Comms chips

Intel Targets Networking Gear

Add Intel to the long list of companies looking to spur and exploit the migration to more dynamic networking. The semiconductor company has announced a sweeping strategy to get its processors into telecom core and access networking equipment such as switches and basestations.

For Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), this is a bullish attempt to grab more of what Rose Schooler, general manager of its communications infrastructure division, calls a $16 billion market opportunity across the end user domains of enterprises, cloud service providers, and telcos. "Currently, we have 5% of that market," she said on a teleconference with analysts and reporters Wednesday.

Specifically, Intel is launching a processing and chipset platform to target four networking workload types: application processing, control plane processing, data plane packet transport, and signal processing. "Networking equipment has traditionally been fixed-function devices with customized silicon, but it is moving to more of a general-purpose approach."

Intel may appear to have everything to gain, but the move pits it against established networking players like Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and a sector that tends toward customized silicon in equipment offered by vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Also, Intel is looking to position itself in a telco supply chain where sales cycle length and unpredictability have routinely wreaked havoc on the bottom lines of the equipment vendors that would be Intel's customers.

"We haven't seen issues crop up so far," Schooler said. Nevertheless, "when you get into the telco market, the lifecycle requirements certainly are different, and the time to revenue can be delayed." Intel will lean on its experience as an adviser to telcos as it looks to tackle that portion of the networking market.

Intel's Highland Forest third-generation communications platform combines the Xeon E5-2600 v2 processor with its new Coleto Creek chipset, which is designed to meet the high-performance requirements of telco network gear.

Among other capabilities, the new platform generation processes up to 255 million packets per second. The offering builds on announcements Intel made this year regarding a reference design for switches and carrier-grade virtualization software, with the broader aim of working itself into software-defined networking and network functions virtualization deployments. (See Intel Aims to Cut NFV Latency and Intel Adds to Its SDN Arsenal.)

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

lanbrown 12/5/2013 | 11:33:22 PM
One cannot rule it all Intel is in network gear already.  On both the ASA 5500 series and the ASA 5550x series the only model that does not have an Intel processor is the 5505; the lowest end model.  On the Nexus 7k platform, what runs from the processor that is the control plane?  Yep, an Intel CPU.  In the ACE (application load balancing) what is in the ACE-30?  Yep, an Intel processor.  Where Intel is not, the embedded side like the ASA5505 where it is an AMD Geode processor.  Some of the newer Intel processors could replace it while taking marginally more power but better performance.  Their processor is also not in things like Access Points.  Sure there is room for Intel to grow, their sole intention has been x86 for everything.  One processor cannot do it all.
Carol Wilson 12/5/2013 | 3:10:28 AM
Re: Telco effect Isn't Intel well-suited to the telcos' move to more COTS gear as part of the virtualizatoin trend?
DOShea 12/4/2013 | 4:50:00 PM
Telco effect Am I wrong with my notion that telco sales cycle issues and related challenges they cause for the network equipment vendors would have real impact at the chip supplier level, and could affect Intel's success getting the platform into new gear?
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