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The Evolution of AdvancedTCA: From telecommunications to military, aerospace and security

This opens the door to telecom-specific virtualization platforms, designed and standardized to run network functions. An industry initiative called Network Function Virtualization is underway with the goal of standardizing these platform software interfaces with telecom-reliable management services.

A second consideration is the performance that can be achieved on general- purpose hardware versus what can be achieved with application-specific hardware. A wise man once told me that you cannot virtualize hardware. There will always be opportunities to optimize hardware platforms to accelerate performance to improve capacity, power efficiency and cost of acquisition and ownership. This application acceleration may take several forms, including specialized ATCA blades, or blades using general-purpose processors that have been optimized for specific applications. Today’s 40G Intel architecture ATCA blades incorporate high-performance I/O, memory and acceleration offload features that are simply not available on standard servers. The same can be said for media processing blades using clusters of desktop processors with GPUs for media processors. Neither can really be called traditional cloud elements.

So the future of ATCA may be cloudy, but the need for telecom-specific platforms with features such as high availability, high-bandwidth fabrics, and application-specific acceleration will ensure that demand for such open standards- based platforms remains strong for many years to come.

What’s next for ATCA?

Future investment in ATCA will likely be focused in two areas:

• More power and cooling
• Higher bandwidth fabrics

The ATCA standard was originally conceived to accommodate payload blades that nominally consume up to 200W of input power and cooled by approximately 40 CFM of airflow per slot. However, new technologies have resulted in blades that have pushed through that envelope, and the standard is being accordingly evolved to approximately double those numbers. This should result in enough power and system airflow to accommodate several technology insertion cycles.

For the ATCA fabric, a logical next step would be the evolution of the current 40G Ethernet fabric to 100G. This step will require first the standardization of 100G Ethernet over a copper backplane by the IEEE, followed by the adoption of a 100G backplane standard by PICMG for ATCA. Such work is currently underway, and will most likely be complete within a few years.

Demand for ATCA systems is strong and is expected to continue to grow. Within the telecommunications market, demand for network intelligence and mobile data optimization services will drive demand for open standards based systems with high performance fabrics and application-specific acceleration. Outside the traditional telecommunications market, relevance and demand is growing in markets such as military and aerospace.

This article was written by Robert Pettigrew, Marketing Director, Embedded Computing, Emerson Network Power (New York, NY). For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/45606-400.