelf management capabilities will continue to increase the effectiveness, value, and reliability of these embedded systems well into the future.

Using an SMM on a system allows you access to a system that may be closed, with only one way in or out. The use of an SMM gives you another way to reach the modules within the system if a payload module becomes inaccessible for whatever reason. Without System Management, these types of systems would be down, unusable, and need to be removed and sent to where they could be fixed, causing delays in the execution of their assigned task. Having an SMM, you can access the troubled module, investigate what happened, and possibly even repair the issue without an extended down time.

Think of it like this: You hear someone calling for help from your neighbor's house, but when you walk inside, you realized the power has been knocked. The house is totally pitch-black and you can't see anything. Since you're blinded, you're not able to help unless you brought your "System Management" flashlight. Once you turn it on, you can see the furniture and pathways so you can find the person calling for help and rescue them.   IPMI Block Diagram - Management of Complicate Systems

Open-Source Tools

Some open-source tools support and provide access to IPMI systems like OpenIPMI and IPMItool. OpenIPMI provides access to all IPMI functions, allowing its tools to manage any IPMI system from a Linux system. Used by IPMI applications, it consists of a device driver and a set of user libraries. IPMItool is an application that can interface with an IPMI system using IPMI-over-LAN interfaces or device driver interfaces like OpenIPMI.

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Paul Leuchte]]>, 12 Nov 2018 06:30:00 -0500

Paul Leuchte served in the US Air Force Band, part of the MA Air National Guard, for 23 years. He began his career in the trumpet section and ultimately became the squadron First Sergeant and Drum Major.

Veterans at Mercury Systems - Paul Leuchte

Paul and two of his siblings continued the family military service record established by their dad and seven of his ten siblings. His high school band director had served in the DC Marine Band and encouraged Paul to audition. He enlisted during his senior year of high school and attended basic training just three days after graduation.

Moving up in the ranks, Paul took on numerous additional duties such as NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) of Training, then Operations, and finally First Sergeant. During his time, Paul toured the US supporting military ceremonies for all of the services, as well as civilian events, parades, and concerts.

Performance Highlights

  • Esplanade with the Pops on the 3rd of July
  • Opening of the Kennedy Museum
  • As Drum Major, twice leading the band into Fenway Park for opening day ceremonies
<![CDATA[Can GPS be Trusted? Part 3]]>, 09 Nov 2018 11:37:00 -0500

In my previous posts, I discussed the shortcomings and benefits of utilizing GPS as a primary Position Navigation and Timing (PNT) source. I also examined methods that provide Assured PNT (or A-PNT). These include hardening the GPS signal against jamming, while at the same time jamming the enemy’s receivers, utilizing encryption to provide spoofing immunity, and complementing GPS with other forms of PNT equipment.

This final post will focus on how complementing PNT systems can be combined together in a military vehicle and how this can be efficaciously integrated with other military ground vehicle systems.


MAPS (Mounted Assured PNT System) is a vehicle A-PNT directive defined by CERDEC (Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center) with the intent of supporting multiple A-PNT form factors and capabilities to satisfy all military vehicle roles. For example, a HET (Heavy Equipment Transport) vehicle’s PNT system might only require only a GPS if it typically travels in convoy with more capable vehicles. However a JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle), which is utilized for demanding C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) missions might require a more reliable, accurate, and more costly A-PNT implementation.

The Oshkosh Defense Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)

All vehicle A-PNT systems rely on their M-Code GPS as the primary PNT source. This provides positional accuracy to within a few feet and time to within a few nanoseconds of UTC time. Other PNT systems would act as backups to the GPS and themselves.

PNT subsystems can be obtained from multiple manufacturers, each with very different interfaces and capabilities. To produce an A-PNT product these subsystems need to be managed and controlled so that the most accurate PNT data is always provided to the vehicle.

PNT Sensor Fusion

Our industry colleague Orolia has been addressing military PNT challenges with a sensor fusion approach that combines many signals of opportunity along with traditional navigation signals. Sensors fall into two groups – external reference points which you connect via RF, optically or by other means, and internal sensors which are self-contained. Several of the former group were described in my previous post, and though they can provide great accuracy, they are susceptible to obscuration, jamming, and spoofing.

The latter group has the advantage of not relying on external reference points, so they are nearly impossible to defeat by the enemy. Some examples are:

  • Precision Time: accurate time is a factor in all navigation, and achieving parts per trillion stability and accuracy is now possible and practical in tactical vehicles using Chip Scale Atomic Clocks (CSAC).
  • MEMs IMU: there is a revolution in Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) using Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMs) in which small, low-power and low-cost devices are improving in performance every year, beginning to approach tactical grade.
  • Vehicle Odometer: read from the VICTORY bus, inaccuracies due to wheel slip can be significant, but can be compensated for by accounting for acceleration and turning factors. Additionally, visual speedometers/odometers using down-looking cameras and image recognition can provide reliable sensing independent of wheel slip.

Orolia Broadshield A-PNT Software

There is no one magic bullet solution to the resilient PNT problem, which is why Orolia is combining external signals of opportunity with diverse internal sensors to create a robust navigation solution. This smart combination approach means that in addition to the standard Extended Kalman Filter techniques, to optimally estimate a time and position point in space from all the sensor inputs, Orolia also detects jamming and spoofing before the signal is used. Their BroadShield software uses algorithms to detect GNSS anomalies, so the switch to alternative sensors occurs before the navigation solution is corrupted.

Visualizing PTP: Canyon Echoes

Historically, military vehicles have employed a number of different standards to distribute time through the vehicle. These generally involve a point-to-point serial data stream to depict the actual time of day along with a 1PPS (one pulse per second) signal that accurately marks the start of each new second. As warfare becomes more network-centric, with different subsystems requiring A-PNT data, accurate time over Ethernet will become increasingly critical.

Almost since its inception, Ethernet has used NTP (Network Time Protocol)—accurate to within tens of milliseconds—for synchronizing computers to the time of day. A newer protocol, PTP (Precision Time Protocol), also known as IEEE 1588-2008 or PTP v2, can synchronize the time of day between computers (no matter how far apart they are or how many network devices are between them) with the accuracy of tens of nanoseconds.

To simplify how PTP works, I like to use the analogy of a long canyon with two people standing at each end. One person holds a megaphone in one hand and an accurate clock (in PTP terms, the Grandmaster Clock) in the other. Periodically, this person uses the megaphone to announce the current time. The other person hears this and sets their clock (in PTP terms, the Slave Clock) to that time. Due to the speed of sound, the Slave clock will now be set a few seconds later than the Grandmaster Clock.


The announcer hears echoes of their announcement as it travels down the canyon. An echo from the far end, where the listener is, will be perceived as being delayed by twice the flight time to the listener, having traveled both out and back. This value is halved and announced. When hearing it, the listener advances the Slave Clock by the announced value and both clocks are now in sync.

A similar signaling occurs in PTP, however, here the canyon is a cable and the announcement speed is close to the speed of light. As well as passive cables with fixed delays, networks also have active components such as network switches and routers that have a variable delay due to their unpredictable packet pipelining, storage and processing. Without compensation, this can lead to many milliseconds of timing “jitter”, making accurate time synchronization impossible.

Network switches, such as Mercury System’s NanoSWITCH, use a feature called PTP Transparent Clocking to remove this time jitter and return the time of day accuracy to tens of nanoseconds. This hardware level feature option times exactly how long a network packet takes to pass through the switch. This measured time is appended to the Grandmaster Clock’s PTP timing packets in a “residence time” field. The Slave Clock removes this residence time from the calculated time of day for each PTP packet along with the calculated cable flight time. Any timing jitter is thus completely removed.

Mercury’s NanoSWITCH is available with PTP Transparent Clocking to remove timing jitter


A surprisingly large number of vehicle subsystems require PNT and a future upgrade to A-PNT:

  • EW (Electronic Warfare) systems, such as GPS jammers
  • FBCB2 (Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below) Blue Force Tracking
  • Tactical communications radios
  • Command and Control computers
  • Threat detection and countermeasure systems
  • And, of course, vehicle navigation and mapping systems

Following a military tradition of adding independent systems to vehicles in a bolt-on approach, each system would typically have its own GPS and antenna, making an upgrade to A-PNT very costly and complex. Add to the fact that each system frequently requires its own computer, display, and keyboard—and one can see how the competition for limited cabin space was fierce. It is essential that this is addressed before A-PNT is deployed.

A cramped Humvee (the JLTV predecessor)

The VICTORY initiative was created to solve this problem. VICTORY is a rather contrived acronym for (deep breath!): “Vehicular Integration for Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) / Electronic Warfare (EW) Interoperability”.

The VICTORY standard was developed by a government-industry standards body to address this stovepipe methodology. Through its uniform service interfaces, VICTORY allows resources to be seamlessly shared throughout the vehicle, reducing the ever important SWaP-C (Size, Weight, Power and Cost) footprint as well as system complexity. At the heart of VICTORY is:

  • An Ethernet based data bus-centric design
  • Sharable hardware components - deploy software additions without adding hardware
  • Open standard physical and logical interfaces between system and C4ISR/EW components
  • A set of shared data bus services
  • Shared hardware and software Information Assurance security components to protect/control access

A-PNT is a central feature of VICTORY and is supported through Position, Orientation, Direction of Travel and Time Synchronization (PTP and NTP) services. A-PNT system manufacturers that provide systems with VICTORY service interfaces will have access to many future vehicle programs, which often require install kits for different operational configurations. The first VICTORY deployment, the JLTV—the Army’s replacement for the Humvee—is fielded with Mercury’s NanoSWITCH.

In Conclusion

GPS can indeed be trusted against spoofing through military encryption. In its hardened form, it is still the primary PNT source for all military systems, despite its continuing (although reduced) susceptibility to jamming. With GPS as its core, A-PNT provides a fully assured PNT capability via sensor fusion with a wide selection of complementary PNT systems.

The combination of A-PNT, VICTORY, and MAPS will equip future military vehicles with a robust and dependable PNT solution in the lowest overall SWaP-C footprint.

For more information about Mercury’s ARMY capabilities, please click here.  

<![CDATA[Veterans @MRCY: Edward Conant]]>, 07 Nov 2018 07:32:00 -0500

Edward Conant, Colonel (retired), Operational Fighter and Test Pilot, served in the US Air Force for 26 years after graduating from the US Air Force Academy in 1988. He began his career flying the F-15C Eagle at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He's pictured here in the cockpit of “his” F-15 (although the American taxpayer still owned the jet!).


Following two tours flying the F-15 operationally, Edward attended Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After graduation, once again the Air Force sent him to the sunny coast of Florida to perform flight tests in the F-15. After 9/11, he led numerous quick reaction flight tests to get new weapons out to the field in support of the War on Terror.

During his career, Edward served in flying leadership positions ranging from Flight Commander to Squadron Operations Officer to Vice Wing Commander. He also held a number of staff positions, including serving on the F-35 program and on the Air Force staff working with the Pentagon and Congress on the F-22 and F-35 programs.

Service Highlights

  • Two combat tours flying over Iraq in 1993 and 1997
  • Operational tours flying the F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle
  • Graduated from Air Force Test Pilot School in 1998
  • Vice Wing Commander of a Test Wing
  • Flew over 2,500 hours in a variety of aircraft, including the F-15 and F-16

Reflection and Remembrance

"I am one of those lucky people who got to live their childhood dreams. As a kid, I would look to the sky at military aircraft and think becoming a pilot is what I want to do when I grow up. My father was a World War II veteran and he imparted a strong sense of patriotism and respect for the military, so it just made sense for me to pursue my dreams in the Air Force. I never imagined when entering the Air Force Academy in 1984 that I would get to travel the world and fly the most amazing airplanes while serving my country.”

Veterans at Mercury Systems

<![CDATA[The Secret to Amplifying Your Impact]]>, 02 Nov 2018 12:14:00 -0400

On my LinkedIn page, I posted an update inspired by the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. Motivated by the response I received, I wanted to explore this topic further in my first blog post!

No matter what job title is listed on my email signature, I’m an engineer by training and at heart. You can imagine my surprise, as I was reading Grit, when I came across these equations I’d like to share with you:


Achievement = Skill * Effort   (Eq1)

Skill = Talent * Effort   (Eq2)

Combine both equations, and you arrive at a formula that is the subject of today’s post:

Achievement = Talent * (Effort)^2   (Eq3)

Duckworth adeptly refers to this as “Effort counts twice.”


Reflecting on this for a moment, I thought of the professional superstars I’ve encountered during my civilian and law enforcement careers. These superstars were intelligent but not necessarily the smartest people in the room. A few graduated from Ivy League schools, but not all. Their level of education didn’t correlate with their success.

The single, unifying trait of all of these superstars was their ability to stay laser-focused on an end goal and keep driving through challenge after challenge until they were successful. There was never a shortage of effort, even in the most demanding of times.

If I could offer advice to a college student today, I would advise him or her to keep Equation 3 in mind. Whether it’s a hobby, your marriage, or your career, there are only two ways to get better – refine your talents and work harder than you ever thought possible. Know how to get the biggest return on investment by wisely distributing your attention between talent development and applying yourself through hard work. Every individual is on his or her own personal journey, and there is no universal cookie-cutter advice. Perseverance and Grit

As Duckworth explains in her book, most parents do a great job of pointing out where we have natural talent. We practice to become better, to develop that talent. But we do put in enough effort to realize our full potential for any given talent?

Assume for a moment that I am a new college graduate starting my first professional job. I have very basic skills that are appropriate for an entry-level role. In the beginning, my achievements are small, but the novelty of the situation fuels my effort to improve.

Now I am proficient at my role after 3 or 4 years. My achievements are more significant, and a voice in my mind says, “Look at what you’ve accomplished! Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine.” Under a best case scenario, I might continue to expend the same amount of effort.

My journey as a junior employee takes me on the path of the light blue line in the graph below. What the graph doesn’t show, unless I were to add a third dimension to this graph, is that the amount of time it takes to progress from Novice to Superstar is exceptionally long, perhaps even longer than one’s professional career. In this example, with a constant amount of effort, you must increase your talent 64X to achieve superstar status! Can you even begin to fathom what a 6400% improvement might be in one of your skills? To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this path, unless your goal is to achieve Superstar status.

