As next-generation communications networks expand in scope and take on more packetized voice, video and multimedia traffic, computing and switching platforms more powerful than the previous generation of CompactPCI (News - Alert) equipment becomes necessary.
The most prominent of these is AdvancedTCA (News - Alert), which can support VoIP applications and/or network elements based on either server-type or control and data-plane architectures in the access and edge networks of the wireline and wireless infrastructure, such as network processors, media gateways, media processors, telecom fiber transport, softswitches, storage and I/O interfaces. ATCA supports gigabyte and even terabyte per second bandwidth across each shelf, 150 to 200W per board and 3 Kilowatts per chassis power, and accommodates large boards.
Advanced Mezzanine Cards are modules that add functionality to ATCA baseboards. They’re hot-swappable, and are not permanently soldered to the ATCA baseboard in the manner of older PCI Mezzanine Cards. They can also support up to 21 I/O channels with a bandwidth of 10 Gbps per channel. Popular interconnect switch fabrics for both ATCA and AMC include Ethernet, PCI Express and serial Rapid I/O.
As it happens, the worldwide market for merchant ATCA integrated systems reached $114.9 million in 2008, according to market intelligence firm VDC Research Group. The market is projected to reach $301.2 million by 2012.
Large growth is projected to begin again in 2010. This is the time quoted by OEMs, Primes and ATCA suppliers surveyed by VDC Research when they believe that production orders will be let and higher volumes shipped. The ATCA integrated systems market is projected to grow marginally during the next 18 months. This is much better performance than most other embedded hardware markets. This superior performance is driven by the ability of OEMs and suppliers to arrive at ROI models that are both material and reasonable.
OEMs consistently, though not universally, state that the time to service revenue and the time to deployment cost reductions enabled by ATCA will drive stronger demand for this technology during the recession.
Until recently, the consumption of integrated ATCA systems was driven primarily by Tier 2 Network Equipment Providers and prime defense contractors who are building next-gen network-centric military systems on ATCA platforms. Meanwhile, the early core of the ATCA market – Tier 1 NEPs – consume primarily merchant ATCA boards, which they then integrate internally on a wide range of platforms.
However, an expanding community of OEMs – in this case the Tier 2 NEPs and military primes – have bought into the value of buying pre-integrated high-performance communications and computing platforms, which spares them the development cost and time of designing, building, deploying and maintaining largely undifferentiated compute platforms internally.
VDC’s report on the xTCA technologies also says that today’s ATCA market still consists of far greater merchant board shipment revenues than merchant integrated system shipment revenues. However, the integrated systems market is projected to close the gap by 2013, at which time the shipment values of the merchant ATCA boards and integrated systems markets will be close to even.
This board-system revenue split will be viewed by many as a touchstone of sorts, as it will signal the fact that market acceptance of the ATCA architecture has passed a major gate.
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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 Michael Dinan