MicroTCA Summit 2007 Summary
By Jeff Marden
On May 30th though June 1st of this year, Dr. Lance Leventhal and the Conference ConCepts folks held the first MicroTCA Summit in Baltimore, MD at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel and Exposition Center. GE Fanuc Embedded Systems attended, exhibited and presented at this gathering of the MicroTCA community. AdvancedTCA Summit conferences have included MicroTCA and AdvancedMC coverage; however, this Summit was the first formal venue for MicroTCA enthusiasts to meet and discuss this new systems technology.
According to the Summit management, the show had 34 exhibitors, 68 program presenters and 420 registrants, with 332 actually attending the show. Again, according to the Summit folks, over 70 people attended the introductory tutorial on Tuesday, and over 130 attended the keynotes by TKC Communications, Motorola, and Intel. Show registration identified almost 20% of the Summit attendees as “customers” for MicroTCA and AMC products, mixed between telecom and military/defense consumers.
GE Fanuc was a sponsor for the MicroTCA Summit, and two GE Fanuc staff members presented at the Summit:
Gene Juknevicius presented and answered questions in a panel session called “What Will It Take to Make Standard Platform-based System Development Succeed”
I presented a paper in a MicroTCA tutorial session on Hardware Development called “Anatomy of a MicroTCA System and Application”.
There were a variety of other sessions at the Summit, consisting of tutorials, applications and technology presentations and panel sessions, all driven by players in the MicroTCA and AdvancedMC markets like GE Fanuc. A CD of the presentations was provided to each attendee of the Summit, with some of this material being updated by the presenters at the summit (and available from those presenters). Content from the GE Fanuc presentations is available on request.
In the Summit hall, the 34 exhibiting vendors showed MicroTCA system technology, AdvancedMC Modules and other supporting technology. GE Fanuc provided a demonstration of our Telum NPA-3804 Packet Processor AdvancedMC Module in a MicroTCA system performing Network Address Translation and packet forwarding, and we also had a display of other items in the GE Fanuc AdvancedMC and ATCA product portfolios.
This first MicroTCA Summit seemed well attended, with plenty of interest in MicroTCA and AdvancedMC products and technology, and many potential applications for MicroTCA presented and discussed. Sponsors and exhibitors expressed their satisfaction with the forum and indicated interest in a MicroTCA Summit in 2008.
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COTS xTCA Shines in Chicago
By Howard Glassman
It’s that time of year again—NXTComm 2007 arrived in Chicago for 4 full days and the weather was perfect—sunny without the oppressive humidity of last year’s show. NXTComm is the largest North American Communications event focused on Broadband telecom infrastructure solutions. Some continuing trends were evident as IP/Ethernet—the one-time Enterprise communications technology—is becoming a dominant force in Next Generation Network (NGN) telecom. Service provider interest continues to accelerate in Convergent IP Multimedia services (voice, video, high-speed broadband Internet and Wireless).
This was confirmed by the obvious attention vendors were giving to highlighting their Carrier-grade Ethernet solutions for delivering Triple-play and Quadruple-play services. Finally, COTS has become mainstream and ATCA was prominently showcased everywhere as the “de-facto” Carrier-grade Service provider platform of choice.
Traditionally, in the Telecom industry, the smaller vendors have demonstrated quick execution to drive new technologies and establish themselves as innovators in a new market segment. As we enter the 21st century, the combined influences of global markets and the overwhelming success of IP-based services have required that Tier 1 Telecom Equipment Manufacturers (TEMs) change their business models. They have shifted from a vertically-integrated model and are aggressively moving up the value chain to deliver application software and integration services to achieve the business margins needed to continue to grow their businesses in a profitable way.
These factors have dictated that Tier 1 TEMs move away from creating their own proprietary hardware platforms and embrace the xTCA ecosystem model. And that’s just what happened over the last 4 years as they have played a significant role, along with Intel®, in driving the acceptance and adoption of ATCA solutions.
As I walked the show floor at NXTComm I noticed that a considerable number of Tier 2 and 3 Network Equipment Providers are starting to recognize the advantages of the ATCA application-ready platform for delivering solutions as well. Many I spoke with cited the following reasons for migrating their solution to the ATCA platform including: time-to-market advantages; modular flexibility in system architecture (allowing new blade upgrades without compete system redesigns); and most importantly, the robust vendor/partner ecosystem allowing multiple sourcing and system architecture choices.
Increased demand for convergent services, rapid global subscriber growth and demands for seamless mobility are driving Fixed-Mobile Convergence of Broadband wireline and wireless networks using ATCA-based IMS solutions. IP/Ethernet has established itself as the “lingua-franca” for the NGN communications infrastructure, which creates a market ripe for hyper-growth in packet processing and analysis solutions.
This increased computing demand has driven the need for “multi-core” processing capabilities to handle the increase packet processing traffic requirements. Cavium Networks, maker of the Octeon product line, is well positioned as the premier vendor of multi-core packet processing silicon for building highly scalable data plane infrastructure solutions. GE Fanuc Embedded Systems was one of the first COTS xTCA vendors to bring a “best-of-breed” Octeon-based AMC to the market and has further plans to offer a broad family of board-level products using the highly-scalable Octeon architecture.
The xTCA family includes ATCA and its compact small-footprint cousin MicroTCA. MicroTCA is now being strongly considered for NGN access/edge applications. In fact, 46% of customers surveyed in a recent Light Reading market poll are either already in development or will adopt over the next 2 years. The increased presence and growing customer interest in MicroTCA was evident at NXTComm.
