I'm leaving for a week in Asia to discuss AdvancedTCA with specific customers, partners and prospects in Korea, China and Japan. If you are not familiar, AdvancedTCA refers to a set of open standards for telecom platforms, i.e. hardware (blades, racks, power, cooling, backplanes) and platform software (hardware management, carrier-grade OSs, high availability middleware). It began within PICMG in 2001, but has now grown to include a series of cooperating organizations, each focused on a different part of an eco-system, as this chart from Intel illustrates.
Based on my experiences with CompactPCI in the 90s, the ATCA eco-system has taken longer to develop. Indeed, I was showing early samples of NMS designed ATCA media blades to prospects in 2003-04, but it's only in late 2006 and this year that we've seen significant business opportunities. With hindsight, there is a lot more capability in the ATCA eco-system (compared to CompactPCI) and there's been much more interaction with broad swaths of the telecom industry. The good news is it appears the market has finally arrived and it will be bigger than CompactPCI ever was.
Is this better than the racks and racks of commodity 1U servers than Google uses? No, it's different. If your application requires only Intel MIPS, then Google's approach is the most cost effective. However, custom silicon does a better job of packet forwarding, so high end routers are custom systems (or built on ATCA as this NEC mobile packet router is). Similarly, DSPs can provide up to an order of magnitude better efficiency (computations per watt) for many media applications. Other motivations for a telecom platform include telecom-specific line interfaces, high density interfaces and the ability for "crafts persons" in the central office to swap blades without interrupting service. So, until recently communications gear was built on proprietary platforms. Finally that's changing. Every major equipment provider is using or evaluating AdvancedTCA and communications systems based on ATCA are coming to market.
At NMS we productized and released the industry's first ATCA media blade, the MG 7000A, late last year. Now we're out seeking feedback on our ATCA product strategy, thus this trip to Asia. So in quick succession, I'll be in Seoul Korea, Nanjing and Guangzhou in China and then on to Tokyo on Thursday evening and back to the US on Saturday the 16th.