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Part II: ATCA versus Carrier Grade Rack Mount Servers... Making the Right Choice

In last month’s issue we explored some of the trade-offs between AdvancedTCA (News - Alert) (ATCA) and Carrier Grade Rack Mount Servers (CGRMS). In Part II of this series, the focus is on the price/performance curve. Price per processing core is one way to compare the two architectures.

To make this comparison, let’s build two standard 47U rack frames. The first frame includes three fully configured ATCA 13U (NEI: A-13000) and the second contains 24 1U rack-mount servers (NEI: N-1500R2). See Figure 1.

Each of the servers and blades is assumed to have identical memory, hard drives, and dual-dual core processors. A cost estimates summary is shown in Table 1. The overall operating expenses are expected to be higher for the CGRMS frame compared to the ATCA configuration. The capital acquisition costs of the ATCA frame are significantly higher due to the cost of the processing blades. Note that the switching costs are much less in the ATCA frame.

Final Score In this example the total cost of the ATCA frame is approximately 15 percent higher. The density offered by the ATCA 13U (A-13000) in a full 47U frame makes ATCA a better choice when we consider the price per processing core. If the application does not require the density as seen in our example, then the Carrier Grade Rack Mount Server price per core will become more attractive at the lower densities. IT

Jeff Hudgins is VP of Product Management at NEI, Inc. (

Attribute ATCA CGRMS
Operating expense (OPEX (News - Alert)) for one year of power and cooling. $22,500 $32,500
Acquisition cost (CAPEX)
  • Frame/power/switching
  • Application servers or blades


Total Cost Estimate $310,000 $269,250
Total number of processing cores 144 96
Price per core $2,153 $2,805

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