Effort and Perseverance

Let’s consider the possibilities of what could be attained with a shift in mindset – inspired by the book, Grit. What if my effort increases over time, simultaneously while I make a conscious effort to further develop my talent? Clearly this is not a path for the faint of heart. Sacrifices must be made to prioritize the time spent expending so much effort to realize the potential of my talent. However, the combination of talent development and increasing effort is exceptionally powerful. Few choose this path, as it is extremely arduous.


If you want to be the best person you can be, in any dimension of your life, keep in mind that you have two levers to pull: Refine your skills and double-down on your effort. I also encourage talking to your managers and senior leadership to understand their personal journeys. What steps did they take to develop their talent? How did incremental effort help them fully realize their potential?

-Charlie Leader, Senior Vice President, General Manager

<![CDATA[Radar Basics: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 2]]>, 30 Oct 2018 15:08:00 -0400

In the first post of this series, we discussed the history of electronic warfare with an emphasis on the back-and-forth competition to develop systems that grant the owner control over the electromagnetic spectrum. When one country develops a new radar system, its adversary starts working on a jammer. In order to mitigate the effects of the jammer, the radar developer then must design a system that protects the radar from those effects.

This invisible battle over control of the electromagnetic spectrum is critical to success on the battlefield and is the topic of the subsequent posts. However, understanding the technology to jam and deceive radar requires an understanding of the radar systems.

We're all familiar with the applications of radar—that yellow warning light on your mirror telling you someone is in your blind spot, police radar monitoring your speed, images on the news showing the path of a storm. However, for the purpose of understanding electronic warfare, we'll look at the types of radar in three main groups.

Three Types of Radar Systems

Search radars scan over long ranges and wide angles to locate targets. For example, early warning systems can detect distant threats to provide adequate time for a response. These types of radar systems often operate at lower frequencies since range is prioritized over resolution. Because range is so critical, these systems are sometimes installed on-board aircraft to increase the line-of-sight to the horizon.

Tracking radar systems accurately measure a small number of targets—often just one. By operating at a higher frequency, the resolution is increased, providing improved accuracy. Additionally, instead of scanning a large area, they focus on a much smaller region in order to continuously monitor their target. Fire-control radars employ this type of system.

Imaging radars employ a variety of techniques to analyze an area to create an image. For example, airborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can be used to create images of landscapes. The below image is of the Teide Volcano in the Canary Islands and was created using a space-based synthetic aperture radar on-board the Space Shuttle Endeavor.


Radar Basics

Now that we've broken down types of radar by their application, we'll move on to describing the details behind their operation.

At its core, radar technology is simple. The transmitter sends a signal towards the target. Some energy from this pulse reflects off of the target and is received by the radar system. Since the radar signals propagate at the speed of light, measuring the elapsed time between sending the original signal and receiving the reflection allows for a calculation of the distance. By confining the radar signal to a narrow beam, the location of the source of the reflection is known.

Doppler Radar The approach above provides the distance to the target and the angle of the target relative to the radar system. However, what if we also need to understand how the target is moving? To do this, we use Doppler radar.

If you aren’t familiar with the Doppler effect, it explains why the pitch of a siren appears to change right as the ambulance drives past. In terms of radar, the frequency of the reflected wave is modified as a function of the reflector’s velocity. In practice, the velocity of the target is determined by analyzing the phase shift in the received radar signal. Measuring this phase shift requires the transmitted radar pulses to have the same phase offset. While creating coherent pulses is a challenge, it enables a much more capable radar system.

In addition to determining the target’s velocity, Doppler radar can filter out reflections from objects with low velocities. In the case of an airborne Doppler radar, this technique is able to discard many of the reflections from the ground. Referred to as "ground clutter rejection", this technique increases the radar’s ability to easily identify other airborne targets—especially those flying low near the source of the unwanted ground reflections.

Range and Resolution

Next, we'll describe two key performance metrics of a radar system—range and resolution—and discuss some common techniques to improve them.

Range To understand how to optimize the range of a radar system, we first need to review some of the factors that determine the range. Depending on the gain of the antenna, a percentage of the transmitted power is incident on the target, and depending on the target’s radar cross section, some of that power is reflected back to the radar antenna. As the range is increased, less and less power returns to the radar receiver. When the received power of the signal is close to the noise floor, the range of the radar has been exceeded.

Obviously, increasing the transmitted power also increases the received power. One way to accomplish this is through the use of a GaN-based power amplifier. This high-power technology supports increased output power in a small form factor. A less obvious approach is to integrate multiple pulses. Since the noise is roughly random in nature, averaging multiple measurements improves the signal-to-noise ratio and therefore increases the radar’s range.

Resolution As described above, tracking radars need to accurately locate the target with high resolution. Operating at a high frequency is one way to improve the resolution of the radar. Another approach is shaping the waveform, using techniques such as pulse compression. Linear frequency modulation, commonly referred to as "chip", is one type of pulse compression. While the details are beyond the scope of this article, they result in the radar receiving narrower pulses, which improve the resolution of the radar.

What's Next...

While much more can be said regarding the functioning of radar systems, this brief introduction provides the necessary background for the subsequent posts. In the next article we present a brief overview of electronic support, followed by posts on the other two main elements of electronic warfare—electronic attack and electronic protection. In terms of radar, electronic support involves locating an adversary’s radar system, electronic attack involves degrading an adversary’s radar system, and electronic protection involves protecting a radar system from the effects of an adversary’s use of electronic attack.

Part 3: Electronic Support

<![CDATA[Can GPS be Trusted? Part 2]]>, 23 Oct 2018 14:56:00 -0400

In my previous blog post, Can GPS be Trusted? Part 1, I explained why commercial GPS position, navigation and timing (PNT) cannot be trusted for critical systems. This blog explains how a trusted PNT system can still use a GPS as the primary PNT source.

Adding Trust with A-PNT

Assured Position, Navigation and Timing (also known as A-PNT) is an Army initiative that attempts to provide soldiers and systems with a reliable and accurate source of position, navigation and time even during compromised, denied or spoofed GPS transmissions.

A-PNT is a set of goals that are driven by the Army’s Direct Reporting Program Manager PNT (PM PNT) and the PNT System of Systems Architecture (SoSA). They derive from technologies developed by the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and generally follow COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) technological improvements.

A-PNT’s goals can be summarized by the following:

  • Harden – resilience to denial, both from enemy and friendly jamming
  • Trust – immunity to spoofing
  • Complement – redundancy to failure by complementing GPS with multiple non-GPS PNT sensor

Hardening the GPS Signal Against the Enemy: Pseudolites

As mentioned in Part 1, GPS satellite signals are very weak due to their high orbit. Newer GPS satellites offer higher power, but to get the best signal they need to be closer - something impractical for the existing GPS constellation. However, it is possible to complement the satellites with terrestrial transmitters, called Pseudolites (“pseudo satellites”). Placed on the ground or in the air, Pseudolites appear to the receiver as a non-orbiting “satellite” with a very strong signal. Military receivers are already capable of receiving these strong signals (with a software update to remove orbit tracking) while encryption denies enemy access.

To operate correctly, Pseudolites need to know their current position and the GPS Time (the common GPS time base that all satellites use). To help with this, anti-jam antennae are used to provide signal filtering and directional features to make the best of the weak GPS signal while blocking any jamming signal.

Pseudolite Examples

Unlike ground-based Pseudolites, which are prone to line of site issues due to the terrain, airborne Pseudolites, placed in HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or balloons, give wide area visibility while having better GPS satellite jamming immunity.

Trusting the GPS Signal

As discussed my previous post, the low-power GPS satellite signal makes it vulnerable to jamming, which can deny systems a GPS fix. But more importantly, an enemy can spoof the signal and provide false positional and timing information.

GPS satellites communicate range and time using multiple pseudo-random bit streams, called “codes”, which are phase modulated onto the carrier frequency to form a spread spectrum. The receiver compares these codes to internally generated versions to both identify the satellite and determine the time delay or range. Commercial systems utilize an unencrypted “C/A-code” (Course/Acquisition code or Civilian Access code) output of the GPS satellites and a similar L2C-code used for surveying. The US military controls an additional encrypted channel called “P(Y)-code” or encrypted Precision code, which has been in operation since 1994. Receivers that use P(Y)-code are called SAASM receivers (Selective Availability / Anti-Spoofing Module).

It’s the P(Y) code that provides the Anti-Spoofing through code encryption using a secret “red” key. A properly keyed SAASM receiver can decrypt the GPS P(Y)-code using an unrestricted, but encrypted, “black” key. Each SAASM receiver has secret crypto software loaded into its Key Data Processor (KDP) which can decrypt the “black” key and use it to then decrypt the P(Y)-code. When successfully decrypted, the SAASM receiver knows to trust the GPS signal.

It’s interesting to note that through a satellite feature called “Selective Availability” (SA), the DoD intentionally degraded the commercial C/A-code by adding a clocking error equivalent to a range error of 300 feet. This, and a higher bit rate for the P(Y)-code, was intended to restrict high accuracy navigation to the US military only. A presidential order discontinued the SA error function in May 2002, and receiver technology improvements have since mitigated the higher bit rate advantage, leaving anti-spoofing as the only unique GPS military feature in place today.

As I mentioned in Part 1, the commercial sector is also heavily reliant on GPS, and this has led to pressure to implement a commercial authentication system for anti-spoofing. Currently all Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), such as the US GPS and European Galileo systems, do not provide this, however, there is a drive to add a feature called NMA (Navigation Message Authentication), which has the potential to bring trust to the commercial sector within the next few years.

The military advantages of P(Y)-code have been eroded as commercial demands on GPS grow. But GPS is moving on to something new: M-Code.

Hardening the GPS Signal against Attack: M-code

In the never-ending Electronic Warfare (EW) battle, the warfighter not only needs a GPS system that is immune to enemy jamming and spoofing, but also one that operates when the enemy is being jammed or spoofed.

What makes this counter-intuitive scenario feasible is a new GPS signaling technology called M-code. This military-only ranging code is being adopted with the upcoming GPS Block IIIA (or GPS III) satellite launches and will be available late 2019. Like P(Y)-code, M-code is an encrypted signal. But the similarities end there. It uses a different phase modulation which makes it appear in two lobes of the spread spectrum around the center carrier frequency. This allows transmission at higher powers without interfering with the commercial C/A-code (positioned at the carrier frequency), something that has been impossible for P(Y)-code.

The lobed spectrum of M-code also provides the ability to do selective jamming. By jamming the enemy’s commercial C/A-code at only the carrier frequency of each satellite, the M-code can remain unharmed and available for US military use.

M-code allows jamming of commercial GPS while protecting military PNT

Blue Force Electronic Attack (BFEA) utilizes M-code to deny commercial GPS for hundreds of miles while continuing military GPS reception. BFEA can even be mounted in Pseudolites, simultaneously enhancing friendly military GPS and denying enemy commercial GPS.

Unfortunately, since this selective jamming also jams much of the P(Y)-code signal, it can render the older SAASM receivers inoperable. To address this issue, as of 2017, all new military GPS receivers are required to support M-code.

Complementing GPS: Atomic Clocks, INS and More

Complementing GPS requires the use of other Position, Navigation and Timing systems to supplement a compromised GPS. Such sources are:

Position and Navigation

  • Pseudolites
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) commercial satellite systems, such as Satelles, Inc.'s STL (Satellite Time and Location) adaptation of the Iridium satellite communications network. STL's lower orbit produces encrypted time and range signals that are 1,000 times stronger than GPS
  • Other GNSS satellites, such as the European Galileo constellation, especially when the authentication from NMA becomes available
  • Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) using accelerometers and compasses to determine rotation and movement. Their accuracy deteriorates over time due to drift errors but can be reset whenever GPS is re-acquired
  • Ground based PNT systems, such as eLoran
  • Commercial broadcasting tower location fixes, such as cell towers, TV stations, etc.
  • Ancient celestial navigation


  • Chip Scale Atomic Clocks (CSACs). These are the size of a box of matches and have a time drift of around 50 microseconds a day. For perspective, a quartz crystal-based clock has an accuracy of only 2 seconds a day (40,000 times worse)
  • Rubidium-based Miniature Atomic Clocks, slightly larger and higher power than a CSACs, but very stable and 20 or more times less drift

A-PNT Deployment

Fast deployment of advanced A-PNT systems is critical to the safety and efficacy of military operations. CERDEC is targeting A-PNT for both vehicles and infantry systems.

  • MAPS (Mounted Assured PNT System) is for vehicles
  • DAPS (Dismounted Assured PNT System) is for infantry

DAPS will require hand-held A-PNT systems, which will be necessarily limited in features and a simpler network topology.

In contrast, the larger platform of MAPS will be capable of hosting a diversity of PNT sensors to provide a very high degree of PNT assurance with a wide choice of cost/benefits to match particular vehicle requirements. However, traditional Vetronics implementations have had a dedicated GPS for each vehicle subsystem (e.g. C4ISR, EW, communication, mapping, navigation and mission systems), which increases system complexity and SWAP-C (Size Weight, Power and Cost). This has severely hindered deployment of the potently larger and higher cost A-PNT systems.In my next blog, I will discuss VICTORY, a standard that brings order to complex A-PNT C4ISR systems.

<![CDATA[Think Global, Act Local]]>, 16 Oct 2018 07:21:00 -0400

According to the web site,

“'Think global, act local', is a common principle that is applied to organizations, business, education and governance. It asks that employees, students and citizens consider the global impact of their actions.”

As a group, virtually all who are reading this blog (thank you) are all of the above - employees, students and citizens. It’s logical to assume the words global and local are relative terms – especially within an engineering context.

