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ATCA Needs Platform ThinkingATCA Needs Platform Thinking

The ATCA standard can best succeed if it's a piece of a larger industry shift, according to an LR Live keynoter

January 27, 2005

3 Min Read
ATCA Needs Platform Thinking

The AdvancedTCA standard is promising, but industry acceptance will be slow unless it's developed in conjunction with neighboring standards, according to a keynoter at today's LR Live conference.

Kicking off "AdvancedTCA," a one-day Light Reading and Heavy Reading event, John Fryer, a director of marketing for Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), said it's important to take a wider, platform-level view, rather than considering ATCA as a solution by itself.

The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA) is a set of standards for telecom hardware, encompassing blade specifications and a number of switch-fabric options. The hope is that ATCA will make telecom equipment faster and cheaper to develop, much in the way that standards have sped the development of enterprise equipment.

That's best achieved if the industry subscribes to a "platform" concept, Fryer said -- a way to deliver, as a unit, all of the product-development steps that don't add value to a vendor. This would mean matching ATCA with other pieces such as the Service Availability Forum, which is developing standards for high-availability middleware for telecom.

"ATCA alone is not sufficient to be successful," Fryer said.

With standards being developed individually, the adoption of ATCA and the SA Forum's work will be slower, Fryer predicted. "Standards would be adopted, but the rate of that adoption depends on the systems vendors being able to incorporate [separate standards] into their platforms. It could be well into the next decade before [the standards] become ubiquitous."

That's because the time to integrate and test technologies can be a "killer" for product development, he said. Standards have a tendency to vary from vendor to vendor, creating surprise glitches when standards-based pieces get put together.

What's required, Fryer believes, is to develop these standards as a group. That would allow vendors to grab off-the-shelf blades with confidence, and would let each vendor focus on whatever aspect of systems development it considers a money-making specialty.

As a side note, Fryer pointed out that those specialties will have to change, as many vendors, as a result of standards like ATCA, "no longer see their value in building raw hardware." This is reflected in Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) plans, which include moving into consulting and services and, reportedly, middleware (see Cisco Rolls Out Roadmaps and Cisco's Secret Software Strategy). The companies that cling to plain hardware sales "have some risk of being the losers" in an ATCA world, Fryer said.

ATCA's best success has been in the wireless realm so far, although a recent Unstrung Insider noted that the large vendors such as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) are biding their time before accepting the standard (see Big Nords Wait on ATCA). Fryer hinted that further developments will be unveiled by vendors at next month's 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France. "You're going to see some exciting announcements related to some of these technologies."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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