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Which Way for COTS telecom hardware?

Any one who has spent a few years in the technology/telecommunications industry knows that open hardware standards come and go.

Some standards gain that critical momentum that pushes them into widespread adoption while others fade into relative obscurity or flourish in some niche or other.

It wasn't so long ago that CompactPCI was the new technology on the block, promising new levels of performance and reliability.

Written by
Guy Redmill
Published on
3 May 2010

Revisions and updates are an inevitable part of the life-cycle of every open standard, sometimes extending the useful lifespan of a technology by many years. For cPCI we had the 2.x series of specifications - delivering hot swap, telephony signalling and switched Ethernet. 30 years on and VMEbus is still going strong thanks to the efforts of the VITA organisation in ensuring that VME is still a relevant technology for the avionics and defence markets it serves.

This continual cycle of adoption, implementation, revision and decline is an integral part of the challenge faced by TEMs in designing next generation telecom equipment or refreshing existing products. Which way now?

Enter xTCA - the future of Telecoms hardware?

AdvancedTCA - otherwise known as PICMG 3.x - seems to have established itself as the platform of choice for carrier grade communications equipment. All this has happened relatively quickly but with over 100 companies involved in developing the specification, ATCA was well positioned from the start.

Designed to incorporate the latest high speed interconnects and carrier grade reliability, ATCA seems to be well suited to a host of carrier grade comms applications, 3G serving and gateway support nodes, Media gateways, LTE mobile management, WiMAX - we've heard of a multitude of different deployments.

So what's next? We've seen some 40GbE ready products come to market recently (well in advance of the silicon, it has to be said), but it's a measure of the confidence that exists in the ATCA market at the moment that enabling vendors are going this way - they certainly appear to be seeing the demand and are investing heavily.

MicroTCA - another PICMG standard, that was spun out of ATCA is some pundits' favourite for the "Next Big Thing" (or in this case "Next Small Thing"). We have to admit to some degree of scepticism as regards ATCA's little brother and remain to be convinced. Either way, it's a technology that we will be keeping a close eye on.

One thing's for sure - ATCA has critical mass now and is here to stay. We'll be having a detailed look at the xTCA "ecosystem" in an upcoming newsletter, so watch this space...

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