A friend of mine holds a PhD in Astrophysics from Caltech. Like a lot of super smart guys, he now excels in an area that couldn’t be farther afield from his education – although, Astrophysics speaks to a very large “field”. As the CTO of his current company, he has architected a very nice, one-touch disaster recovery system for data you just don’t want to lose. Marc likes to refer to the hardware behind the magic as, “the necessary evil”… In effect, he’s echoing the sentiments of Harvard Economist, Theodore Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole”.

The Necessary Evil

Hardware required to execute combat systems applications doesn’t necessarily add value to the platform. While it’s a critical piece of any platform, it’s deployed with a fixed set of components (sometimes in redundant configurations) yielding limited capacity and capabilities.  These systems require on-going maintenance, administration, and technology refresh when limits are in reach – as a result of obsolescence, end-of-life, or inherent ineffectiveness. This is what we mean by being “necessary”, but “evil”… platform IT equipment has traditionally driven up costs, while ultimately limiting combat effectiveness and even availability of the platform, itself.

With regard to a single closed system, a universally accessible resource might be considered global I/O (Input/Output) and that owned by a single server, local I/O. As purveyors of components for mission critical military and aerospace systems, Mercury Systems operates with a core underlying principle that we are an important and integral part of our customers’ global context, be it a RADAR, a naval surface combatant, an ISR aircraft, or a land mobile platform. However, our goal is not to simply execute our “local” piece of the overall system, but to deliver in ways that enhance the whole.

What does any of this have to do with a naval surface combatant?

A surface combatant, e.g., Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer, might be described succinctly as providing Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) for a battle group, or even a piece of our global habitat. Nowhere in that short description does it mention a floating data center. On the other hand, it’s obvious to even the most casual observer that an exemplary IAMD platform features superior sensors, a comprehensive command & decision framework, and highly effective kinetic and/or electro-magnetic response systems.

In no case do Navy commanders pine for fewer, less capable missiles, smaller and less capable sensors, and fewer lines of code in their command & decision systems. Rather, if the current mission could be performed on (25) $1,500 laptop computers, they’d surely find use for the space, weight, power and cooling dividends. It cannot be overlooked that our Navy’s near-peer competitors have access to the same IT gear, but (hopefully) NOT the same sensor & weapons designs.

AEGIS Fleet air-defense
U.S.S. Shoup on patrol. The Aegis destroyer DDG 86 is a key component of the U.S. Navy’s strategy of distributed lethality. Fleet air-defense relevance directly derives from contemporaneous maintenance of technological and training competence

In a report out of NAVSEA SEAO5TD, Dr. Norbert Doerry identified the ship’s combat systems’ “effect on actual ship service life” as a “strong driver” and that the Navy “can’t cost-effectively update”. From the outside looking in, that seems just as evil as if a ship’s company were sent home early, and the ship turned into an artificial reef… Oh, wait…

The Deficit of Modular Adaptable Technology

In October, 2012, Dr. Doerry went on to make the following statements:

  • Modular adaptable ship technologies enable ships to affordably remain operationally relevant over their service life
  • Modular adaptable ship technologies are not yet an institutional part of our design and modernization processes

Fast-forward to 2018. We’re still talking about “modular adaptable ship technologies” and getting our arms around the Federal deficit…

So, what about the necessary evil, and how can its contribution to early ship retirement be mitigated? Wait, did I just refer to our flagship products as “evil”? Hang with me on this… this is where the “think global, while acting local” comes into play.

When it comes to deploying naval combat systems and playing billiards, thinking ahead to the next shot is imperative if one isn’t to be eliminated prematurely. Technology deployment, without regard to the inevitable follow-on technology-refresh, or technology-insertion phase is a recipe for buying more future shipboard industrial work and thus, less fleet-wide IAMD capability.

Both Naval and commercial hyper-scale system engineers grapple with many of the same issues. Simply stated: how to efficiently deploy and manage requisite IT capacity now and in the future. In the past, purpose-built, big iron Mil-Spec machines (e.g., AN/UYQ-43) did the job. A sea-change in the early 90’s led to a COTS revolution and its hoped-for “dividends”. Phase (1) saw the wide-spread adoption of quasi-commercial hardware in the form of VMEbus single board computers and related IO devices. Phase (2) is playing out with bladed and/or modular servers and 1-, 2-, and 3-U rack servers.

It doesn’t take a logistics whiz to look across the physical computing landscape of an Aegis Destroyer and see a “global problem” of unconstrained growth in IT hardware & software combinations with their corresponding permutations. As a result, phase three will increasingly embrace the adoption of commercial data center strategies, including: virtualization, convergence & hyper-convergence, and ultimately the notion of “open composable everything”.

Next Generation Efficiency and Scalability

Today, hyper-scalers (i.e., Google, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, et al) are leading the way in rapidly deploying, provisioning, and realizing a continuous growing revenue stream – a revenue stream that shows few signs of slowing down. Not only is Facebook, for example, achieving historic levels of global customer interaction, but they are also doing so by adhering to globally-responsible environmental stewardship principles for renewable energy usage.

While much of what Facebook does (and, I don’t advocate for their service) is done to increase profitability, it undeniably provides an invaluable service for some, and they are leading the way in next generation efficiencies and scale.  In our estimation, the Department of Defense and defense contractors can and should adopt a more global approach to shipboard systems as they are specified and delivered.

“Decomposition into smaller pieces is a fundamental approach to mastering complexity. The trick is to decompose a system in such a way that the globally important decisions can be made at the abstract level, and the pieces can be implemented separately with confidence that they will collectively achieve the intended result.”  - Jim Hornung

In my experience, a key difference between commercial hyper-scaler or cloud operators and DoD weapons systems is: the former is fluid and dynamically scalable, and the latter a capacity and capability fixed to a calculated worst-case load. A commercial data center is resilient, while weapons systems are redundant. While virtualization of servers, storage and networks is all the rage, it’s tough to imagine a system, certified for weapons release, operating at the will of a commercial load-balancing hypervisor. Currently, data center architectures are in transition from converged to hyper-converged infrastructures. DoD systems are transitioning from discrete servers and appliances to converged racks.

The time is right to begin planning for a more global approach to shipboard systems. Rather than a plethora of system permutations, we propose a small set of open composable modules that can be combined into an almost unlimited number of mission critical systems.  In essence (n) modules for (n!) systems.

For more on this topic, download the whitepaper “Managing life cycle network interoperability challenges on Navy platforms.

<![CDATA[Finding new opportunities with Nashua Community College (NCC)]]>, 10 Oct 2018 06:30:00 -0400

Part of the job of a talent attraction professional is uncovering ways to find talent with the right skill set to meet an organization's needs. But what if the roles you’re trying to fill are in a niche market or the industry you’re searching is struggling to find, motivate and train skilled workers? Recently we ran into this very issue among our RF/M manufacturing and production workforce at our Hudson, NH Advanced Microelectronics Center (AMC). We had many qualified employees, but we needed more and that external talent pipeline had waned.

Enter the Microelectronics Bootcamp at Nashua Community College (NCC).

I wish Mercury could take credit for the idea, but that goes to our longtime customer and partner, BAE Systems. By providing an opportunity to students of all ages to learn military standards and assembly techniques for radio frequency (RF) and microwave electronic (MW) assemblies, this program quickly addresses the growing demand for these critical skills and introduces fresh talent to companies like Mercury. It's our job to make the most of this opportunity, and here's how we do that:

1) Be an engaged partner

As soon as we learned of the program, we reached out to NCC. In the months that followed, we forged a strong partnership with the college and now you can often find our employees like Amy Malzone, Lead Assembler, on campus using her passion for Mercury’s innovations and her wealth of industry knowledge to champion the program and provide the inside scoop on life after graduation.

We also invite students in to learn more about the industry and Mercury’s technology through presentations and tours conducted by our Director of Operations, Alex Badalamenti. We have support from upper management such as Kevin Beals, VP, RF & Microwave, and Ken Hermanny, GM, Manufacturing, to help develop these students and set them up for success either here at Mercury or at another organization.

2) Recognize the benefits - to others, not just you

Mercury was recently ranked number 27 on Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list, and there is not enough talent with these technical skills to meet our growing demand. We have to do our part to grow this talent pool! We benefit from the NCC program as we are able to hire its graduates who come to us with thorough knowledge and a basic skill set that we can easily and rapidly develop. But it's not all about us!

NCC benefits from our partnership too. Among other things, they are able to market to prospective students the very high probability that they will be hired quickly if not directly after graduation, into a well-paying field that carries a lot of opportunity for advancement. Also, in their partner companies, NCC has access to industry experts to help instruct and mentor the students.

For the students, it can be a game-changer. This program builds students' confidence and its sets them up for a bright future of growth and longevity in some well-established organizations.

Careers at Mercury Systems Graduation ceremony for the 7th Microelectronics Boot Camp, March 2018.

3) Set goals for the future

As Mercury continues to grow, my goal is to find top talent. But it's more than just getting "bodies in seats". We need a specialized, skilled workforce and I believe the best way to achieve that is by collaborating with colleges and universities like NCC to identify more skill sets and establish new programs.

I recently attended NCC’s graduation and spoke with their President, Lucille Jordan, who shares my vision for the upcoming year (and beyond). She made it clear that NCC is dedicated to student success and to developing relationships with local companies. I look forward to the college’s continued commitment to the community and hope to find others like them in areas of the country where Mercury has needs.

My favorite part of the ceremony was the students' palpable excitement to begin a new career. A student from the program once said to me, after being offered a position with Mercury, “You have no idea the difference you are making in my life by giving me the opportunity to work at your organization.” I will never forget those words. Knowing that I can impact even one person in this way makes the effort worthwhile.

I feel fortunate to be part of a growing organization where I’m able to offer opportunities that make a difference to people in my community. Work is such an integral part of our lives, and I am lucky to work with some of the greatest talent out there.

<![CDATA[Can GPS be Trusted? Part 1]]>, 03 Oct 2018 08:02:00 -0400

GPS is Everywhere

Most of us don't think of GPS on a daily basis even though the technology has quickly become a quiet necessity in our lives. A vast majority of us walk around with an active GPS receiver in our pocket. The modern cellphone has been equipped with a tiny GPS receiver ever since the FCC mandated its use for location by rescue workers and 911 calls. We mostly take its presence for granted even when it is accessed by our favorite apps. Our GPS location allows us to navigate, browse the local big chain store inventory, tag our location on photos, get local news, and find our parking spot.

Similarly, the accurate navigation from GPS is also critical for efficient operation of commercial and military vehicles, aircraft, ships, UAVs, missiles, and smart bombs.

GPS Alone Cannot be Trusted!

We generally have pleasant experiences with GPS in our modern phones. With the right software, it gets you from A to B without any issues. However, occasional GPS dropouts do occur, leading to a “loss of GPS” or similar message from our navigation software, for instance, when driving in a tunnel. The fact that dropouts occur should not be surprising when you consider the technology.

GPS satellites orbit at an altitude of about 12,500 miles and each satellite has the radio power equivalent to a conventional light bulb. That results in a minuscule signal strength at the GPS receiver, which makes it very susceptible to radio noise, attenuation, and reflection from tall buildings. It also makes it very easy for attackers to jam with simple, low cost radio transmitters.

Back in 2013, Newark airport was inadvertently hit by a GPS denial attack when an employee, wanting to hide his company vehicle movements from his boss, was driving in the area with a GPS jammer that could be obtained for as little as $100.

The GPS signals are also at risk from legitimate terrestrial transmitters. In the US, the FCC is responsible for keeping the weak signal satellite bands separate from terrestrial ones. But even so, in 2011 a 4G LTE wireless company called LightSquared requested the terrestrial use of spectrum so close to the GPS band that it put the whole network at risk.

Worst still, commercial GPS receivers are susceptible to GPS spoofing attacks. Attackers can connect a strong transmitter to a GPS simulator programmed to fool a target GPS receiver into thinking that it is somewhere it isn't. An infamous headline of such a spoofing attack was the capture of a US RQ-170 Sentinel UAV by the Iranian government in 2011. This was allegedly done by sending the UAV strong false GPS signals to make it believe it was flying over a friendly airfield instead of hostile territory.

GPS Location

A GPS receiver needs to know where each GPS satellite is in space at any given moment in time so that a GPS “fix” can be obtained. If three or more satellites are within view and being tracked, a GPS receiver is able to obtain its location via triangulation.

In the graphic below, if the distance to satellites A, B and C from the user’s GPS receiver is known, as well as the satellite positions, then the location of the GPS receiver can be calculated through the intersection of circles projected at those distances. Instead of circles in two-dimensional space, four spheres in three dimensions are used so that both location on earth and height above ground can be calculated. Usually, many more than four satellites are in view and the more that are visible, the better the accuracy of fix can be obtained.


GPS Time

Surprisingly, it's a GPS receiver's ability to provide very accurate time, not navigation, that is often the more critical feature for a number of today's systems.

The relative position of each satellite and any receiver is measured using ranging signals and navigation messages. The distance is calculated by multiplying the flight time by the speed of light. The flight time is determined by timestamping each message with a global “GPS time” at the satellite and subtracting that from the current “GPS time” at the receiver. To generate these timestamps, each GPS satellite needs a way of knowing the time of day to a very high accuracy.

This is achieved by equipping the satellites with multiple atomic clocks, each calibrated and accurate to within 1ns, or 1 billionth of a second, of the global “GPS time”. Even the tiny effects of relativity are considered in the clock timebases. On the ground, a GPS receiver can utilize this information to provide a local clock that is accurate within tens of nanoseconds of the Universal Time standard.

Tactical-Radio-Timing-Navigation-GPS.jpg Accurate GPS time is crucial for emerging military tactical radios

At first sight this level of accuracy may appear to be overkill – however GPS time is a critical component for many applications, for example:

  • Wireless spectrum sharing: as the wireless spectrum becomes crowded, many frequencies, such as those used by cell phones, are concurrently shared between multiple active transmitters. This is done by allocating short time slots to each transmitter on a repetitive cycle. Each cell tower or base station uses GPS time, converted to Universal Time, to synchronize this operation and prevent collisions. As a byproduct, your cellphone’s clock is usually very accurate.
  • Frequency hopping and encryption: in emerging advanced military tactical radios continually changing, the transmitter frequency can prevent eavesdropping and mitigates against malicious jamming
  • Bank finance and stock exchange transactions: these transactions need to be accurately timestamped as currency and stock values change very quickly
  • Power plants: analysis of status and failures as they progress along the transmission lines
  • Seismic monitoring: for tracking earthquake shock-wave propagation

Trust in GPS Must be Regained and Assured

Since GPS is omnipresent we rarely consider the implications of its failure. Loss of GPS on our phone could be a major inconvenience (who carries a map in their car these days?), but loss of navigation and timing in industrial, avionics and military applications can be life threatening.

