ESO is starting a number of new projects collectively called Second Generation VLT instrumentation. Several of them will use Adaptive Optics (AO). In comparison with today's ESO AO systems, the 2nd Generation VLT AO systems will be much bigger (in terms of degrees of freedom) and faster (in terms of loop frequency). Consequently the Real-Time Computer controlling these AO systems will be significantly bigger and more challenging to build compared with today's AO systems in operation. To support the new requirements ESO started the development of a common flexible platform called SPARTA for Standard Platform for Adaptive optics Real Time Applications. The guidelines along which SPARTA is developed recognize the importance of industry standards over custom development to lower the development costs, ease the maintenance and make the system upgradeable thus delivering the performance required. SPARTA is based on a hybrid architecture that comprises all the major computing architectures available today: the high computational throughput is achieved through the combination of FPGA and DSP usage, where DSP are used as fast coprocessors and FPGA are used as front and as communication infrastructure, thus guaranteeing also the low latency. The flexibility is spread between the usage of both high-end CPUs and again the DSPs. All three technologies are organized in a parallel system interconnected by fast serial fabrics based on standard protocols. External input / output interfaces are also based on industry standard protocols, thus enabling the usage of commercially available tools for development and testing.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.