GE Fanuc Embedded Systems participated along with Motorola and RadiSys as premier sponsors and panel presenters for Intel’s Communications Alliance MicroTCA event entitled “Big Momentum for MicroTCA: Telecom Applications for a Condensed Platform.” The event was held at the Exploration Theater located directly on the show floor. Simon Stanley, an analyst with Light Reading who has played an influential role in driving the business value messages and technical acceptance for xTCA solutions, moderated the event.
The GE Fanuc Embedded Systems presentation focused on AMCs as the key modular building block, and focused on the need for intelligent packet processing solutions. Our presentation also pointed out that MicroTCA is positioned for adoption across a broad spectrum of markets; including Defense, Medical, Energy, Industrial Automation and of course Telecom NGN. This level of market visibility at the premier North American Telecom event positions GE Fanuc Embedded Systems as an influential player driving MicroTCA technical and adoption initiatives.
In conclusion, MicroTCA seems poised to be adopted for NGN access/edge applications. The software ecosystem is rapidly developing around Cavium’s Octeon “multi-core” architecture including: IPv4/v6 dual-mode stacks; Carrier-grade IP/Ethernet protocols; IP routing software; firewall/security; data encryption/decryption suites; high-availability/failover and more. GE Fanuc Embedded Systems through its on-going technical participation with influential xTCA Open Standards organizations (i.e., PICMIG, CP-TA & SCOPE Alliance) is staying at the forefront of MicroTCA and is currently engaged with specific software partners in market development discussions and upcoming initiatives.
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How Big is the MicroTCA Market?
by Lina Stewart
MicroTCA™ has been official since July 2006, when the specification was ratified by PICMG® (PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group). It is an emerging technology, still in its infancy, with no market history to serve as a basis for market projections. Projections from analysts such as VDC Corporation, Light Reading and Crystal Cube range from quite conservative to fairly aggressive.
However, even without traditional sources of market information, it’s still possible to get a glimpse of what’s in store for MicroTCA. There are other variables that provide insight to the market potential of this new technology.
COTS technology is the logical replacement to the current proprietary Telecom servers. MicroTCA can very well be the right technology at the right time, a versatile COTS platform that has the capabilities and flexibility to support application needs across vertical markets. Leading companies within Telecommunications, Military, Aerospace and the Medical Industry have already seen the advantages MicroTCA platforms bring to the Communications backbone.
Rapid Vendor Adoption
Consider the current state of this young technology compared to others that have been introduced by the same standards bodies. In comparison, MicroTCA has had an incredibly strong introduction to the marketplace, and a large ecosystem of diversified vendors has shown strong support for the technology, across the supply chain and vertical markets.
Technological Head Start
Unlike some new architectures, MicroTCA arrived on the scene with one of its most important leveraged components—the AdvancedMC™ card—already in production. This has proven to be a huge benefit for everyone in the supply chain, from backplane vendors to component manufacturers. (Of equal importance, much of the underlying software was also available off the shelf because of work done to create AdvancedTCA®.) By some counts, 100 AdvancedMC cards have already been announced. Few other embedded technologies can boast this level of product availability within one year.
MicroTCA, early in the game, is already showing signs of its macro market potential based on the number of strong company alliances across the High-Tech Industry supply chain. These alliances are evidenced in cooperative efforts to bring the latest chips quickly to market; in co-marketing efforts; in cooperative system design projects and most recent at industry events such as the MicroTCA Summit and NXTComm 2007 in Chicago.
One of the primary challenges for any open specification is the issue of interoperability, but huge strides have already been made to eliminate this obstacle for MicroTCA. The Intel® Communications Alliance, PICMG, SA Forum, Linux Foundation, Mountain View Alliance, SCOPE, SIG (Rugged MicroTCA Special Interest Group) and most recently CP-TA are collaborating closely to guarantee interoperability on many levels of system design and testing. Their goal is to accelerate widespread adoption for open-standard based platforms that address today's convergence of voice, data and video communications for Wireless and Wireline applications and for Next Generation Networks (NGN).
The list of vendors supporting this goal is long: first and second tier suppliers, communications OEMs, system integrators, software integrators, operating system vendors, tools vendors, complementary silicon manufacturers, board-level providers, low-level software vendors, and related operating system, middleware, and application software providers. This industry-wide interoperability push bodes well for MicroTCA.
MicroTCA was created to deliver high-performance applications in a small footprint, compact package. The goal was to make it extremely affordable compared to a full-blown AdvancedTCA system or proprietary hardware, in part by utilizing certain aspects of existing hardware and software components borrowed from AdvancedTCA.
Is MicroTCA a Winner? You decide.
Could MicroTCA have opened up opportunities, not only in communications but also across the embedded market space? Early design wins with major Mil/Aero companies certainly point in that direction. Could MicroTCA be the next VME, as some in the marketplace suggest?
Based on the evidence cited above, it is quite logical to conclude that MicroTCA is well on its way to success. What we know for certain is that it has gotten off to a good running start. That doesn’t guarantee a win, or even a good finish, but MicroTCA has adopted a business model that will serve as a solid foundation.
In the end, it’s up to every supplier, every system designer and every end-user to decide if MicroTCA has what it takes to become one of the biggest things to hit embedded computing in decades. What do you think?
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Archived MicroTCA E-cast
Howard Glassman, Director, Business Development Communications of GE Fanuc Embedded Systems, was featured with three other presenters in the recent E-cast: MicroTCA: the nifty little open standard module and chassis that's making waves in military, industrial, small form factors...and of course: telecom markets, hosted by OpenSystems Publishing. The E-cast provides an overview of MicroTCA and showcases some of the standard's capabilities and growing ecosystem. Click here to register and watch the archived event and/or download the slide presentation.
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