GPS is so critical that it is considered a SPOF (Single Point of Failure) in many of today’s military systems, meaning that its loss results in complete failure of the system. For these systems, position, navigation and timing must be maintained through multiple means. Commercial GPS alone cannot be trusted, but read on in Part 2 to see how we can still use GPS to help assure trust in position, navigation and timing (PNT) systems.

<![CDATA[Don’t believe what they say… Size DOES matter!]]>, 20 Sep 2018 15:17:00 -0400

Don’t believe what they say…Size DOES Matter!

In this case the smaller the better - especially in the constrained spaces of an aircraft cockpit or an unmanned vehicle where every inch is precious real estate needed for additional functionality, including massive amounts of sensor processing. These applications require the latest field-programmable gate array (FPGAs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and Intel Xeon processors with the support of high-speed dense memory to ensure peak performance with extremely low latency for mission success.

Yesterday, Mercury Systems announced the first volume production shipment of our 8GB DDR4 SDRAM memory device. The shipment of DDR4 memory initially might not sound very significant or noteworthy, but when you understand the uniqueness of our devices, you may change your mind. Mercury's DDR4 devices provide three distinct characteristics not inherent in competitive products; (1) size, weight and power (SWaP), (2) ruggedization (3) trust.

SWaP for Military Embedded Systems

Mercury’s two-decade long heritage in miniaturization and three-dimensional (3D) packaging expertise has transformed commercial memory technologies into dense, ultra-SWaP optimized devices for the most demanding forward deployed military applications. As illustrated in the picture above, our die stacking capabilities produce the highest density, lowest-profile one chip solution that takes the place of nine competitive devices, freeing up valuable front-side board real estate.

When coupled with the extreme environmental operating range of our devices, the size makes them ideal for avionics, unmanned systems, portable systems and missiles and munitions applications where space is extremely limited. Though restricted by space, these applications utilize leading edge processing technology that our DDR4 devices support with unfailing high-speed data transfer rates of up to 2666 MB/s, reducing overall latency.

Ruggedization for Extreme Environments

The size of our high-density DDR4 devices are impressive. When you add our capability to design and manufacture devices that maintain signal integrity and consistently perform high data transfer rates over the extreme military temperatures of -55 to +125 °C, it makes them extraordinary.

Not only do military systems need to operate reliably at extreme temperatures, they require reliability when exposed to chemicals, moisture and shock and vibration. To eliminate possible failures caused by these non-commercial conditions, our devices are military-hardened through full encapsulation and use of lead solder balls.

Trust for Security and Continuity of Supply

In a previous post on our secure solid-state drives (SSDs), I detailed our trusted design and manufacturing capabilities. The value of this trust is not a trivial point to make, as Mercury owns and operates two of the only seventy-five worldwide Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA) accredited facilities.

These facilities, which include our Phoenix Advanced Microelectronics Center (AMC), are qualified for design, packaging, test and broker services and incorporate strict supply chain control, thoroughly vetted employees and an active cyber security infrastructure. We source all of our critical memory components from carefully selected supply chain partners with manufacturing sites located within the United States to ensure long-term continuity of supply.

All memory devices are not alike. When selecting a partner for military embedded systems, it is important to know the facts about performance in processing-intense, SWaP-constrained, rugged environments. For mission critical applications, a trusted partner is vital to success. To learn more about Mercury’s military-grade secure DDR4 devices, download our tech brief or contact our application experts to help solve your design challenges at

<![CDATA[Culture and Values: More than Wall Décor]]>, 10 Sep 2018 12:52:00 -0400

If I knew 10 years ago, the power of an engaged workforce and a living, breathing culture and set of values to influence the success of an organization, I’d have prioritized them above all else back then.

In recent years, I have worked with my leadership team and employees across the board, to define Mercury’s culture and core values and subsequently, to bring them to life, make them more than just wall decor. We’ve simplified them, and in return made them more achievable and more meaningful. We have woven them into the fabric of our business through our commitment to lifelong learning, employee engagement and baking them into our strategic operating plan. But we could not stop there. We’ve also made them measurable by aligning them to our personal contributions in our quarterly performance evaluations and by asking employees to rate the organization against them in a recent culture survey.


The success of any organization is wholly dependent on its workforce. Employees are quite literally the lifeblood of a business and I’ve learned that their loyalty to it goes beyond their paycheck. Benefits and pay certainly matter, but it is those employees who know they are valued by their employer, who feel they are heard and that they are contributing to something bigger – through their work or participation in corporate citizenship – who accelerate its success. Today, job seekers are much more discerning, much earlier on in their job searches. Sites like Glassdoor are making it easier than ever for potential candidates to see what it’s like to work at a company without having to step foot inside.

On Glassdoor, Mercury is the highest rated employer overall in the defense space as reported in this analysis done by Byron Callan, Analyst from Capital Alpha Partners. It’s become clear over the last three years that Glassdoor is the defacto barometer for job seekers who are weighing potential employers. Glassdoor is also an additional resource for employers to learn about what’s working for their most valuable asset and what needs work. What I hadn’t anticipated when I began investing time and effort into Mercury’s presence on it is its influence on our current and prospective customer and investor communities. I quickly learned that customers and investors use Glassdoor as a resource for qualitative research to see what it’s really like at a company and determine whether it is worth their business and/or investment.

In our most recent companywide culture survey, employees rated Mercury above the industry averages in nearly every category. Even the percentage of the workforce that participated (80%) was above average. The results of our internal survey aligned to the data on Glassdoor, which represents about 16% of our employee base and we’ve seen the impact. We have a more engaged, collaborative workforce and we’re seeing an increase in strategic partnerships across the matrix. Employees are partnering to redefine and streamline processes and systems, and there is more transparency and communication at all levels of the organization.


We are not perfect, there is work to do, but I’m more confident than ever that our commitment to culture and values has and will continue to be one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made. -Mark Aslett, President & CEO

<![CDATA[Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics - Part 2]]>, 07 Sep 2018 09:48:00 -0400

In Part 2 of the Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics series we'll explore the multiple benefits of using a system configured with any of the Switched or Mesh fabrics discussed in Part 1, whether in a commercial, semi-rugged or extreme environment.

These options range from Military and government use, in and out of war zones, geologists using to map land formations for possible research, archaeologists using information on where they may dig to find possible treasures, and even scientists tracking space missions, weather patterns and possible natural seismic activity. Many of these options could be performed by controlling state-of-the-arts drones or robotics. There are multiple uses for the processing power and speed from our systems, whether it be the larger systems, 12, 16 or 20 plus slots or the smaller 6-slot systems. It depends on the needs of the customer and the task

System designers must satisfy the never-ending demand for more bandwidth and features to support the changing market requirements. The key to meeting those challenges is the designer's ability to get the most out of interconnects that constitute the foundation of a system's switching architecture.

Mercury offers many different platforms that can be used for whatever problem a customer is trying to solve. We've added channels/paths on the boards to connect to the backplane, accessing the different planes that are supported. No matter which configuration our customers require, we have the platforms that will meet those requirements. The SMP engineers have customized both hardware and software when needed, to satisfy these requirements when the standard platform does not quite match. All of this is done through detailed discussions with the customer and their customers.

Customers have many choices that they can select to meet their needs, and if they’re not sure which system or configuration would work better for them, they can ask our engineers who are always willing and glad to help. Mercury also offers different ruggedized levels, depending on what the customer’s application needs. Besides ruggedizing the boards, we also ruggedize the chassis to fit the requirement.

Switched fabrics technology supports the implementation of multiprocessing systems that require the fastest possible communications between multiple processors.

Systems can have two cp (Control Plane) networks plus two, four or more dp (Data Plane) networks, depending on your needs, hardware, and configuration. There is also the FP Ethernet to use on boards that support it.

Hardware Products available from Mercury Systems include HDS, LDS, SFM and GSC - Graphics platforms. Backplanes for PCIE, Distributed Mesh and Centralized Switching. 6U and 3U platforms, are also available to fit whatever configuration is required.  

Product Stability and Reliability

All Mercury hardware goes through a variety of environmental testing, temperature, shock and vibe and ESS. Depending on the requirements and classification, the level of testing may differ. Our approach tends to exceed the required limits to offer a more robust and stable product to our customers. Levels of ruggedness: Commercial, AC Rugged L1, AC Rugged L2, Air Flow-By Rugged L4 and CC Rugged L3 (AC = Air-cooled, CC = Conduction-cooled).

  • Commercial Level 0 – For development or deployment in benign environments
  • Air-Cooled Level 1 – For moderate temperature requirements in addition to shock, vibration and humidity
  • Air-Cooled Level 2 – Extended requirements in addition to shock, vibration and humidity
  • Conduction-Cooled Level 3 – For extremely rugged environments where convection cooling is inappropriate or impossible; includes increased altitude, humidity and vibration regimens
  • Air Flow-By Level 4 - For extremely rugged environments and maximum heat dissipation

To learn more, check out our Rugged Capabilities Datasheet, including product options available in the HDS and LDS platforms.  

HDS: High Density Server

On-board Gen 3 PCIe® pipes feed the module’s switch fabric interconnects, which are managed by dual Mellanox ConnectX®-3 devices to deliver 40Gb/s Ethernet or InfiniBand™ inter-module data rates.

  • 40 Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand high bandwidth switching:
    • Ethernet ecosystem; 10GBASE-KX4, 10GBASE-KR and 40GBASE-KR4
    • Or InfiniBand ecosystem; SDR, DDR, QDR and FDR10

LDS: Low Density Server

  • Rugged, open architecture data/graphics processing module with Mercury’s POET™ implemented Gen 2 Serial RapidIO® and 10Gigabit Ethernet data plane options
  • 4th Generation Intel® Quad-Core™ i7 processor (Haswell mobile class) with AVX2 and on-die GT2 GPU for demanding data/graphics processing
  • Intel® 3rd Generation Core™ i7 (Ivy Bridge mobile-class) quad-core processor at up to 2.3 GHz with 147 GFLOPS peak performance
  • Integrated Gen3 PCIe switching infrastructure for on-board and off-board co-processing 6U/ 3U OpenVPX-compliant VITA 65/46/48 (VPX-REDI) module
  • Integrated Gen3 PCIe® switching infrastructure for on-board and off-board co-processing expansion-plane communications
  • Mellanox ConnectX-3 fabric support InfiniBand or 40 Gigabit Ethernet
  • One XMC and one XMC/PMC mezzanine sites

Costs deter customers from going to 100GB, since the return on investment isn’t there, yet. The 40GB interface is doing the job for most systems.

<![CDATA[The History of Electronic Warfare: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 1]]>, 04 Sep 2018 15:33:00 -0400

It was May 24, 1844 when Samuel Morse transmitted his famous telegraph message “What hath God wrought” from Washington to Baltimore. Twenty years later, the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps had trained 1,200 operators and strung 4,000 miles of telegraph wire, which increased to over 15,000 miles by the end of the Civil War. While long-distance communication proved a significant advantage for the Union armies, it also opened the door for wiretapping. It was these early experiences that demonstrated the impact of surveillance and set the foundations of electronic warfare (EW).

Over the last century, electronic warfare has had an increasing role in shaping the outcomes of conflicts across the globe; however, few people appreciate its significance and fewer still understand the technology. In this first post of our electronic warfare blog series, we present a brief history of the technology behind electronic warfare. Just as older cars are more intuitive to repair, the early EW systems are easier to understand.

While wire-tapping was used during the Civil War, it wasn’t until the 20th Century that the field of electronic warfare began to mature. By the start of World War I, the need to for rapid communication over long distances became even more critical—leading to significant advances in the emerging field of signal intelligence. Immediately following the declaration of war, the British severed Germany’s undersea cables, forcing them to rely on telegraph and radio—both vulnerable to interception. To protect the content of the transmissions, Germany began expanding on its cryptography capabilities.

During World War II, the use of the electromagnetic spectrum played an even larger role. It was quickly discovered that by flying bombing runs at night, the bomber crews were protected from anti-aircraft fire. However, locating targets at night was no easy feat.

The Lorenz System

Prior to the start of the war, Germany had invested in commercial RF systems to support blind landings at airports with reduced visibility. Called the Lorenz System, it operated by switching a signal between two antenna elements—one pointed slightly more towards the left and the other towards the right. Instead of equal pulse lengths on each antenna element, the switch sent the signal to the right element for a longer period of time—creating a long pulse on the right antenna and a short pulse on the left. As the plane approached the runway, the pilots would hear short tones if they were too far to the left and long tones if they were too far to the right. When they were properly aligned, they would receive both signals and hear a continuous tone.

During the war, this system was modified to use large, high-directivity antennas to transmit long-range, narrow beams. Two systems were built such that the beams could be steered to intersect directly over the target. By following one beam, the pilots listened for the second signal to know when they were over the target and timed the release of bombs. This simple system drastically increased the effectiveness of the night raids over England and made the development of a system to counter the beams a top priority.

Upon discovery of the German system, the British developed a method to interfere with the beams. Using high power transmitters, the British would broadcast the same long-tone pulse signal used by the German system. When this signal was superimposed on the same frequencies, the German aircraft would never hear the steady tone and would be unable to simply follow the beam to their target. Other methods of jamming the German beams involved the use of a BBC transmitter to broadcast a steady tone on the same frequency. This CW signal filled in the breaks between pulses rendering the German system unusable.

