Have you ever wanted to stop time so that you could focus on making a change in your life? It would be so much easier to get things done if time would simply stand still for a moment! Unfortunately, time pays no attention to stop signs or traffic signals. We live in a busy, bursting, breakneck world, and instead of halting our lives every time we want to make a change, sometimes we have to get things done on the fly.
This is true for high-end computing equipment as well. Although it can be tricky to make changes to a computer without shutting down the system, this method (which is known as hot swapping) is a very convenient option for system operators. It’s fast, easy to do, and exceedingly convenient. Without powering down, hot swapping allows a technician to add, remove or replace system components. In fact, some computing equipment is designed with redundancy so that while certain parts are disconnected during a hot swap, the redundant parts can take over.
Hot Swap Connectors Defined
In order for hot swapping to occur successfully and without damage to the equipment, specialized “hot swap connectors” are required. The pins on these connectors are staggered in length, allowing some pins to connect before others do. This design detail, called “sequential mating”, allows the ground pins (which are longer) to connect before the remaining contacts mate. More advanced hot swap connectors have pins with three or more varying lengths. This allows the connector to ground itself first, hook up the data lines second, and enable the power third. This architecture is sometimes called “first mate ground, last mate enable”. Of course, these stages all happen in quick succession during insertion and the pins’ difference in length is small (only millimeters), but every little bit counts.
Hot swap connectors are used when someone wants to change, repair, or add to their functional system without interrupting it. Sometimes they’re used for convenience, because shutting down and restarting equipment can be time-consuming and costly. Other times, it is critical that the system (for example, a server) remains active even while changes are being made to ensure near 100% uptime.
Computer components that can be added or removed without shutting down the system are deemed “hot-pluggable,” while components that can only be added or removed from a powered-down system are termed “cold-pluggable.” Typically, memory and central processing units are cold-pluggable.
If you’re interested in hot swap connectors from Positronic, please check out the Compact Power Connector family, which includes the popular “P47” power input connector for CompactPCI applications. Drafted by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), this computing specification requires the power connector to have staged power pins for hot swap capability. Nearly all Positronic power connectors have the option for three-level sequential mating facilitating hot swap use in many systems. Check them out today!