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Building the Embedded Hardware Standard for the 2020s

Ernie Bergstrom
10/30/2014

What kinds of embedded hardware will telcos need in the 2020s? Surely they will want a mature modular standard with far greater capabilities than systems have today. And it's a good bet they will want an open standard to provide low costs and wide availability. They'll want hardware that has huge capacities for processing, memory, I/O, and storage. It will need to have built-in support for today's advanced features, such as SDN, NFV, cybersecurity, cloud computing, fabrics, and management; be able to handle a wide variety of applications; be maintainable and upgradable, and have a large ecosystem. To make such a standard available, we will have to start defining it now. That is what we plan to do with PICMG GEN4.

PICMG is a 20-year-old industry organization that has focused on developing open modular standards for embedded computing. Its latest high-end standard, AdvancedTCA, completed in 2002, had over 100 organizations involved in its development.

GEN4, the fourth major packaging technology from PICMG, is a proposed new specification for high-performance embedded computing. It will be an open modular standard for high-end applications in telecom networks, improving telco time-to-market. It will offer new levels of compute, storage, and networking capabilities, with throughput in the terabit range and storage in the exabyte range. It will support such key demands as SDN, NFV, cloud computing and cybersecurity.

GEN4 will provide the highest performance of any embedded specification developed so far. Not only will it include the latest technology, but it will also have a proven backer in PICMG, with 20 years' experience in specification development. PICMG provides continued support and development from both vendors and customers. All its specifications are non-proprietary with strong disclosure policies on intellectual property. None of PICMG's 55 standards requires a license to implement.

For example, AdvancedTCA had over 100 organizations involved in its development. It is currently supported by over 1,000 vendors and has a $5 billion dollar annual market.

PICMG has over 250 members worldwide, including AMD, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Raytheon and Sandia National Laboratories.

Why should telecom providers and vendors alike be interested in PICMG GEN4? It will provide a standard hardware base, greatly simplifying hardware development and maintenance while avoiding proprietary approaches. It will offer the high throughput required for central office equipment, wireless basestations, and many other applications. It will include hardware platform management for use in maintenance and upgrades. It is the latest in a family of specifications that have enjoyed wide acceptance, large markets, and major ecosystems involving hundreds of vendors and thousands of products. GEN4 offers an open modular hardware base for systems developed and in use through the 2020s.

GEN4 specification development will start late this year, and the process will take between two and three years.

PICMG is sponsoring a free kickoff meeting at the Open Server Summit at the Santa Clara Convention Center (Santa Clara, Calif.) on November 13, 2014. For more information, see http://www.picmg.org or http://www.openserversummit.com.

Ernie Bergstrom is President of Crystal Cube Consulting, and chairperson of the PICMG GEN4 Open Server Summit sessions. You can reach him at [email protected]

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