As the British began their bombing campaigns over Germany, they too needed a method to locate targets at night. Their approach was a similar system that used two transmitters; each broadcasting a train of pulses. By measuring the time difference between received pulses, the pilots were able to navigate. However, this system was also susceptible to jamming.

The Emergence of Radar

In addition to the jamming of their navigational aids, the British bombers faced a new threat—German fighter pilots that were able to track the British planes using radar. One type of radar encountered by the British was a land-based early warning system that alerted the Germans to an approaching attack and also provided details such as the number of aircraft. Through intercepted radio communications and direct raids on radar installations, the British were able to learn the details of these systems—such as the operational frequencies—that enabled them to develop the technology to combat them.

Instead of simply jamming the radar, the allies developed a system that would receive the radar signals, amplify them, and re-transmit them to the radar receiver. These additional signals were perceived by the radar system as reflections from additional aircraft. Employing this technology, a single aircraft could function as a decoy and pull resources away from other areas. However, these early systems were dependent on the radar frequency, and by using multiple radars with different frequencies, it became much more challenging to deceive them.

To respond to the radars that operated over a wider band of frequencies, the Allies developed a jamming system that would transmit noise in various frequencies across the radar bands. This was effective until the Germans started using additional frequencies for the radar. Instead of jamming the radar itself, the allies discovered they could jam the communication signals between the radar operators and the fighter pilots. By sweeping a receiver over a broad frequency range, the British were able to determine the specific frequency that the Germans were using to communicate then transmit noise on that frequency.

Continued Technology Development

This back-and-forth cycle of inventing new ways to use the electromagnetic spectrum and developing the means to counter these new technologies continued through World War II and the Cold War. Even in the early days it was not sufficient to just have the best technology—in order to stay ahead, the technology required constant updates. Instead of deploying a system that could operate independently for a decade, EW systems required consistent modification to address emerging threats.

Now, over a century and a half after that famous telegraph message, the invisible battle over control of the electromagnetic spectrum continues. The ability to communicate, track objects with radar, and to use GNSS to navigate have become critical to success on the battlefield. Additionally, a major advantage is achieved by disrupting an adversary’s ability to communicate, use radar and use GNSS. With today’s environment of rapid technology growth—such as compact GaN, high speed processing and AI—the battle for EW superiority is at its fasted pace yet.

In the next post in this series on electronic warfare we provide an overview of radar technology before continuing on with posts on electronic support, electronic attack and electronic protection.

Part 2: Radar Technology

<![CDATA[The Next Generation of RF Engineers]]>, 29 Aug 2018 13:48:00 -0400

Along with the warm weather and long days, summer means a new group of co-ops. Here at Mercury Systems, where innovation drives each subsequent generation of new products, we depend on our high-performing engineering teams, and one critical element behind developing these teams is our co-op program.

When it comes to RF, there is so much theory to learn in school that there is often less opportunity to apply that theory to specific RF/microwave design challenges. Spending a summer working through actual designs and troubleshooting in the lab kicks off the process of developing the intuition and experience critical to becoming a successful engineer. At Mercury we take that one step further by putting co-ops to work on real projects where their contributions make a measurable impact on the final product.

Here in the San Jose, CA office, we have been adding new members to the engineering team including two co-ops for the summer. Emma Westerhoff and Annie Kroo, both about to start their junior year at Olin College in Massachusetts, have spent the last few months working on new designs—including preliminary device cascades, non-linear modeling and troubleshooting in the lab. I sat down with them to talk about their experiences working for Mercury as engineering co-ops.

“Everyone is helpful and happy to have us as part of the group—it feels like a family.”

The process first started in Mercury’s Hudson, NH office with an interview and a facility tour. From their first interactions with executive management and engineering leadership, Emma and Annie were immersed in the fast-paced environment of Mercury Systems. Through mentoring and involvement in complex projects, they not only gained RF design experience but with their fresh perspective also provided a new approach to the many technical challenges.

This summer, Emma and Annie focused most of their time supporting the development of a new, small form-factor RF converter. Using a cascade calculation tool, they estimated the gain, noise figure, and output power of various circuit blocks. With the guidance of Ernesto Duran, an experienced RF engineer, they helped pick the best components and ordered evaluation kits. As the parts started to arrive, they began spending more and more time in the lab taking a variety of measurements including S-parameters, IP3, P1dB and noise figure.

Once they had the samples fully characterized, they created their own non-linear models that combined the S-parameters with the power and noise measurements. By plugging these models into a harmonic balance tool, they were able to accurately model and optimize the cascade. When their work setting up a frequency plan showed that filters would be required, they designed coupled bandpass filters, which they modeled and optimized with an EM solver to achieve an extremely compact footprint. As the product started coming together, they attended a design review with the customer where they had the opportunity to present some of their work.

Despite their having completed just two years of college coursework, Emma and Annie were always treated as engineering peers. Through their hard work and the mentoring they received, they were able to contribute as true members of an engineering development team.

At Mercury we believe that creating innovative products requires innovative teams. From the earliest phases of their careers, engineers must be challenged, mentored and given the opportunity for continued education. Since even the most experienced engineers can’t be experts in all fields, Mercury fosters a culture of respectful collaboration. To set the groundwork for these teams, Mercury’s co-op program takes some of the brightest young minds and gives them the opportunity to make meaningful contributions while also developing the skills to be successful.

As the summer comes to a close, we’ll miss having Emma and Annie in the office, but are impressed by the many contributions they made in such a short time. While we hope they will consider a career with Mercury in the future, we are confident that they will be successful regardless.

To learn how you can join this world-class engineering team, take a look at our RF engineering page. Enjoy the video below to get an inside look at the RF engineering co-ops' experience at Mercury this summer: 

<![CDATA[Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics by Mercury Systems - Part 1]]>, 24 Aug 2018 21:22:00 -0400

The SMP Engineering group at Mercury Systems has worked tirelessly on development and innovation to offer our customers multiple choices for their present and future needs. Since authoring the OpenVPX™ (VITA 65) standard, it has opened the door to customers seeking answers and/or solutions to many of the issues they encounter when designing their systems. First, let’s take a look at what OpenVPX offers us.

OpenVPX builds on the module-centric VPX specifications by providing a nomenclature of planes and profiles to enable system integrators, module designers, and backplane providers to effectively describe and define aspects and characteristics of a system. OpenVPX addresses major system interoperability issues while allowing for flexibility within the system, as enabled by its planes and flexible module profiles featuring user-defined I/O. By following a system-centric approach and defining a number of standard system topologies, OpenVPX enables interoperable off-the-shelf modules and development platforms within the VPX marketplace. The standard has provisions for both 6U and 3U platforms, and high speed serial switched fabric technologies such as PCIE, RapidIO, Infiniband, 10 Gigabit and 40 Gigabit Ethernet.

OpenVPX profiles make it easy to build development systems with compatible components. Deployable systems will always have system issues that need to be addressed, such as I/O, custom backplanes, power, and cooling. SMP engineers not only understand these issues, we have also solved both integration and system-level problems and delivered integrated system solutions to our customers.

OpenVPX Benefits

  • Promotes interoperability and vendor choice
  • Provides specific design profiles that vendors can design to and integrators can specify as requirements
  • Reduces integration issues resulting in faster development & deployment time
  • Higher board volumes --> Economies of scale
  • Industry leading bandwidth and density
  • Higher velocity of technology upgrades
  • Will support higher backplane signaling speeds as technology matures

Now let’s look at the switched fabrics and their supported backplane topologies with OpenVPX platforms.

Types of Backplane Topologies

  • Centralized switching
  • A set of peer payload boards connected by switch fabric boards
  • Single or dual star topology for multiple path routing and potential redundancy
  • Provides system management function
  • Mesh Fabric
  • A set of peer payload cards connected in a full or partial mesh
  • Useful for small slot count systems as it avoids dedicated switch slots
  • Larger slot count systems require switching logic on each payload card
  • Host / slave
  • Typically comprise a master host board with several slave boards linked by PCIe
  • Allows an SBC to have greatly expanded capabilities without complexity of a general switching fabric

Planes and Profiles

Planes: Multiple levels of communication; Bottom to top

  • Utility Plane - Power pins and various utility signals
    • NVMRO (Non-Volatile Memory Read Only)
    • SYS_CLK (System Clock), REF_CLK (Reference Clock), AUX_CLK (Auxiliary Clock)
    • SYSRESET (System reset, including “maskable reset”), POWER
  • Management Plane (mp)
    • Low-power
    • Defined by VITA 46.0 and 46.11
    • Prognosticates/diagnoses problems
    • Can control module power
    • IPMC
  • Control Plane (cp)
    • Reliable, packet-based communication that carries information necessary to establish and control the network
    • Application control, exploitation data
    • Typically Gigabit Ethernet or less
  • Data Plane (dp)
    • High-throughput, predictable data movement without interfering with other traffic
    • Examples: Serial RapidIO, PCI Express, CX3(Connect-3), Infiniband, Ethernet: 10GB or 40GB, Infiniband: 56 GB
  • Expansion Plane (ep)
    • Tightly coupled groups of boards and I/O
    • Typically VME bridging or PCI Express

Profiles: Three types

  • Slot Profile
    • A physical mapping of ports onto a slot’s backplane connectors
    • Uses notions of pipes and planes:
      • The term “pipe” is used to define the number of bidirectional differential serial pairs that are grouped together to form a logical data channel.
    • Does not specify actual protocols conveyed over the backplane
  • Backplane Profile
    • A physical specification of a backplane
    • Specifies the number and type of slot profiles
    • Defines the topology of channels and buses that interconnect the slots
  • Module Profile
    • Extends a slot profile by mapping protocols to a module’s ports
    • Includes thermal, power and mechanical requirements
    • Provides a first order check of compatibility between modules

Next time we will dive deeper into what capabilities are available, how the systems can match your needs, and where Mercury Systems can assist its customers.

<![CDATA[Hey, is our missile coming back at us?]]>, 08 Aug 2018 21:23:00 -0400

Free trade has resulted in a global economy that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. As a result, many countries have seen certain industries grow – and certain industries move to other countries that can produce those products at a lower cost. While this has been great for consumers – who see lower prices – it is concerning for critical areas like defense. This graphic highlights some of the key concerns. The security of the supply chain for key components is a particular concern. Here are just a couple of recent articles on supply chain concerns:

Pentagon Investing in Microelectronics Technology

Some key quotes from this article: “The Pentagon is not only looking for high performance chips but trusted ones that have been manufactured in the United States.” - Richard W. Linderman, deputy director for research and engineering in the office of the assistant secretary of defense. The issue “is of great concern to DoD because every weapon system we have has microelectronics.” - Mary Miller, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

The US is running out of bombs — and it may soon struggle to make more

One particularly troubling quote from this article is: “Some suppliers have dropped out entirely, leaving no option for replacing vital materials. Other key suppliers are foreign-owned, with no indigenous capability to produce vital parts and materials ― setting up the risk that a conflict with China could rely on Chinese-made parts.”

Defense and delusion: America‘s military, industry are falling behind

Again, a troubling quote: “Today, instead of a robust bench of large and mid-sized companies and their myriad small-business suppliers competing and producing new capabilities at the speed of information-age innovation, our defense industry has shrunk to a few standout corporations. This has obscured fragile supply chains that are hampered by a risk-averse government acquisition system that takes 10 years to field a replacement handgun for the services.”

Defense Manufacturing

For the United States Department of Defense, the Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy (MIBP) office supports the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment by providing detailed analyses and in-depth understanding of the increasingly global, commercial, and financially complex industrial supply chain essential to our national defense. This organization has several assessments of the US defense industrial base. One of their latest documents is the Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

Another key organization following this is the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).  This just released, 50-page report highlights many of the risks in the US Defense industrial supply base.

Lastly, one more group trying to address this issue is the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). Mercury Systems is a member of this group. NDIA has a working group focused on the Industrial Base and is working on many of the issues in this area.

In the defense electronics market where most component manufacturing has moved overseas – and not to NATO or allied countries – the concern is even greater. Many of our key Radar, EW, C2, ISR and communications technologies depend on advanced electronics, and many of these systems depend on a global supply chain where trust is not assured.

Mercury takes this very seriously. Over the past 5 years, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in manufacturing infrastructure that is located in the United States just to deal with assured and trusted supply of critical electronic supplies. We work very hard to answer the question asked by US Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley:

“How do we put technology into the hands of our soldiers (and by extension our airmen, sailors, Marines, Coast Guard and first responders) faster?”

We recently published a Whitepaper on this topic. This paper, Next Generation Integrated Defense Electronics Manufacturing - Deploying innovation at the speed of technology, highlights not only how Mercury manufactures electronics with trust and assurance, but also pulls the latest commercial advances from Intel, NVIDIA and others into our designs.

<![CDATA[Military-Grade Secure Solid State Drives Part 5: The Backdoor VIPs Don’t Know About]]>, 27 Jul 2018 11:33:00 -0400

I used to work for a company that required us to remove any proprietary data from our laptop hard drive prior to traveling to some countries overseas. I didn’t know if it was because they could secretly access my hard drive as soon as I passed through immigration, or maybe a government-run internet meant any foreign user access would be monitored, recorded, and analyzed! I didn’t understand the multitude of threats to data security, which also includes backdoors designed into untrusted hardware that can lie dormant until triggered by an outside force. At the time, I did not have access to classified or top secret data, as I was working for a commercial company, but imagine if I did have high value data. What if a backdoor was triggered once I logged onto an unsecure foreign network?  What if that backdoor initiated a complete download of my hard drive without my knowledge? All because my employer trusted a commercial SSD without strict supply chain management of foreign-made components.

Let’s take it a step further and imagine a commercial solid state drive built with a controller designed and manufactured outside of the United States. This SSD is then integrated into the flight system of a military UAV. After integration into the platform, all quality checks have passed. The UAV’s flight system is operational. At a later time, this UAV is executing a mission where a terrorist training facility must be surveyed. As the drive’s total power-on time changes from 0200 to 0201 hours, a backdoor installed into the SSD’s controller is triggered. The flight system immediately shuts down. The mission is aborted and the UAV is brought down in unfriendly territory. Sourcing an SSD with a NAND controller designed and manufactured in a domestic, trusted environment mitigates the risk of backdoors and unauthorized data access.

