AdvancedTCA Makes Headway

Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA) -- an open standard for building telecom gear -- is gaining in popularity, judging by a new product announced today, on the eve of the CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover, Germany.

Telco Systems (BATM), an Israeli manufacturer of IP gear, is launching what it claims is the first IP-based platform built according to the AdvancedTCA specifications. The product, T6Pro, is a Layer 3 switch aimed at carriers and enterprises (see Telco Systems Intros T6Pro).

AdvancedTCA, also known as PICMG 3.x, is a family of specifications that defines a way of building the next generation of "carrier grade" telecom equipment with switching capacities up to 2.5 Tbit/s in a single shelf. The specifications contain enough information to allow board, backplane, and chassis vendors to independently develop products that will be interoperable when integrated together.

It is being developed by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), a consortium of over 400 companies. More than 100 vendors are actively participating in the development of PICMG 3.x , making it the largest standardization effort in the organization's history. The key driver behind it is Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC).

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) are working on wireless infrastructure based on AdvancedTCA, while Force Computers and Intel are developing computing-based platforms.

The idea behind the standard is that blades from one vendor could be incorporated into a chassis made by another vendor. "Today, if you look, you have a separate infrastructure for ATM, IP, wireless, storage, PSTN switches, and so on," says Danny Berko, BATM's product manager. "One day all services could be integrated into a single platform. The concept is any protocol on any card on any slot on an AdvancedTCA platform."

Whether this level of interoperability is a practical reality remains to be seen. Establishing standards and implementing them is a good start, but service providers will probably take a lot of convincing before they'll start mixing different vendors' cards in the same chassis. All the same, the existence of the standards will probably help drive down equipment prices, because it will lead to greater commoditization of subystems as well as the components that go into them (see Switch-Fabric Chipsets).

BATM claims to have sold its product to three major customers already -- the German Navy, the Israeli Army, and an Italian bank -- and a fourth customer in the U.S. is in the evaluation stage.

However, several key names in the IP world are missing from the AdvancedTCA standardization effort, most notably Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

"You will not see Cisco there, because it has a proprietary interface," Berko contends. The standards might weaken Cisco's ability to lock in carriers.

"While some still feel that hardware standardization will eliminate the ability to differentiate products, we disagree," says Ernie Bergstrom, principle analyst at Crystal Cube Consulting. "This is both a shallow and short-term view, and simply not true. Most vendors will keep their proprietary fabrics and backplanes until the architecture no longer scales to the required performance. The advent of ATCA may even shift the value proposition to the software domain where it belongs."

Cisco will be forced to jump on the AdvancedTCA bandwagon sooner or later when demand increases -- which it will, if recent market forecasts are to be believed. Indeed, RHK Inc. forecasts that the market for AdvancedTCA products will be worth $3.7 billion by 2007 (see ATCA to Be Worth $3.7B in 2007). Crystal Cube's forecast is more ambitious, predicting a market of $20 billion by 2007.

Cisco, for its part, says it is evaluating membership in PICMG. "Cisco subscribes to open standards interfaces leading to multi-vendor interoperability," the company wrote in an email to Light Reading. It declined to elaborate.

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sisyphus 12/5/2012 | 2:12:54 AM
re: AdvancedTCA Makes Headway > Telecom Equipment has been around longer than
> computing and has had at least 5 attempts to
> do this. And none of them worked.

If you're talking about commercial silicon, you're wrong. Look at the evoultion of class 5 switches - classical example for a transition from maginficently specialized hardware to utterly commercial semiconductors, and the only differentiator becoming software. X.25 and early FR switches were built with utterly commercial CPUs, Intel's 80386 acted as a "NPU" in many of those. The list is never ending. The ASIC datapath is a recent development, and represents the exception in telecom. Your view suffers from severe 1995-2003 myopia, as if telecom and data networking had never existed outside of that timeframe. And even within that timeframe several netwqork applications are thoroughly standardized. Ever seen equipment based on CompactPCI and such? If not, it just comes to show you're fixated on the leave in the tree.

> Consumer products as well. Hunh. A single, 1,
> market has truly evolved the way you state.

You do know better, thus I am not even going to correct this. I guess semiconductor companies are an aberration, they just subsist on the far and inbetween part. There's over $100B that prove you're wrong on a yearly basis.

This has become a classic example for dicussions between pragamtism and ASIC fundamentalism.
Sisyphus 12/5/2012 | 2:12:39 AM
re: AdvancedTCA Makes Headway
I am glad that you have backtracked a long way from your original premise. There were no parallel discussions. You categorically claimed modularity and standardized merchant architectural blocks have no place in telecom. Maybe it was for te sake of polarizing the argument as well, contrarian positions are fun to hold on these boards.

Even your latest example stands on very weak legs. I distinctly recall people saying that about POS framers in 95. Now who designs their own framers? This is high tech, yesterday's hero becomes tomorrow buffoon if he holds on to the same notion for too long.
sevenbrooks 12/5/2012 | 2:12:38 AM
re: AdvancedTCA Makes Headway
That is correct. Standardized architectures have no value in volume markets for teloecom. I stand by that (and have been consistent about that). That is different that standard silicon. There is a market for it. For example, there is a Market for DRAM. That is standard silicon.

I know people that make their own framers (for example we make one that is half the price of the equivalent merchant part).

In little niche markets, go do ATCA or cPCI or whatever.

Sisyphus 12/5/2012 | 2:12:32 AM
re: AdvancedTCA Makes Headway > .. Standardized architectures have no value in
> volume markets for teloecom

Kee repeating it like a mantra so you keep believing it. You have not been able to remotely articulate a single reason why that is the case. Also, you're utterly wrong, there are already very standardized volume markets for telecom. For many years people have fit into 19 inch racks, just as one example. CmpactPCI rules several applications. ATCA just takes exactly the same philosophy to the same level, and it will agin significant volume *in* volume markets. It's niche markets that call for specialized solutions. You have it backwards.

> I know people that make their own framers (for
> example we make one that is half the price of
> the equivalent merchant part).

3 possibilities:

(1) It's only half as good.
(2) You dismiss the $M in development cost as operational expense, and merely compare the final ASIC price, which is laughably bad math.
(3) A combination of (1) and (2)

My money's on (3).
sevenbrooks 12/5/2012 | 2:12:31 AM
re: AdvancedTCA Makes Headway
Or it could be that we actually build something that works, costs less, and that makes our products a winning propostiion.

My money is on that.

Compact PCI lets see volume applications - looks for it - nope sorry. Lots of niche markets. Still looking.

Keep repeating that Intel will take over the world and build on ATCA. Its a great idea, for me.

See you at the bank.

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