ATCA/Standard Servers

Adlink Aims at ATCA Verticals

While AdvancedTCA (ATCA) was intended for telecom gear, embedded computing specialist Adlink Technology Inc. sees a chance to boost its business by selling into vertical markets like security.

By producing high-end blades like the aTCA-6900, announced today, Adlink hopes to catch on with security and deep packet inspection vendors that are revamping their product lines to handle 10 Gbit/s traffic.

Adlink isn't a newcomer. It's an 11-year-old company with 700 employees and its own manufacturing in Taiwan. But much of Adlink's business is in areas like medical and defense equipment.

Adlink has offered ATCA blades for a few years now, but it's going to have to compete with Emerson Electric Co. and Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS), the companies that inherited the ATCA divisions of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), respectively. Niches like security gear could be a way for Adlink to boost its ATCA presence quickly.

"The Tier 1s are slow in deploying new architectures. They want to get as much as they can out of what they have, whereas companies doing verticals like network security are very nimble," says Jeffrey Munch, Adlink's chief technology officer.

That's where products like the dual Xeon blade come in. Security and deep packet inspection are math-heavy tasks that need a lot of processing power, particularly as vendors start incorporating 10 Gbit/s ports.

The aTCA-6900 is an ATCA blade (duh) that comes with two Xeon chips from Intel. Each Xeon packs four microprocessor cores, so the blade has a total of eight processors; it also adds slots for two advanced mezzanine cards (AMCs). Not surprisingly, the aTCA-6900 targets higher-end jobs, like 10 Gbit/s security or deep packet inspection.

Not coincidentally, the blade's release comes in conjunction with this week's RSA Conference, an IT security fest.

"It's a developing market. Fortinet Inc. has been there for some time," says Simon Stanley, LRCI analyst and principal of Earlswood Marketing Ltd. (In fact, Adlink lists Fortinet as a customer.) "The great thing about ATCA is that if you've got a technology you want to bring to market in a vertical, it's much cheaper than going out and building something yourself."

The problem, when it comes to the security market, is that the gear often goes into enterprise and data-center jobs in addition to telecom. That brings up some questions.

"There are people who would say ATCA is expensive for an enterprise box. The converse is that you've not got all that development cost," Stanley says. "In the early days of any new product, that's going to be worth a lot."

In fact, the aTCA-6900 is built with enterprises in mind, in a sense. If you run both Xeon chips and populate both AMC slots, the blade won't be NEBS-compliant, making it out of bounds for telecom.

"Some of our customers are using ATCA in the data center for security, so we thought it was important to give them that choice, because you get density advantages having the two AMCs on there," says P.J. Go, Adlink general manager.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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