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3 Posts authored by: Kontron_Sven

 

The xTCA standard has come a long way from its first initial release.  Multi core architecture opens the door for new applications on xTCA and with higher bandwidth available for multi core processing, creates an ideal platform for applications beyond 10GbE backplane connectivity.

Standard based products are widely available in the market today and xTCA based platforms are deployed in a variety of network elements taking full advantages of the high availability implementation for full redundant platforms. Besides ATCA based platforms, MicroTCA begins to see its area of applications from non-redundant to full redundant high availability platforms in the network and in other areas such as telecom test and measurement equipment.

 

The initial challenge to use standard based components in a system design was interoperability in a multi-vendor environment. This has been addressed in a joint effort with multiple vendors working together to create interoperability guidelines for ATCA developers and system integrators.

Some of the ongoing technical and industry updates can be followed on the CP-TA blog and we encourage you to contribute your input at http://blog.cp-ta.org/.

 

The latest development within IEEE opens new possibilities to move xTCA as a standard based platform further into the network. As we had seen in the past, 10GbE backplane connectivity has reached its limit as new multi-core processors are surfacing the horizon.

Introduction of 10GbE-KR backplane connectivity creates new blade level and system level design capabilities.

Details regarding these new design possibilities and the market trend were recently published at

http://www.compactpci-systems.com/articles/id/?4185

 

This is providing an interesting future to the xTCA form factor and eco system. And the new multi core architecture with eliminated memory bottleneck combined with the virtualization possibilities extends the usage model of xTCA from only telecom centric applications to military and datacenter applications.

 

So, how is your next generation platform project taking advantage of these design possibilities? Where are you now with xTCA and where do you want to be in five years from now using open standard based components and platforms?

The xTCA eco-system – what is your limit? By Sven Freudenfeld, Business Development Telecom Kontron The current market condition has shown that using COTS components and platforms, in particular xTCA, to create key network elements are an even more valuable approach than in-house proprietary designs.  Since its creation as a standardized hardware platform in 2005, more xTCA components have become commercially available in the market, providing the “Freedom of Choice” for vendor selection. In theory it is the right approach to get the best designed components from the best vendor at the best price in a competitive eco-system. However, some consideration and homework still needs to be done to ensure there are no long-term impacts in the platform lifecycle. The fact that these components are standard based means there are a wide range of choices. Conversely, having many choices are what can also be difficult to make a correct decision. In fact, since it is standard based, any company in the market can start developing and provide components and platforms for NEPS from a small design shop to a top-tier embedded computing provider. Since the standardization process is completed, early adopters in the market launched and released xTCA based platforms and they have been shipping products for the telecom network since 2006. The first round of xTCA-based product rollouts were not entirely taken advantage of  to be multi-vendor platforms. They had been become single-sourced xTCA platforms. With consolidations and economic recessions in the market, some smaller, not so stable xTCA vendors have disappeared, while others went through acquisitions and, as a result, a number of components became EoL for the early adopters. Not a desirable scenario from the NEP’s perspective. With field-deployed systems, it is not always a simple upgrade to move from one vendor to another vendor. Both NEPs and carriers need to avoid fork-lift upgrade operations in order to maintain network functionality and backward compatibility, which is more crucial whenever it comes down to choosing the right vendor. The recent Light Reading Communications Ecosystems Conference (CEC) event that focused on ATCA, http://www.lightreading.com/live/event_information.asp?event_id=28913&survey_id=521,revealed the latest developments within the standards organizations, and gave an update on the strategies of the key players in the industry.  Noticeable too is that with the newly announced Intel Xeon 5500 processor series for the embedded market, a variety of compute blades are hitting the streets. However, with the increase of memory bandwidth, the variations of blades are within a 200W power envelope to a slightly elevated 300W and beyond per blade. The key questions are: where in the network will these 300W and beyond standard-based blades find their homes? What CPU and memory configuration will take full advantage of the new architecture? In other words, what is your limit? One important thing in using these newly released Intel Xeon 5500 blades is the backward compatibility and the insurance that these blades can also replace “legacy” CPU blades used in a currently deployed 200W capable chassis with full NEBS compliance. The overall ATCA system lifecycle should not be impacted when selecting newly available CPU blades on the market. As a second consideration, interoperability between chassis and blades has become even more crucial when looking at these ranges of variations. And we haven’t even looked at the AMC usage model for ATCA yet.  The Communication Platform Trade Association (CP-TA), http://www.cp-ta.org ,promotes the xTCA ecosystem and has created baseline tools and interoperability documentation to provide mainstream ATCA adoption for standard-based blades. However, the challenge remains when integrating blades in a chassis that are exceeding the power envelope in a multi-vendor environment. One news announcement at the CEC event is the creation of a subset of the xTCA standard as an extension to address the non-NEBS and ‘beyond the CO’ environments. Being proposed is a power budget beyond 600W in a double-wide ATCA CPU blade approach with an extremely high compute density and a low cost point.  Probably, this is technically feasible but this will require an ATCA chassis that will not be used in a CO environment but would be dedicated to “ATCA in the Datacenter”. This demonstrates that more work is to come for CP-TA to address interoperability in those markets. Besides that, I just returned from the MicroTCA Summit and this year the main interest was clearly the use of xTCA outside telecom and, in particular, government and military applications.  It is great for the ecosystem to see how ATCA and MicroTCA finds its market in these areas of applications, and the work within PICMG to address the rugged environment will help even more to push xTCA mainstream. xTCA is the ideal HW architecture for many applications in - and outside of telecom. When using it, what is your limit?

