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Linux, AdvancedTCA emerge as telecom standards

Jun 22, 2004 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Linux and AdvancedTCA (ATCA) are emerging as open industry standards that the telecom equipment industry will embrace as it migrates away from proprietary software and hardware architectures in its quest for faster time-to-market and reduced costs. Telecom equipment manufacturers (TEMs) RadiSys and Kontron are separately demonstrating ATCA hardware at this week's SuperComm trade show in Chicago, while… telecom software vendor Ulticom is showing off signaling software for Linux/ATCA systems. Intel, meanwhile, reports that its modular, standards-based Linux platforms are being used by a large TEM and separately by a telco operator to develop new products and services.


AdvancedTCA (advanced telecommunications architecture, or ATCA) is an open industry standard defined by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), which was formed in 2001 by nearly 100 companies that found existing computing standards such as VME and CompactPCI ill-suited to telecom. ATCA uses high-speed serial-data links and switch-fabric technology to create systems capable of scaling to 2.5 Tbps throughputs while achieving uptimes of 99.999 percent (“five nines”) or better. It uses separate backplanes for power and for data, and supports multiple backplane transport technologies, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel, InfiniBand, StarFabric, PCI Express, and RapidIO. It supports off-the-shelf PCI Mezzanine cards (PMCs), but also defines a new, larger mezzanine card specification called AMC (Advanced Mezzanine Card) that supports higher data rates.

ATCA systems are comprised of one or more “shelves,” each of which includes up to 12 data processing blades in a chassis of standard dimensions, along with a shelf manager. PICMG derived its “shelf manager” specification from the CompactPCI management bus and Intel's IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) specification.

Alongside ATCA, Linux is emerging as an open industry standard operating system offering a less costly and more modern alternative to proprietary, fragmented telecom software systems. The Carrier Grade Linux specification, defined by the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), has emerged as the unifying standard for telecom Linux.


Kontron hopes its ATCA/Linux platform, announced today, will signal its intention of taking a leadership role in the adoption and deployment of “the new carrier grade system standard.” Kontron's announcement comprises an ATCA chassis, blades, base fabric switches, IPMI firmware, and HPI support, along with a Carrier Grade Linux operating system and high-availability middleware from strategic partners MontaVista, GoAhead Software, ZNYX Networks, Solid Information Technology, and IP Fabrics.

Kontron quotes “industry sources” estimating that AdvancedTCA will grow from first deployments in 2005 to several billion dollars in two years.


RadiSys is demonstrating what it says is the first ATCA implementation of robust packet processing at 10 Gigabit per second line rates. The RadiSys ATCA-compliant module is based on dual Intel IXP28XX network processors, and includes interfaces for switch fabrics and physical media to receive, process, and forward data at full 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps) data rates. The module targets processing-intensive applications such as traffic aggregation, session control, and intrusion detection. The demonstration showcases an IPv4 forwarding application across ten, 1Gigabit Ethernet connections, and includes Intel IXA Software Development Kit tools and debugging support.

RadiSys describes its ATCA demonstration as follows:

The technology demonstration consists of the RadiSys ATCA compliant board, modular fabric interface card and modular 10 x 1Gigabit Ethernet PHY card. The RadiSys module is a standard ATCA form factor (8U x 280 mm) and incorporates two Intel IXP2850 network processors (one ingress and one egress). In this configuration, the system offers a physical interface implemented as a Rear Transition Module (RTM), which provides rear I/O and flexibility of interface types. The system is also equipped with an SPI-4 interface between the main module and RTM, via an ATCA Zone 3 connector and supports 10 ports x 1GbE. The platform supports PICMG 3.0 base fabric and a PICMG 3.x fabric interface is implemented via a mezzanine card. Additional features include PCI connectivity, UART serial ports for low-level debugging, one ITP (IEEE 1149.1) per IXP enabling JTAG debut support, Cbus flow between IXPs and -48 V DC input for power. Firmware includes diagnostics, use of VisionWare tools from Wind River, Redboot boot monitor, Linux BSP and Linux Intel IXF8010 driver.

Intel GM Howard Bubb said, “This demonstration using the fully programmable Intel IXP28XX network processors on AdvancedTCA illustrates how telecommunications equipment manufacturers can confidently develop high speed packet processing with the reliability, manageability and performance necessary for carrier-class solutions based on modular communications platforms.”


Ulticom is demonstrating signaling software that runs on RadiSys's ATCA compliant Intel/Linux based platform, described above. The software targets next-generation communications infrastructure equipment with diverse signaling protocol requirements, such as 3G radio-access gear and core network switching elements.

Ulticom quotes the Yankee Group saying that standardized, modular systems like ATCA offer 30 to 40 percent capital cost savings, and will be adopted by all wireless infrastructure vendors within three years. The Yankee Group expects standardized, modular systems to save companies as much as 15 percent of the $45 billion spent annually on wireless network elements.

Intel Communications Alliance Director Kevin D. Johnson said, “This signaling platform is an excellent example of how members of the Intel Communications Alliance have teamed together to develop next generation carrier grade modular communications platforms built on Intel Architecture and industry standards.”


Intel reports it is working separately with TEM Huawei Technologies and telco/ISP operator Korea Telecom to develop new products and services around standardized, modular Intel Linux systems running on ATCA and carrier-class RMS (rack mount server) systems.

“The announcements are further proof that industry adoption of modular architectures is moving from concept to reality,” said Intel VP Tom Franz.

Lee Sang-hong, VP of Korea Telecom, said “Two years ago, a similarly sized platform and service effort required 10 developers more than 12 months to complete. This standards-based approach resulted in a 50 percent reduction in development time using fewer people. In addition, we expect our operating expenses to be cut in half due to the reuse of this platform architecture for deployment of several new services.”

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