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April 2007
Volume 10 / Number 4
Nitty Gritty

RadiSys on AdvancedTCA

By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis, Nitty Gritty

Celebrating its 20th year in the embedded computing business, RadiSys ( makes boards and rackmount machines in a variety of form factors. Since RadiSys was a big manufacturer of CompactPCI (News - Alert) equipment for telecom, it makes sense that they would plunge into the new, heftier form factor of AdvancedTCA (ATCA) for high-end telecom and networking equipment.

Grant Henderson, VP of Product Marketing for RadiSys, says, “We’re a leader in ATCA market and were the first to market an ATCA system based on 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) Ethernet. We argue strongly that 10 Gbps Ethernet should likely win in the competition among interconnect switch fabrics that run on high-end devices. That’s why we focused our investments on that, and were first-to-market with the switch we debuted in the summer of 2006.”

Henderson adds: “Look at the varied ecosystem of open platforms: ATCA, VMEbus, CompactPCI or PICMG 2.16; it really fragments and segments the players who are providing just boards or components. Some manufacturers provide chassis, others make particular elements such as compute blades, and still others provide whole complex systems. RadiSys’ focus has definitely been on offering a complete ATCA solution, inclusive of the chassis controllers, compute blades, DSP blades and software to turn that into a system and allow our customers to create and focus on adding value to our core base platform. That definitely puts us into an elite class of players.”

“Indeed, we saw and were enthused over ATCA when it first appeared, even though initial solutions were based on 1 gig of bandwidth on the backplane,” says Henderson. “Essentially, 1 gig of bandwidth enabled players to build a blade server or some bladed architecture for compute platforms; indeed, 1 gig is suited only for specific compute-centric or ‘compute plane’ applications. Think about where the bread and butter comes from in terms of the Nokias, Alcatels, Lucents and the Junipers of the world, it’s not just compute plane applications, but it’s actually network elements that have both compute and data plane or bare channel processing requirements.”

“As you might expect, one key area of differentiation is that RadiSys has not just focused on the compute plane but is creating a portfolio of blades, software and systems that allow our customers to create high performance, wire-speed, secure, data plane processing network elements,” Henderson says. “Included in that domain would be media gateways, session border controllers, media servers in the VoIP IMS market, but also elements used in the IPTV (News - Alert) market such as B-RAS [Broadband Remote Access Servers], and a variety of different network elements.”

“Also, IMS [IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert)] is coming on very strong,” says Henderson. “All of the network equipment providers [NEPs] and the service providers buying their products are embracing ATCA. That causes the NEPs to create new next-gen products. Now, IMS involves reducing the cost and time-to-market for new services. ATCA definitely helps in that regard and it makes it easier for our NEP customers to build new capabilities and, more importantly, to future-proof them as the market continues to change. After all, IMS is arguably still in its infancy and there’s going to be a lot of ongoing changes in network element requirements involving security processing.”

“RadiSys has worked on data plane applications and technologies that help our customers make such applications,” says Henderson. “Take our Gigabit Ethernet line card, based on Cavium technology. Cavium Networks makes network processors for a variety of applications. But what’s particularly great about them is that they do wire-speed gigabit Ethernet processing. We see, both in the IMS world and in our customer base, that more and more of data plane elements must process at wire speed on the data path and do complex processing. I’m talking here about deep packet inspection, wire speed security — the kinds of things you see in session border controllers, RNCs, edge routers, security gateways, and so forth.”

“So we’re seeing a lot of emphasis in the market in terms of wire speed, high performance security processors,” says Henderson, “That’s why we recently announced two new products: the ATCA 72xx Series, which is basically a blade with up to 16 of these Ethernet line cards with Gigabit interfaces and four Cavium processors, with an Advanced Mezzanine Card [AMC]. We have a play in both ATCA and MicroTCA (News - Alert). AMCs nicely fit right into the MicroTCA chassis, so those cards we’re building for the ATCA market are also very much targeted toward the MicroTCA too. You must plan for these things in your design and know that you’re actually targeting two different markets, so you have to keep in mind things like power, thermals and various things. But that’s been part of our AMC portfolio strategy since Day 1.”

Expect some new ATCA releases from RadiSys later this year.

Richard “Zippy” Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s (News - Alert) IP Communications Group.


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