 

The telecom market has undergone through some rough economic challenges during the past 10 years. With the need to support legacy platforms while still launching new applications, the ability to have a cost sensitive time-to-market strategy has become evermore crucial for survival in the telecom equipment manufacturers market.

 

Consolidating, reassigning and re-focusing on a TEM’s key differentiators in the market have become the make or break point for its long-term strategy. Some of the impact can be seen in the outcome of the consolidation of Nokia-Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent, as well as the just recent announcements of Nortel.

The TEMs of the past with more than 100K employees have shrunk and have needed to focus their engineering efforts on the application. Telecom carriers are also in a very competitive environment and need new and better ARPU revenue streams. This forces them to shorten their new service introduction if they wish to increase their subscriber base.

A research study by Insight Research indicates that the worldwide telecommunications industry is expected to expand during the next five years. Overall telecommunications services revenue will grow at a compounded rate of nearly 10.3 percent during the next few years, reaching $2.7 trillion by 2013.However, the prediction of worldwide wireline telecom carrier spending in 2009 is 10 percent less than in 2008, while carrier spending for wireless infrastructure is predicted to be seven percent less than in 2008.

This will put tremendous pressure on the engineering teams of TEMs and NEPs to launch new platforms and applications in a much shorter time period. The typical design cycles of 12 months and beyond are a luxury of the past, and reusability of components has become a much more integral aspect in telecom system design.

As an example, the clear indication of this new direction is the recent statement by the new Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen, regarding Alcatel-Lucent’s system strategy:

"Our systems need to be open, our standards need to be open, and our minds need to be open. Our industry has been about proprietary, closed technology and mindsets. That needs to change."

ATCA is dedicated to telecom requirements and is an open standard which enables re-usability. While ATCA has been adopted by the major NEPs in the market, the real winners currently using COTS components and systems are the Tier 2 and Tier 3 NEPs. The reason for this is that the structure of a Tier 2 has less of an organizational burden than a Tier 1 and, therefore, can move more quickly with their product development. The same can be said for lower-scaled Carrier Grade Rackmount Servers, as it is a COTS platform that can be “Application Ready”. With this approach, Tier 2 NEPs gain an advantage to compete head-to-head with Tier 1 NEPs at the platform level, and can gain a significant market share for specific applications.

 

In the product definition process of new telecom platforms, COTS – whether it is Carrier Grade ATCA or Carrier Grade Rackmount Platforms – will play a more significant role in 2009 as an economical solution to provide new applications and platforms to the market during these trying times. Moreover, this trend extends to HA middleware and higher level protocol stacks, and the reusability of these software components in other platforms is an ideal frame work for each unique application.

 

The market for COTS vendors in 2009 is the perfect opportunity to grow as these aforementioned points are a clear indication of the need for a “Freedom of Choice” for the best of breed, best in price components and integrated platforms.

 

At Kontron, we are optimistic looking into 2009 and have realized the opportunity to provide the full scale of Carrier Grade Open Platforms, including – xTCA components and integrated platforms, Rackmount Systems, Embedded Server Motherboards, telecom specific components, and a portfolio of engineering services from integration to telecom specific certifications.

 

Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:13 PM
Message Edited by pmahler_intel on 03-12-2009 08:58 AM

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