These backdoors are a very real threat when dealing with suppliers outside the US. Not only can catastrophic events like the above scenario happen from backdoors installed into controller firmware, but other threats exist. Counterfeit components can enter a company’s supply chain causing failures, program delays, and additional costs to both the company and their customers. In some industries, the negative impact can be overcome. However, in mission critical and highly secure defense applications, these possible outcomes must be mitigated from the onset.

All of Mercury's secure storage devices, including our advanced ARMORTM NAND controller are designed and manufactured in our Phoenix, Ariz. Advanced Microelectronics Center (AMC) with a tightly managed supply chain. This facility, along with our other domestic design and manufacturing facilities, is pivotal for secure and trusted defense electronics manufacturing.

Some people think a closely managed, secure and trusted facility can’t possibly be agile enough to produce today’s most advanced defense electronic solutions. Anyone who has visited our Phoenix AMC quickly realizes that Mercury’s Next Generation business model delivers the most advanced defense microelectronics using an affordable and scalable infrastructure.

Our Phoenix AMC is also a Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA)-accredited facility incorporating strict supply chain control, thoroughly vetted employees, and an active cybersecurity infrastructure. Security is embedded into all facets of Mercury's culture and daily operations, making us a trusted partner within the defense community.

I hope my recent blogs on secure storage have been informative and a bit entertaining. If there are topics you would like addressed or expanded upon in the future, please email me at

<![CDATA[Deploying commercial technologies quickly to keep up with the speed of threats]]>, 18 Jul 2018 10:01:00 -0400

At the end of last year, I had the privilege of attending the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA. One of the topics that caught my attention was around the DoD’s new modernization strategy and how it would build off the upcoming National Defense Strategy to align DoD labs and innovation centers. According to Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), the goal is, in this time of constrained budgets, “…to have a very tight strategy that makes choices and makes sure we are taking all of our resources, all of our funding and aligning those.”

Basically, the end game is about deploying innovation more quickly to keep up with the speed at which threats are evolving. How do we take the rapidly advancing commercial technologies and transform them into much-needed capabilities for our warfighters? The cycle time – how long it takes from identification to fielding a solution for a need – takes way too long. To address this, Mercury has pioneered a next-generation business model for defense electronics. We leverage and build upon other high-technology firms substantial R&D investments. Mercury alone invests 13% of its revenue annually on internally funded innovation. We typically operate under firm fixed-price contracts with a major focus on efficiency and best value. Also, given the needs of the defense industry we emphasize ruggedization, security, trusted manufacturing and longevity of supply.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, take a read of our latest whitepaper, “A Next Generation Business Model: Bridging The Gap In Support Of The Defense Industry.”   -Mark Aslett, President & CEO

<![CDATA[Lessons in RF Manufacturing from a Chicago Sausage Factory]]>, 09 Jul 2018 15:14:00 -0400

People often say RF is black magic and it sometimes feels that way. I remember one evening I was called down to the production floor to help troubleshoot a technical problem found during swing shift. There was a product going through final test and it would only pass if held at a certain angle. At first I was doubtful that this was the case, but I held it in my hands, watched the performance on the network analyzer, rotated the unit, and saw the performance degrade. First we suspected the VNA cables, but a golden unit was solid regardless of its orientation. Then we performed the standard “shake while listening for something rattling test” but couldn’t hear anything—plus the repeatability seemed to suggest it wasn’t due to FOD. X-ray imaging didn’t yield any clues. Eventually, we had to send it off to de-lid, found nothing wrong, and after real-seal the performance was stable. The best theory we had was that the problem was due to flux improperly cleaned from a feedthrough.

It was this type of problem that drew me to RF engineering in college. Circuits that only worked when you placed a finger in a certain spot. The gain reduced by the microscope light. While it felt like black magic we all knew that in reality it was physics too complicated to be fully modeled. To this day, I still find these problems fun until all of a sudden a revenue commitment is missed.

This fourth post in my series on applying commercial technology to the RF defense industry is focused on manufacturing. While successful product development requires innovation, modular architectures and miniaturization (the subjects of my previous posts), it is all for nought without effective manufacturing.

The production of RF and microwave hardware for the defense electronics industry relies on a level of artesian manufacturing rarely seen with high volume commercial products. Car factories can manufacture thousands of cars each week. Contract manufacturers can produce phones with extremely high first pass yield. What is it about their processes that allow for such high levels uniformity while often each RF component for a defense application is its own work of art?

Which brings us to a Chicago sausage factory in the 1970s. As many of us have experienced, business conditions at the factory required a move to a new facility. However, after the move, the sausages just weren’t as tasty. No one could figure out why. They tested the water in the new location and reviewed all the processes, but it wasn’t until a casual conversation with some employees was the solution found. At the old factory, it took about 30 minutes to walk from the cold storage to the smoke house. During this time the sausages warmed up. In the new factory, sequential processes were co-located and the sausages went in the smoker cold. By allowing the sausages to warm before entering the smoker, the new factory was able to match the quality of the old factory.

Improving First Pass Yield

How do we prevent these types of manufacturing issues? The first is to understand the two factors that contribute to their likelihood. The first is variation. Are the die always placed in exactly the same spot? How long are the bond wires? What is the tolerance on the capacitors? Are the MMICs from the same wafer? The second factor is the sensitivity to variation. What happens if the die is moved 5 mills towards the output? Will a small error in supply voltage cause an oscillation? Will the phase noise be impacted by that SSPA being tested on the next bench?

To optimize yield, manufacturing variation needs to be minimized and the product’s sensitivity to variation reduced. At Mercury Systems, we address both of these factors. Variation is reduced through automated processes such as the use of epoxy dispense and pick-and-place machines. For manual tasks, detailed instructions and thorough training ensure repeatability. This up-front investment in the assembly process results in a product that requires much less tuning. Once in test, automated test equipment ensures consistency and keeps process time low. In-process quality inspection finds any issues early in the process when they are easier to fix.

Sensitivity to variation is minimized during the design phase through advanced modeling and early collaboration between design and manufacturing. This step further improves yield by reducing the effects of the process variation that still remains. Mercury's advanced manufacturing centers exemplify this commitment to efficient production. Maintaining low process variation while reducing the product's sensitivity to variation enables high yield, a rapid production ramp-up, and helps keep costs low.

<![CDATA[Military-Grade SSDs Part 4: How Many Licks Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop: One, Two…]]>, 06 Jul 2018 10:25:00 -0400

What is the NSA hiding from us???  Hopefully all classified, secret and top secret data!

As part of their recent initiative to leverage commercial technologies in a sophisticated layered approach, the NSA is enabling an alternative to traditional Type 1 security solutions for the protection of data up to the Top Secret level. By adopting these agile commercial innovations, the Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) Program will save time and money for classified programs in all branches of government -- from benign data centers to forward-deployed systems in harsh, unsecure environments. While I discuss the CSfC program in this blog post, the CSfC program’s website is the ultimate authority for up to date information.

The CSfC program provides solution-level specifications called Capability Packages (CP) to deliver data security solutions using approved components from participating technology leaders. In the Data at Rest (DAR) CP, data protection can be accomplished by integrating an inner and outer layer of hardware and software encryption. A self-encrypting solid state drive, like the Mercury ASURRE-Stor SSD, is the inner layer, while a file encryption or software full disk encryption solution is selected as the outer layer. These two independent components using advanced encryption standard (AES) with 256-bit keys incorporate different encryption algorithms. This approach eliminates the likelihood that a single vulnerability can be exploited in both security layers simultaneously. Classified, secret and top secret data can be safely stored if all of the CSfC program requirements are successfully validated per the CP criteria defined by the NSA. It is absolutely imperative to use only hardware and software solutions approved by the NSA and included on the NSA's CSfC component list.

In my previous posts, I discussed the value of AES256 XTS encryption and the FIPS certifications validating encryption, key management and authentication algorithms. Before applying for CSfC eligibility, a company must certify their hardware or software through NIAPs Common Criteria (CC) program under the proper protection profiles for the capability package they intend to support. The criteria to meet these profiles is complex and rigorous. It is a lengthy and rigorous development and evaluation process, but significantly less than qualifying a Type 1 solution which can take more than 3 years and millions of dollars. Still more than 50% of companies that start down the path for CC drop out before they reach certification because of the difficultly, per a discussion my colleague had with a representative from NIAP.

The process for Mercury wasn’t without challenges, as we were the first and still only hardware full disk encryption (HWFDE) solution to successfully complete the entire process. At the beginning of our development, the implications of some of the protection profile requirements were open to interpretation. It wasn’t until farther along in our development that we reached clarity and changes needed to be made. Our expertise in agile development processes enabled us to quickly implement solutions in our SSD that met all HWFDE requirements. In addition, as some of the requirements evolved over time, we were able to easily adapt and provide changes quickly to the certifying labs. This was possible only because our entire drive, both hardware and software, is developed here in our Phoenix, Arizona Advanced Microelectronics Center. Our hard work paid off! Our security algorithm testing, source code review and operational testing all passed on the first submission. The labs were impressed, which is a testament to our dedicated and skilled engineering team.

Becoming a CSfC component supplier is one part of the CSfC process. Developing, integrating and registering a CSfC solution in accordance to the CPs is the next step. Each CSfC solution must be reviewed and certified by the NSA for each unique end application -- even if the same hardware and software components are used and integrated the same way. To make this process easier, the NSA has established a program for trusted CSfC integrators. These companies, or more precisely their processes and teams, have been approved by the NSA to assemble and integrate components in accordance with the appropriate CP. They are responsible for (1) testing the resulting solution, (2) providing a body of evidence to the solution Authorizing Official (AO)/Designated Approving Authority (DAA), (3) maintaining the solution and (4) serving as the first line of response in troubleshooting or responding to security incidents. Using a CSfC solution integrator removes the burden from the end customer and component suppliers, thereby reducing risk and time to market without compromising security.

Mercury Systems is hosting a DAR-focused CSfC Technology Day forum on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 in Baltimore, MD. This one-day event brings together the CSfC ecosystem of component suppliers, trusted integrators and companies implementing CSfC solutions. If you would like more information about this event, please email us at

<![CDATA[Privacy policy emails everywhere!]]>, 03 Jul 2018 08:09:00 -0400

By now, I’m sure both your work and personal email inboxes have overflowed with GDPR-initiated emails around “updated privacy policies” and new “we protect your data” messages. I know mine have. GDPR-meme-768x432.jpg

In case you haven’t heard, a new data privacy law called General Data Protection Regulation (better known as GDPR) took effect on May 25th. This law affects all people in the European Union – but its impact is global. This law aims to strengthen data protection for rights for EU residents and to streamline data protection laws across all EU countries. And the fines for non-compliance are steep - up to 4% of annual global revenue or €20M, whichever is greater!

Following CAN-SPAM (US) and CASL (Canada), GDPR is the latest in a series of government regulations that promises to have a major impact on the way firms conduct business.  Of these, GDPR is the most far-reaching in that it not only impacts email communication (the focus of CAN-SPAM and CASL) but also the way companies gather, store, protect, share, and utilize personal data.

GDPR means big changes in the way businesses collect, store and process information about individuals. When holding personal information, businesses must ensure:

  • It is processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner

  • It is only processed for a specified, explicit and legitimate purpose

  • Any information held must be relevant to the specified purpose

  • All data must be accurate and up to date

  • No data is kept for longer than necessary

  • Information is handled and processed in a way that maintains security

What does this mean?

Basically, this means that you get to dictate which companies get to collect data on you, how they do it and how long they keep it. And if you don’t want anyone to collect your data, you can do that, too.

Why is my data so valuable?

Your data IS valuable – to both companies and you. For me as a marketer, if I know you downloaded our previous whitepaper on “Safe Guarding Mission Critical Data with Secure Solid State Drives” then I probably would want to let you know about our new whitepaper on “Demystifying Hardware Full Disk Encryption Technology for Military Data Storage.” I need to have the data that you did step one in order to send you step two. You see value in getting new, useful information; we benefit by getting this info into your hands.

Think about your personal life. I like to read books. I get emails from Book Bub, Riffle, Simon & Shuster, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I really like that they get to know which genres I’m most interested in. They serve up ideas for new books I’d like to read. I don’t have to scroll through so many items before I get to ones that interest me. This is where website tracking and cookies come in handy.

But there is also the ugly side of data collection and the misuse of your information. All I have to say is Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.  And also there is the threat of data theft – especially when a company has your sensitive data. At the end of the day, I believe this law is a good one. It puts more power in consumer hands to manage where our data is collected and for what reasons. I can say that we at Mercury take this law very seriously.

  • We believe that if you don’t want us to track your actions on our website, we shouldn’t, so we won’t

  • We believe that if you want to download a whitepaper, then you should be able to do so – and we will take NOT send you marketing emails unless you opt in

Our goal is to only communicate with people who want to receive those communications. And we don’t send a lot of email. Currently, we have two customer newsletters:

  • Defense Connections goes out 6 times a year and covers sensor processing, avionics, C4I and other areas

  • Making Waves goes out 4 times a year and focuses on Electronic Warfare and RF/Microwave technologies

And you can control which communications you want to receive at our  Preference Center webpage.

Customer-enewsletters-768x409.jpgIt will be interesting to see how the GDPR law impacts us all. I think it is only the start of more strict laws that will help people protect their data. And I welcome that change.  

<![CDATA[Smaller, Faster & More Affordable]]>, 26 Jun 2018 17:52:00 -0400

During a Saturday afternoon of closet organizing, I found my first laptop from 2002—a Dell Inspiron 8200. I remember paying a premium—over $2,000 I think—for the Pentium 4 processor and the 256MB of RAM. It required 4.5A at 20V (90W) and weighed 8 pounds 3 ounces, which is just slightly less than the current weight of my two-week-old daughter. While organizing my closet, I was also listening to a podcast on my $250 phone that easily fits into my pocket and is far more powerful than the old laptop.

