The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (also known as AdvancedTCA or “ATCA”) refers to the PICMG 3.x series of form factor specifications for powerful, next-gen telecom equipment. AdvancedTCA targets the network operator telecom market (e.g. “Central Office-in-a-box” systems, or high-end softswitches), but as the price of the technology comes down, the military and other markets are investigating it too. An ATCA box is vaguely reminiscent of an older CompactPCI (cPCI) 19-inch rackmount, but the boards are larger (8U x 280 mm) and there’s no PCI bus on the backplane. Instead, the ATCA form factor is home to modern, high bandwidth, high availability switching fabrics such as 10 Gbps Ethernet packet switched backplanes, Intel’s PCI Express (ePCI), InfiniBand, and RapidIO.
AdvancedTCA boards are so large they can hold up to about five smaller plug-in mezzanine boards to gain I/O or other functionality. It was Artesyn Communication Products (now part of Emerson Network Power) about five years ago that demonstrated the industry’s first working prototypes of hot-swappable half-height and full-height Advanced Mezzanine Cards (aka AdvancedMC (News - Alert) or AMC) that attach to a carrier card.
Advanced Mezzanine Cards have so much power and functionality, that someone had the bright idea of developing a new specification – MicroTCA (News - Alert) – that allows AMCs to be plugged directly into a backplane (and connected via a star, dual star or mesh topology), instead of a conventional carrier board. MicroTCA boxes can be found in next-gen digital loop carriers, fiber-to-the-curb optical network units, WiFi and WiMAX (News - Alert) radio boxes, micro basestations, Ethernet hubs, etc.
And now, VDC Research Group (News - Alert) (www.vdcresearch.com) of Natick, Massachusetts has published a research report on the xTCA market indicating that merchant AMC board revenues are expected to nearly double during the next three years. Growth of the merchant AMC board market is projected to be relatively flat through 2010, before significant growth is expected in 2011 and 2012. In the report, VDC identifies that so far AMC board shipments have been driven primarily by the consumption of AMC boards as mezzanines in ATCA systems. The development of the MicroTCA market – the original proposed driver of AMC – is projected to be delayed by the current global recession.
However, it is expected that the MicroTCA market will grow at a healthy clip following the downturn, with significant revenue shipments of MicroTCA systems being achieved in the 2011-2012 timeframe. At that time it is projected that a significant portion of the AMC board consumption will be as blades in MicroTCA systems.
The study also revealed that although significant volume growth was not expected in 2009, evaluation activity – including OEMs analyzing AMC displacement of existing merchant and custom solutions in a number of applications – was picking up. Indeed, 2009 evaluation and pilot performance may be a material indicator of 2010 and 2011 shipment revenue.
Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC (News - Alert)�s IP Communications Group. To read more of Richard’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi