Given all of the effort that goes into building internet capabilities into embedded systems, I was intrigued by a claim to the “world’s smallest device server” from Lantronix, a single-chip solution. After all, why is everyone going through all this effort if there’s already a single chip that does it all?
Well, as might be expected, it’s not everything to everyone – it’s what they call a serial-to-Ethernet converter, although just saying it goes to Ethernet is not really giving it enough credit, since it has full TCP/IP capability built in.
The chip they use is also, as it turns out, not new. They’ve had it for a while, using it on their XPort product, which has a built-in RJ-45 connector. But for some applications, the size of XPort and the requirement that it be placed on the edge of the board (for access to the connector) was a problem, so they’ve removed the “integrated” connector as well as adding some capabilities in the new xPico product.
The chip they use is one they did themselves, and, a few passives aside, it has a processor, RAM (256K of SRAM), and ROM (512K of Flash) embedded on that single chip. It’s a complete device server, with a full IP stack, SNMP, DHCP, yadda yadda. They also include encryption. As if inventing their own versions of all of this weren’t enough, they also did their own OS (CoBos, which they pronounce like “co-boss”), and their own web server. Even the processor itself is proprietary.
It is possible for users to add their own code, with up to 60K of space available in the Flash. Code is developed using – you guessed it, their own tools, the CoBos Programming Kit (CPK).
As to the target user, they see this as adding value for systems that need to connect to the internet based on a serial connection in their system. Rather than having to take on a huge project and learn a network stack that is really “just” another I/O, they can slap this on and be done with it.
You can find more details on xPico in their release.