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1 Post authored by: simon_stanley

AdvancedTCA (ATCA) is a standardized high availability platform that is widely used for computing and telecom applications. A typical system supports up to fourteen processor blades with dual power, cooling and shelf management modules. Larger systems have dual switch blades. Smaller systems have direct mesh connections between processor blades. Although ATCA platforms have the same basic configuration, there are several innovative ways to increase system performance or reduce the number of slots required.


In this blog I am going to explore how you can use Intel® Atom™ processors C2000 to enhance the shelf management modules and increase the performance of ACTA based systems. For this blog I am using examples from Advantech, a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance and ZNYX Networks, Inc, a General member of the Alliance. The 250-plus members of the Alliance collaborate closely with Intel to create hardware, software, tools, and services to help speed intelligent systems  to market.


Increasing ATCA System Performance

The performance of ATCA based systems has developed significantly over the last five years. There are four strategies for increasing ATCA performance; using higher performance processors, increasing switching and backplane speeds, and increasing the functionality in each blade slot by using rear transition modules (RTM) and integrating additional functionality into system modules.


Older Intel® Xeon® processor are already being replaced by the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 dramatically increasing the processing power per slot. Switching and backplane speeds have progressed from 4Gbit/s per slot to 10Gbit/s and now 40Gbit/s per slot. Most ATCA systems use RTMs to add additional functionality to each slot including high speed network interfaces and hard drives for integrated storage.


The shelf management modules are often viewed as a necessary overhead that reduces the cost effectiveness of ATCA based systems. The two companies covered in this blog have replaced the shelf management module with revenue earning modules that also perform the shelf management function. The key to this approach has been the introduction of the Intel Atom processor C2000 family delivering significant processing performance within a tight power budget.


Intel® Atom™ processor C2000 family

Figure 1 shows the 22nm Intel Atom processor C2000 family architecture. These are highly integrated multicore processors for communications infrastructure. The Intel Atom processor C2000 devices integrate two, four or eight low-power Intel Atom processor cores, dual DDR3-1600 memory interfaces and some devices integrate Intel® QuickAssist Technology. Thermal design power is 7W up to 20W. The devices utilise Intel’s 22 nm process technology with 3-D Tri-Gate transistors and support many high speed interfaces including PCI Express Gen 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, SATA and USB.

Intel Atom processor C2000 family.jpg

Figure 1. Intel® Atom™ Processor C2000 Family


The Intel QuickAssist Technology integrates hardware engines to accelerate encryption and decryption. The Intel QuickAssist Technology and the Intel Atom processor C2000 memory architecture are supported by the Intel® Data Plane Development Kit (Intel® DPDK), a set of source code programming libraries that accelerate basic data plane functions. By using the Intel® DPDK system developers can reduce time to market and easily implement packet processing functions.


The integration of up to eight processor cores, Intel QuickAssist Technology and high speed interfaces makes these devices ideal for a huge range of communications and intelligent systems applications. The Intel Atom processor C2000 family for Communications Infrastructure is already being used by system developers in a number of different applications.


Integrated Shelf Management Module

The Advantech SMM-5060 Shelf Management Module (see Figure 2) integrates an Intel Atom processor C2000, with up to 16GB of RAM that runs the ATCA Shelf Management application.  The processor also supports boot loading for all the nodes in the system, allowing remote configuration and upgrade of BIOS images for new applications.


Figure 2. Advantech SMM-5060 Shelf Management Module.


The support for dual hard disks or SSD drives on the Advantech SMM-5060 Shelf Management Module removes the need for dedicated drives on each ATCA processor blade, reducing system cost. This approach also allows workloads to be dynamically assigned to individual processor blades, optimizing performance for a specific application.


The integration of an Intel Atom processor C2000 with up to 8 cores and optional Intel QuickAssist Technology makes additional processing power available for system applications including system management and security functions.


Integrated ATCA Hub Switch

The ZNYX Ultra5™ ZX2040 ATCA hub switch (see Figure 3) integrates shelf management, 40GbE switching, up to eight processor cores, and 512GB SSD storage in a single module. This approach is ideal for medium-sized ATCA platforms with 6 payload slots. The alternative is using more expensive processor blades with integrated switching and a mesh backplane, or using one or two of the payload slots for dedicated switch blades.

ZNYX ZX2040 front angle small.jpg

Figure 3. ZNYX Ultra5 ZX2040 ATCA hub switch.


The ZNYX Ultra5 ZX2040 ATCA hub switch integrates a Pigeon Point ShMM 700R shelf manager that monitors and manages the hardware elements within the ATCA chassis. The ZNYX Ultra5 ZX2040 ATCA hub switch also integrates a 480Gbit/s switch device that supports 40GbE fabric interfaces to 6 payload blades, four 40GbE QSFP optical interfaces and GbE base interfaces to the payload blades.


The Intel Atom processor C2000 integrated into the ZNYX Ultra5 ZX2040 ATCA hub switch has up to 8 cores with Intel QuickAssist Technology hardware engine and 8GB RAM. The Intel Atom processor C2000 runs the OpenArchitect* switch management and packet vectoring under a KVM supervisor. The virtual machine approach allows applications to run directly on the ZNYX Ultra5 ZX2040 ATCA hub increasing system performance and offloading the payload processors.


Increasing ATCA Performance

Both of the modules covered in this blog increase ATCA system performance by integrating additional functionality into the ATCA shelf management module and offloading the payload processor blades. In many cases the use of these modules will also allow the use of fewer blades reducing system cost. The key to these developments is the use of the Intel  Atom processor C2000 family architecture with up to eight cores, and support for virtualized environments, with a thermal design power of 20W or less.


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Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. ZNYX Networks, Inc. is a General member of the Alliance.


Simon Stanley

Roving Reporter (Intel® Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Principal Consultant, Earlswood Marketing

Follow me on Twitter: @simon_stanley

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