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Linux, ATCA rising

Oct 27, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

ATCA (Advanced Telecommunications Computer Architecture) technology will emerge as a $2.65 billion industry in 2013, with growth driven by “mega-mergers,” according to a report from IDC. The research firm also notes that Linux is “changing the software makeup of network infrastructures,” in both network and control layers.

The survey was based on a survey of 25 NEP executives who were asked to describe their adoption of COTS and ATCA, says the research group. The $2.65 billion figure includes products based on the newer, smaller microTCA format, says IDC. Overall, ATCA remains a “very small” part of the $100B telecom infrastructure market, said Lee Doyle, GM of network infrastructure research at IDC, in an email.

Mergers to bring unification?

According to IDC, the rise of ATCA as a networking standard will be driven in large part by recent NEP mega-mergers. Stated Doyle, “Megamergers of large telecommunications equipment manufacturers, including Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia-Siemens, will have the most significant impact on the xTCA market between 2008 and 2013.” The report also looks at mergers involving Ericsson and Cisco, Doyle told LinuxDevices.

In the short term, supply is hindered somewhat as newly merged companies work out integration issues, IDC suggests. In the long run, however, demand will be boosted by the rise of these two NEP giants, both of which offer Linux-ready xTCA products. “Increased business volumes will necessitate the move toward standardization, and ATCA will be that standard,” stated Doyle.

Linux on both signal and data planes

Carrier Grade Linux and ATCA grew up together as twin open standards for telecom infrastructure, so it is not surprising that the IDC study also found Linux to be changing the game. What is surprising, is that IDC seems to see an increasing place for Linux in the signal path, as well as on the control plane. Apparently, Linux's growing real-time capabilities are paying off.

IDC also alludes to Linux's essentially universal support for the very newest processors, and even DSPs in some cases (TI's triple-core TMS320C6474 for example), as another factor in its success. The firm's summary finding states, “Linux is changing the software makeup of network infrastructures through new devices at the control layer and network layer.”

Other findings from the study are said to include:

  • The NEP community is very supportive of ATCA and COTS.
  • Rates of adoption for COTS-based components vary by company.
  • In-sourcing at major NEPs is negatively affecting xTCA adoption.
  • HP has exited the ATCA market, while IBM pushes its BladeCenter products.

In other recent news, Linux-friendly products took all four “Best of Show” awards at last week's AdvancedTCA Summit.

Mergers background

Alcatel-Lucent resulted from a merger between Alcatel and Lucent Technologies in December, 2006, creating a $25 billion company. In March of this year, it was revealed that the company is using Red Hat's new Red Hat MRG (messaging, realtime, and grid) “real-time” Linux distribution in communications systems for the SME (small- and medium-sized enterprise) market, according to Red Hat. Alcatel-Lucent will apparently continue to use MontaVista Linux CGE on its high-end enterprise carrier equipment.

NSN was announced as a merger between Siemens's COM division and Nokia's Network Business Group in June 2006. By April 2007, NSN boasted $17.1 billion in revenues based on the two former networking entities' combined 2006 revenues. In August, 2007, NSN joined the Linux Foundation, and announced it would contribute financial and technical resources aimed at “further integration” of CGL with the Linux Standards Base (LSB).

Other recent mergers of note include ENP's buyout of Motorola's Embedded Computing Group and Artesyn, Radisys's buy-out of Intel's ATCA business, and Kontron's purchase of numerous smaller board vendors through the years, including PEP Modular Computers, Teknor Microsystems, JUMPtec, Adastra, and Dolch.

Maintained by PICMG, the ATCA standard, sometimes referred to as AdvancedTCA, encompasses a variety of specifications for carrier grade telecommunications and networking equipment. Specifications include server blade and backplane form-factor definitions intended to improve reliability, manageability, and serviceability.


The IDC study, “ATCA Adoption in the Telecommunications Industry, 2008-2013 Forecast and Analysis (IDC #212774),” appears to be available now at an undisclosed cost.

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