Both consumers and defense primes are demanding increased performance, in smaller packages, at lower prices. We have come to expect this level of improvement in each new smartphone generation. Addressing new emerging threats in the defense space requires a similar advancement. In this third post of my series on the intersection of the RF commercial and defense industries, we will examine the need for products that are smaller, more capable, and less expensive. Packing more circuitry into smaller areas is no easy task and to be successful, a company must embrace innovation and modular design—the subjects of my first and second posts in this series. This applies to designing a smart phone or a radar system.

SWaP Optimization in the Defense Industry

Countering IEDs requires jammers small enough to fit in a backpack and affordable enough for widespread use. Low earth orbit satellites require small and lightweight RF modules to keep the launch prices low. The trend of replacing large TWT amplifiers with low-cost, compact GaN SSPAs is intensifying.

When compared to consumer cell phones, the market for high-reliability RF hardware is extremely small. This means the development costs can’t be amortized over millions of products. In order to optimize size, weight, and power (SWaP), the defense industry requires a novel approach.

At Mercury, this novel approach forms the basis of our RF design philosophy—innovative, modular and compact. Instead of taking old technology and attempting to shrink it, we use new and innovative technology such as GaN-based amplifiers and advanced cooling techniques. In order to reduce our cost and keep the price low, we use a modular design approach to enable technology re-use when possible. We also invest in the advanced manufacturing capabilities that enable high-density integration.

To understand this better, we will look at a specific example—an ultra-compact GaN power amplifier. Compared to using GaAs semiconductor devices, GaN allows for much higher power density due to its high breakdown voltage. Instead of around 15V for other technologies, GaN power amplifiers can have a drain bias greater than 50V. What all this means is that you get much more output power from similarly sized devices.

However, as with everything in RF engineering, successfully creating a GaN power amplifier is in the details. With this higher power density comes cooling challenges. The die attach process must be carefully optimized to ensure sufficient heat transfer to the housing. Compared to GaAs and as a function of input power, the gain of GaN starts rolling off further from its saturated level. To address this Mercury is developing linearizing technology. Additionally, the high bias currents require circuitry that can quickly switch high currents.

From the example above, we see that employing the latest technology requires innovation across multiple disciplines. To achieve a cost effective solution, Mercury develops these processes and technologies that can be used across multiple products. It is this method of focused innovation that enables the next generation of ultra-compact RF modules.

For an example of ultra-compact, modular technology take a look at Mercury's new digital and RF integrated architecture.

Part 4 in the series is now available. Learn how Mercury Systems takes an innovative approach to RF manufacturing.

<![CDATA[IMS 2018 Re-Cap]]>, 25 Jun 2018 10:40:00 -0400

It was a week of cheese steaks, US history, and ten thousand RF and microwave professionals. The International Microwave Symposium, or IMS, is an annual event that brings together the latest research from academia, hundreds of companies, and presentations from the most knowledgeable experts. This year we all gathered in downtown Philadelphia to learn what’s new in the industry.

On the commercial side there was major activity around 5G, including a summit that featured talks by Facebook’s head of connectivity and a VP from AT&T. While I didn’t have a chance to attend the sessions, they included an overview of 5G and details such as microwave architectures, software defined systems, testing considerations, and the trade-offs between different semiconductor technologies.

The 70 technical sessions included a wide range of topics such as passive circuits, multi-physics modeling, radar beamforming, and microwave circuit design. Additionally, there were in-depth talks by medical professionals describing the results of the collaboration between doctors and engineers that enabled technologies such as treatments for hypothermia and advanced imaging.

While most of my time was spent at the trade show, I managed to attend a few sessions on radar and broadband power amplifier design. In addition to the standard radar applications, the presenters described uses such as measuring vibrations in the throat to record speech in a noisy environment, quantifying the amounts of particulates in the air, and analyzing water surface characteristics. The broadband amplifier talks included several clever ways to optimize both power and bandwidth.

Across the hall from the talks was a particularly interesting exhibit that displayed some examples of early RF electronics such as an AN/GRC-13 transceiver from the late 1940s. Skipping ahead a few decades was a solid state noise source from the 1960s and an X-band transmit/receive MMIC from the 1980s. It was impressive to see the speed of the developments from the early tube radios through MMIC technology and to the present. However, to see examples of the current technology was just a short walk to the exhibition.

Over 600 companies setup booths for the trade show. The setup alone is quite the process to see. With forklifts zipping past and the expansive concrete floor covered with wooden crates, it took less than a day to transform the empty space into the organized rows of booths. There were suppliers of capacitors, ICs, amplifier modules, integrated sub-systems, test equipment, software tools and assembly services. Some of the companies produce aircraft while another develops smart phones. The Mercury Systems booth included examples of RF and microwave components and integrated products as well as an OpenRFM module.

As I staffed the Mercury booth, I had the opportunity to meet with suppliers and customers. During these interactions, I observed some familiar trends. In the defense industry, we are seeing interest in GaN technology, compact highly integrated products and the need to leverage commercial technology.

As the show wrapped up, the booths were dismantled as quickly as they were setup. Some people rushed to the airport to catch flights while others spent an evening exploring Philadelphia to see the historic buildings, the liberty bell, and of course, trying a Philly cheese steak. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year at IMS 2019 in Boston!   TradeShowBooth.jpg


<![CDATA[Hypervisor Part 3]]>, 20 Jun 2018 15:20:00 -0400

Welcome back!

Today we will look at what Mercury Systems, SMP engineering favors in the Hypervisor world. This would be Star Lab’s LURE with Crucible. Mercury supports multiple versions of hypervisors but favors this one.

Star Lab's LURE with Crucible

Star Lab’s LURE with Crucible hypervisor provides a trusted execution environment that addresses many of the concerns of mission-critical systems. LURE will protect critical software applications, configurations and data from unauthorized access, modification, reverse engineering or theft by malicious insiders.

Crucible is built upon open source and widely deployed Xen Project, and is specifically designed for use in hostile mission-critical environments. Crucible operates as a trusted supervisor within the processor, configuring and controlling both hardware and software resource execution in order to ensure and maintain the integrity of the system’s operation.

It is relatively easy to setup, use and configure to your environment. Mercury Systems is assistance trusted partner and always available to assist our customer with any of this.

Features available with this product that users can select to use, depending on their needs:

  • Secure boot
  • Authentication control
  • Logical Isolation
  • Runtime integrity
  • Technology protection
  • Deterministic performance
  • Mission systems compatibility
  • Encryption at rest
  • MAC
  • IP and Data protection
  • Integrity and enforcement of configuration
  • OS hardening and attack surface reduction
  • System Hardware access control

Additional features offered on some platforms:

  • Separation kernels
  • Intrusion detection
  • Contact switching - memory, registers and applications
  • Forensics – live analysis vs offline

LynxSecure: Lynx Software Technologies

LynxSecure is a least privilege real-time Separation kernel Hypervisor from Lynx Software Technologies designed for safety and security critical applications found in military, avionic, industrial, and automotive markets. LynxSecure features a very unusual kernel architecture that departs from traditional Unix-like OS and micro kernels. LynxSecure abstracts all exception handling, APIs, I/O services, up into user space. The stripped down design aims to raise assurance of the host by removing the possibility of CPU privilege escalation and provide extremely tight control over CPU scheduling.

LynxSecure supports para-virtualized Linux and LynxOS real-time operating systems, as well as full virtualization of the Windows operating system.

LynxSecure is built to conform to the MILS (Multiple Independent Levels of Security) architecture so that virtualization can be used in embedded systems with requirements for high assurance. By default, LynxSecure uses an ARINC 653-based fixed-cyclic scheduler to manage processing time, but dynamic scheduling policies are also permitted.

LynxOS-178: Lynx Software Technologies

The LynxOS®-178 RTOS is the first hard real-time DO-178B level “A” operating system to offer the interoperability benefits of POSIX® with support for the ARINC 653 APplication EXecutive (APEX).

It is also the first time and space -partitioned, FAA-accepted Reusable Software Component (RSC). It is the only COTS solution supporting both Intel® Pentium® and PowerPC® platforms.

LynxOS-178 RTOS is based on open standards and is designed specifically to fulfill the stringent needs of multithread and multiprocess applications in safety-critical real-time systems. It provides security through Virtual Machine (VM) brick-wall partitions which make it impossible for system events in one partition of the RTOS to interfere with events in another. It's as if each partition were its own separate computer.

Thank you for following this thread, it has been a pleasure sharing what Mercury Systems is offering to our customers, present and future.


<![CDATA[Military-Grade Secure Solid State Drives Part 3: Diamonds are Forever; Encryption Lasts Longer]]>, 18 Jun 2018 10:00:00 -0400

Have you ever forgotten your password for your work laptop and had to go to your IT guy for help to reset it? Imagine if it was that easy when the data on the hard drive was classified or top secret.

Commercial SSDs use basic ATA password to access drive data. Military and government applications require higher security and therefore basic ATA passwords must be strengthened and sophisticated key management techniques employed.  Self-encrypting drives allow for up to 32 character passwords while Mercury drives 64 characters. One technique is to condition the password.  By this you can create a unique suffix to the end of a password that changes with each log-in, making the password impossible to hack.

There also are many military key management options that are implemented by the end user and crypto officer.  In military applications the keys are generated and stored on separate machines than the storage device holding the classified data.  The keys are sent to the device once authentication has occurred as the result of a correct password.

One interesting technique developed by the NSA is external key fill through DS101.  Imagine an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea with a fighter squadron on board ready for deployment.  The Commander has a hand held device which he plugs into a secure network.  Through the specialized connector the mission keys are filled into the device from command center in DC.  The device is plugged into each fighter jet and the encryption key is sent to the drive to access mission instructions and maps.   Through the course of the mission, a jet is shot down and recovered by enemy forces.  The system drives are found, but once back in their labs they find the drives are encrypted and the keys are gone.

Even today’s super computers aren’t going to crack the 256 bit encryption key used in these drives.  Like the encryption algorithms assurance of proper key management and authentication algorithms are necessary.  FIPS-140-2 certification provides this, as do Mercury’s ASURRE-Stor SSDs.

In military applications even with all the advanced methods employed to secure data and eliminate the possibility of decryption, further steps are needed to protect highly sensitive data. Fast erase, sanitization, and self-destruct, which I already discussed, are necessary attributes of military-grade SSDs. Mercury is a pioneer in these areas as well with the fastest erase and sanitize operations of any military-grade SSD.  Fast purge wipes the drive’s encryption keys in less than 30ms and fast clear completely erases the NAND flash in 1.5-8 seconds. Sanitization of all blocks, including retired and defective blocks, where the drive is erased, overwritten with random data, then repeated numerous times, depending on the protocol employed, can take 5 minutes to 10s of minutes. These features are custom configurable and can be triggered after a user-defined threshold for authentication attempts has been reached. It could occur after as few as one failed attempt.

Mercury’s ASURRE-Stor SSDs go further with security than any other SSD. It has the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) Common Criteria certification for encryption engine and authorization acquisition for full disk encryption and is the first and only hardware on the NSA’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) programs eligible for protection of classified, secret, and top secret data at rest.

I will talk about CSfC in a future blog.  Using a SSD with this level of scrutiny on its cryptographic, key management and authentication algorithms means that if that UAV in my earlier example is captured and the SSD removed for data retrieval, (and the answer is…) it would take that enemy hundreds of millions of years to decode the encryption key to access the sensitive data.

With all these safeguards available in SSD hardware, military-grade SSDs like TRRUST-Stor and ASURRE-Stor are the only option for protection of high value military and government data. Though I’ve been told that even with all these layers of security and protection built into secure SSDs, government agencies still grind up many drives…the ultimate method in data protection.

<![CDATA[Modular RF Architectures]]>, 12 Jun 2018 14:58:00 -0400

Let’s start with the traditional approach. After spending the morning helping production with some tuning on an amplifier, you finally start reading through the 120-page RFP, SCD, and SOW for the new up-converter. At the end of the source control drawing there is an oddly shaped mechanical outline. The control signal is routed through a hermetic micro-D connector with a custom defined pin-out. While not ideal, the locations of the RF ports are manageable. The eight-month timeline to CDR appears reasonable. However, six months in and it becomes clear that it will take longer and cost more than anticipated. The back and forth iterations with the engineer supporting the custom designed digital control board seem to go on forever. The engineer working on the output module determines that she will need a new heat-sink to keep the devices from becoming too hot. The mixer is generating a spur that wasn’t predicted and somewhere a gain stage is oscillating. The frustrated program manager has to add this project to the long list of development jobs with irate customers.

In my first post in this series on the intersection of the RF commercial industry and the RF defense industry I discussed the critical need for innovative engineering teams. In this second post we will explore a specific technology that enabled rapid growth in the commercial industry and is now emerging in the defense industry—standards and modular architectures. Just as commercial communication standards fueled rapid growth by allowing the re-use of modular components, disruptive RF companies are now working to apply these same methods to the defense industry. However, to be successful is no easy task. With a much smaller available market, these innovative companies require a thorough understanding of current and future market trends in order to define their technology road-map.

Returning to the example above, when every element of an integrated product is designed from scratch the opportunities for problems increase dramatically. All it takes is one unstable amplifier, an out-of-tolerance PCB or a voltage regulator that can’t handle the current.

One minor oversight, out-of-spec component or delay receiving material can delay the entire project and when there are multiple issues all occurring at once the schedule and cost impact can be nearly impossible to predict. As complexity increases, the interface between the different sub-assemblies also becomes critical. Standard or low voltage TTL? Will the silver plated filter create a galvanic reaction when placed against the nickel plated SSPA?

A Lesson from Commercial Technology

An example of the opposite extreme is currently sitting in front of me on my desk. For less than $100 an Arduino board has significant capability. How is the price so low and how do they keep coming out with new versions so quickly? By not re-inventing the wheel. Instead of a custom designed RF front-end, a packaged wifi module is included that lets me control it with my phone. Since the wifi module complies with the IEEE 802.11 standard, I can trust that the dynamic range is sufficient, that the current draw is acceptable, and that the chip will support the modulation requirements. A similar concept applies to the microcontroller.

