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ATCA Success: Moore Proof

Light Reading

Almost every emerging telecom technology spins through the hype-and-despair cycle – irrational exuberance, followed by a splash of marketplace reality, with doom and gloom quickly setting in. The truth about a technology comes out only after this cycle runs its course. And the truth about Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA) – that it is in fact a critical enabling technology for telecom and networking equipment makers – will become evident over the next 12 to 18 months.

After a slow start, mischaracterized by some market watchers as a flop (see 2007 Top Ten: Techs That Flopped), ATCA is now on the straight and narrow path to success. The introduction of second-generation platforms with 10 Gbit/s switching over the past few months is making a big difference.

Since its completion just over five years ago, the ATCA 3.0 specification has provided the underpinning for continuous platform development, with many companies introducing ATCA-related products from chassis to middleware. The apparent progress hasn't been enough to impress some industry pundits, but the truth is, ATCA is well ahead of the game if you measure its progress against the ultimate technology industry benchmark: Moore's Law.

First-generation ATCA-based platforms supported 1 Gbit/s per blade, with processor performance restricted by power and cooling limitations. Less than five years later, the latest ATCA platforms feature 10 Gbit/s switching, using off-the-shelf semiconductor components. An order-of-magnitude increase in performance isn't only in line with the venerable Moore's Law, it's actually slightly ahead of that pace.

Processor performance has dramatically improved with the introduction of dual/quad and multicore architectures and low voltage processors for embedded applications. These second-generation ATCA platforms are proving attractive to equipment providers developing new IP-based systems.

ATCA's impact on system development for the converged IP network will be fully assessed at Light Reading's upcoming event, ATCA, AMC & MicroTCA: Off-the-Shelf Platforms for the Converged IP Network, to be held May 8 in San Jose, Calif. This event will explore the benefits of using carrier-grade, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software, including ATCA, MicroTCA, and high-availability middleware, in system designs. Leading ATCA technology suppliers will be on hand to help equipment manufacturers, network operators, and the financial community to get up to speed on the latest developments and market growth in this area.

Market leaders such as Emerson Electric Co. and Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS) – strengthened by acquisitions from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), respectively – are reporting a rapid rise in ATCA-based design starts for new systems in the converged IP network, including IPTV, IMS, WiMax, and LTE. These new systems will enter production over the next two years and will drive significant market growth over the next three years.

Dual-core processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD) are already integrated into a number of different ATCA blades and AMC modules, providing high-performance control plane processing. For voice gateways and other applications requiring high performance, there are signal processing blades integrating high-performance multicore DSP devices from Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. . For high-performance packet processing, networking I/O modules with integrated multicore processors from Cavium Inc. (Nasdaq: CAVM) and RMI Corp. are also available from several vendors, including Emerson, Radisys, and Interphase Corp. .

The critical part of any high-availability system is the middleware and operating system. Work within the Service Availability Forum (SAF) and other industry bodies has simplified the use of third-party software within carrier class equipment, and this process will continue with the further development of open software for both operating system and middleware. Off-the-shelf software components are now available from several vendors, including Enea AB , with specific support for ATCA and other COTS platforms.

Most Tier 1 telecom equipment providers are now using ATCA platforms for at least some new system development: Leading proponents include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Nokia Networks , and Nortel Networks Ltd. . ATCA is also used by a number of Tier 2/3 equipment providers, including Azaire Networks Inc. , Fortinet Inc. , Italtel SpA , and NextPoint Networks Inc. Key applications include wireless infrastructure, IMS, IPTV, WiMax, LTE, multiservice access platforms, and security systems.

The first systems based on second-generation ATCA platforms are now ready for production release. With 10 Gbit/s Ethernet switching and the latest dual, quad, and multicore processor blades, ATCA is an ideal platform for a wide range of IP-based systems for the converged network. The rapid increase in ATCA design starts seen towards the end of 2007 is expected to continue during 2008, driving significant revenue growth through 2010 and beyond.

If ATCA is a flop, then the telecom industry needs more failures like this.

– Simon Stanley, Analyst, Light Reading's Components Insider

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to ATCA, AMC & MicroTCA: Off-the-Shelf Platforms for the Converged IP Network, which will bring attendees up to date on the latest developments from all levels in the AdvancedTCA supply chain – from component and middleware vendors to system integrators, equipment vendors, and carriers. To be staged in San Jose, Calif., May 8, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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