Huawei pushes ATCA for LTE boom
Huawei’s ATCA plans
Huawei operates in this market both as a user of ATCA in its equip-ment platforms and as a maker of the boards themselves – it has designed 70 products based on the standard and sold 3,500 such systems to date. As such, it has a double interest in influencing future directions to suit its own view of how networks will evolve. It is assembling an end-to-end offering for carriers which extends from the gadget to the network server and backplane, and it has set out its view of what these systems will have to look like by 2015, in order to support new levels of video data.
Most importantly, the servers will need to be both powerful and standards-based, which means extending the ATCA chassis standard to higher end infrastructure, according to Huawei. The next generation system will need to support data rates of between 200Gbps and 400Gbps by 2015, believes the Chinese giant, whose senior product manager Staffan Skogby set out the vision at the recent Advanced TCA Summit. This will require boards which are twice the size of current products to handle between 500 and 1,000 Watts, and likely to require liquid cooling, a major investment.
“We could see 50x growth in network traffic over five years driven by mobile video - that definitely calls for new high end servers,” Skogby told the event, as reported by EETimes. Huawei has created a concept design for a new wave ATCA-based system and is in the process of gathering industry support prior to proposing it to relevant standards bodies such as the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), which defines the ATCA specifications. "I would like to create some impact in the industry to go forward with a standard specification in this direction," said Skogby.
The pressure on the ATCA infrastructure will increase as carriers look to converge many functions on a single chassis to save cost and streamline performance. Skogby said: "We have adopted ATCA for server apps where we see a good fit, and will continue to go that way, adding more applications to the platform," Skogby said.
In the shorter term, the next leap in ATCA capabilities is already being seen in commercial products shipping around now. These typically support 40Gbps Ethernet switching, multicore processors and enhanced air cooling, and such developments could see the value of the sector rising fourfold by 2015, to $4.4 billion, according to forecasts by Heavy Reading.
“All the leading telecom equipment providers now use ATCA, which is the only standardized platform specifically designed for large, high availability systems," commented report author Simon Stanley earlier this year. "Most LTE trials and demonstrations use ATCA-based equipment. A number of Tier one telecom equipment providers are using ATCA-based platforms for LTE control and user plane functions. ATCA is also being used for 3G/4G integration: By using ATCA as a common plat-form for several generations of wireless technology, equipment vendors can offer flexible and integrated systems for 3G and LTE.”
The use of off-the-shelf hardware in telecom mirrors older trends in PCs and later in blade servers, placing all the competitive edge for suppliers into software and services and decoupling applications from the underlying equipment. As in those older markets, the next step is likely to be flexibility to support multiple hardware platform standards seamlessly, further enhancing customers' choices.