Obviously a complex EW transceiver can’t use the same components as an Arduino, but there is opportunity to take a page from the commercial industry's playbook—through the use of design re-use and common standards cost, lead-time and risk can be greatly reduced.

Design re-use is not new. Nearly all engineers will look for the opportunity to reuse portions of old designs. However, as a company grows and develops a broad product portfolio, it becomes critical how the design blocks are preserved and also how the various engineers interact with each other. In order to utilize a design library there must be a culture of collaboration. Additionally, in order to get the most value out of re-use, the building blocks must contain innovative technology—there is no point to a library of poorly designed blocks. By amortizing the cost of these innovations across multiple products the full benefit of technology re-use is achieved.

RF Standards for the Defense Industry

The use of standards in the defense and aerospace industries is less common but very effective. As an example we can look to OpenVPX. Understanding the need for such a standard, Mercury Systems led the development and implementation of OpenVPX, which defines the module-to-module and module-to-backplane interfaces allowing for easy interoperability. Instead of a design from scratch, an OpenVPX design provides a framework to simplify both the design and integration into the next higher assembly.

While industry standards improve interoperability between products, internal standards reduce the technical risks in a complex product development. For example, to rapidly develop complex OpenVPX compliant transceivers Mercury systems created OpenRFM™ to coordinate the integration of internal mechanical, RF, and digital elements. This framework successfully allowed the design to progress smoothly by minimizing integration issues. Additionally, OpenRFM yields a future-proof design since products can be easily updated without having to re-invent the interfaces.

To see OpenRFM™ in action, visit Mercury's website to learn about the ultra broadband, 3U OpenRFM™ transceiver.

Part 3 in the series is now available. Find out how Mercury applies proprietary technology to develop products that are both high-performance and extremely compact.

<![CDATA[Hypervisor Part 2]]>, 07 Jun 2018 16:04:00 -0400

Welcome back! Today we will look at Full Virtualization, using either Software assisted full or Hardware assisted full.

Full Virtualization: Virtual machine simulates hardware to allow an unmodified guest OS to be run in isolation. There are two types of Full virtualizations in the enterprise market. On both full virtualization types, the guest operating system’s source information will not be modified.

  • Software assisted full virtualization
  • Hardware assisted full virtualization

Software Assisted Full Virtualization: Software-assisted full virtualization completely relies on binary translation to trap and virtualize the execution of sensitive, non-virtualizable instructions sets. It emulates the hardware using the software instruction sets. Due to binary translation, it is often criticized for performance issue. Here is the list of software which will fall under software assisted (BT).

  • VMware workstation (32Bit guests)
  • Virtual PC
  • VirtualBox (32-bit guests)
  • VMware Server

Hardware Assisted Full Virtualization: Hardware-assisted full virtualization eliminates the binary translation and it directly interrupts with hardware using the virtualization technology which has been integrated on X86 processors since 2005 (Intel VT-x and AMD-V). Guest OS’s instructions might allow a virtual context execute privileged instructions directly on the processor, even though it is virtualized. Here is the list of enterprise software which supports hardware-assisted – Full virtualization which falls under hypervisor type 1 (Bare metal).

  • VMware ESXi /ESX
  • KVM • Hyper-V
  • Xen The following list fall under hypervisor type 2 (Hosted).
  • VMware Workstation (64-bit guests only ) • Virtual Box (64-bit guests only )
  • VMware Server (Retired )

Here's a great write up explaining Para virtualization vs Full virtualization vs Hardware assisted Virtualization in more detail. Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Hypervisor blog!

<![CDATA[Military-Grade Secure Solid State Drives Part 2: Encryption Decoded]]>, 04 Jun 2018 13:55:00 -0400

In my introduction to military grade SSDs I conjured an image from a familiar movie of a data recorder destroyed by internal combustion to remove evidence of high value data. While the end result is the same, the implementation of self-destruct in the real world can be a bit different than in Hollywood.  In military-grade solid state drives, self-destruction of data or a data storage device happens through sophisticated non-thermal events. Advanced algorithms are used to erase encryption keys, non-volatile NAND flash memory, and controller firmware.  Other mechanisms can be employed to wipe the drive by high powered magnetic exposure. In these scenarios the data and device will be rendered useless with no chance of reverse engineering, but no flames or bodily harm will ensue. Other security features unique to military-grade secure drives are:

  • the cryptographic algorithms
  • key management
  • fast erase
  • sanitization protocols
Self-encrypting drives use an encryption engine built into the SSD’s controller to encrypt every file stored on the drive.  Most self-encrypting drives are designed based on Advanced Encryption Standard AES 256-bit in XTC block cipher mode to encrypt and protect data at rest.  AES 256 bit XTC encryption is used worldwide and virtually impossible to decode even by the fastest computers.

This is because the key is 256 bits long which means with each added bit the number of possible keys double.  So the number of keys is 2256, which if you do the math, the possible number of key combinations is this 78 digit number 115,792,089,237,316,195,423,570,985,008,687,907,853,269,984,665,640,564,039,457,584,007,913,129,639,936.  This number is so enormous that our human brains cannot comprehend its magnitude.  It is exponentially bigger than the number of atoms in the perceivable universe.

So back to security in solid state drives; now you see why AES256 XTC is so important to encryption of data and key management in a solid state drives. However, even if a drive uses an AES265 XTC designed encryption engine, how do you know if the cryptographic algorithms have been implemented properly?

Envision a typical defense scenario of a UAV collecting surveillance data of an enemy camp from its on-board sensors.  The video and inferred data collected will be used to identify high value targets.  The data recorder may also contain details of the mission, location of operatives and maps. The ground team needs assurance that if this UAV is detected and captured, that data is safe from enemy forces.  Security must be guaranteed or the mission and lives will be jeopardized.

Military systems get this assurance through validation and certification. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) oversees the Federal Information Process Standards (FIPS) that certify the implementation of encryption algorithms.  FIPS-197 is the certification that verifies that AES256 has been implemented correctly.  Mercury was the first to market with a FIPS-197 certified encrypted drive with our TRRUST-Stor family. 

Mercury Systems TRRUST-Stor SSD

Data secured by AES256 XTC is safe from hackers and enemies alike for now, possibly until quantum computers are capable of the task which could be sooner than we’d like to think. Quantum computers aside, can you guess how long it would take to decrypt a 256bit key with today’s supercomputers?  I’ll reveal the answer in my next blog when I continue our look at data security in military-grade solid state drives.  

<![CDATA[Innovative RF Engineering Teams]]>, 29 May 2018 12:24:20 -0400

In this series of blog posts I will explore various topics in the growing space that is the intersection of the commercial communications industry and the RF/Microwave defense industry. Gone are the days of plentiful cost-plus, multi-year development contracts and in their place we find an emerging competitive landscape. Nimble, technology-focused companies are taking the tools ubiquitous in the fast-paced world of commercial businesses and applying them to a new set of challenges found in the defense and aerospace industries. Just as commercial communication standards fueled rapid growth by allowing the re-use of modular components, disruptive companies are now working to apply these same methods to the RF defense industry. However, to be successful is no easy task. With a much smaller available market, these innovative companies need a thorough understanding of current and future market trends in order to define their technology road-map. We are now in a critical time for the defense industry with massive growth opportunities for innovative companies and a slow decline for those who fail to adapt.

It’s become a common story throughout the RF defense industry. The same conversations are heard in the lunch room, whispered in cubicles and discussed over dinner after a conference. The subject matter experts are retiring. Other engineers are leaving to build the next smartphone app. It’s becoming harder and harder to recruit the next generation of engineers with competition from companies like Google and Facebook. The once cutting-edge RF/microwave design houses are limping along by making minor updates to legacy programs, and in the process, keeping their limited engineering resources busy with paperwork

With these challenges, innovation doesn’t happen by accident. Instead it requires a company committed to building the teams and establishing a culture where innovation thrives. In this first post of my series on the intersection of the commercial industry and the RF/Microwave defense industry, I will begin with some troubling trends that impede innovation and then conclude with Mercury Systems’ approach of addressing these challenges to build a world-class engineering team.

Nearly all of us have had the experience of redesigning a product due to an obsolescence and it’s rarely an exciting project. As a result of the countless mergers many of the go-to microwave FETs are becoming obsolete. We all know the steps: review the requirements, choose a device that we have used in a previous design, adjust the matching and bias, then build up the circuit and measure the performance. It is important work but no one would call it innovative. Even the design of a new LNA often involves the same technologies that have been used for decades: discrete devices, series feedback and matching networks on low-loss ceramics. We are all too familiar with the nickel-plated, aluminum housings that package these circuits. This technology is the bread and butter of the field, but in order to be truly innovative engineers must be challenged—and not just challenged by finding new ways of mixing together the same ingredients.

An outcome of this type of routine work—especially when combined with the hours of tedious documentation updates—is that the lack of opportunity for innovation demotivates engineers and pushes them to seek employment elsewhere. With fewer engineers the company is further prevented from innovating, resulting in a cycle towards commoditization and a purely “build-to-print” capability.

When we turn to the commercial communication industry we see examples of the magnitude of the innovation we are striving to achieve. In order to support the massive increase in bandwidth required for data-hungry smartphones the industry couldn’t stick to a cookie cutter design with minor modifications. In the following posts we will explore some of the specific technical leaps that allowed this rapid innovation in the commercial industry and how they can be applied to the RF defense industry. In this first post we start with the fundamentals—effective engineering teams.

Innovation requires more than being smart—it requires the ability to integrate multiple technologies—and this requires multi-disciplined, cross-functional teams. To achieve the most compact form-factor for a GaN SSPA, the RF designer needs to have a basic understanding of the thermal constraints and the types of signals it will be amplifying. Designing an OpenRFM transceiver requires an understanding of communication protocols, transceiver architectures, and digital processing. On top of this, the design team must be experts in the use of advanced modeling software, reliability analysis and the manufacturing techniques required for production. The most successful innovation also requires a thorough understanding of the application in order to develop a technology ahead of the customer request so it can be rapidly applied to multiple products.

In order for engineers to have both technical depth in their area of expertise and up-to-date technical breadth of the adjacent disciplines they must be challenged, mentored, and given the opportunity for continued education. Since even the most gifted engineers can’t be experts in all fields, the company must establish a culture of respectful collaboration. Not only does this foster innovation, but by creating a positive work environment it attracts top engineering talent. Instead of a downward cycle towards commoditization, we find a positive cycle towards cutting-edge innovation.

It is more than the free food that attracts engineers to a career at Google—it’s the knowledge that they will have the opportunity to be a part of true innovation. By giving engineers the opportunity to innovate, companies in the RF defense industry will also be able to recruit top talent, drive innovation, and deliver cutting edge products.

At Mercury Systems we call it Innovation that Matters and it is one of our core objectives. See our  RF Engineering page to learn how you can be a part of this exciting, innovative team.

Part 2 in the series is now available. Learn how Mercury takes a key technology that enabled the proliferation of advanced consumer devices and applies it to the RF defense industry.

<![CDATA[Hypervisor - Part 1]]>, 24 May 2018 09:52:00 -0400

The Engineers in Mercury’s SMP department have been adding to Mercury’s many capabilities and offerings on both Mercury’s 6U and 3U product lines. I will be featuring some of these over the next few weeks and months to show the commitment and ingenuity that our engineers have for our customers’ needs. One of these capabilities is the availability of Hypervisor. Development, Quality and Test Engineers have been looking for this type of capability on these platforms for a long time. With this product, you are able to control the level of security, isolation, authentication and protection to critical software, hardware and components within your system. You determine what level, depending on your or your customer’s needs.

This capability allows developers, designers, quality and test engineers to create, execute and debug on the targeted platforms without overburdening their costs. It also allows multiple developers to work on the same hardware, with their own or mirrored environments; this is key to development and replicating issues. A single developer can have multiple VMs running a different OS at a single time, allowing them to develop on multiple systems.

Another advantage; the platforms can be used in secure labs, allowing the users to access their development environment without adding several systems into the mix. The debugging or additional development can be done on the system within these secure settings. No more concerns over not having enough hardware and creating the proper environment to use.

Historically, there are basically two types of hypervisors available today, with many different flavors within these two types.

Type 1: Known as “Bare Metal” hypervisors, which are loaded into the kernel and directly on the hardware. These hypervisors are gaining popularity because building the hypervisor into the firmware is proving to be more efficient. Type 1 hypervisors provide higher performance, availability, and greater security than Type 2.

Type 2: These hypervisors are used mainly on client systems where efficiency is less critical or on systems where support for a broad range of I/O devices is important and can be provided by the host operating system.

Let’s look at some of these options...

Para-virtualization vs Full-virtualization vs. Hardware/Software Assisted Full Virtualization:

Today we’ll look at Para-virtualization and next time we’ll cover Full-virtualization; Hardware assisted verses Software Assisted virtualization.

Para-virtualization works differently from the full virtualization. It doesn’t need to simulate the hardware for the virtual machines. The hypervisor is installed on a physical server (host) and a guest OS is installed into the environment. The virtual guest is aware that it has been virtualized, unlike the full virtualization (where the guest doesn’t know that it has been virtualized) to take advantage of the functions.

In this virtualization method, guest source codes will be modified with sensitive information to communicate with the host. Guest operating systems require extensions to make API calls to the hypervisor. In full virtualization, guests will issue hardware calls but in para-virtualization, guests will directly communicate with the host (hypervisor) using the drivers.

Here is a list of products which supports para-virtualization.

  • Xen
  • Oracle VM for SPARC (LDOM)
  • Oracle VM for X86 (OVM)

These diagrams show how Xen supports both full virtualization and para-virtualization.

<![CDATA[Military-Grade Secure Solid State Drives Part 1: Hollywood Imagination or Reality?]]>, 21 May 2018 16:02:00 -0400

This message will self-destruct in five seconds...

Who knew that concept was anything but Hollywood imagination?  It is very real, particularly in today’s modern threat environment.  Protection including dest