RealTime IT News

Intel Envisions Blade-speak

The world's largest chipmaker Tuesday looked into its crystal ball and came up with a few predictions:

Blade-based communications servers , the latest trend in IT servers popular because of their size and cost, will win out in the end if they are built around modules and open standards.

Speaking at its developer's forum in Munich, Intel executive vice president and general manager Sean Maloney said hard times in the communications industry and the explosion of the Internet has shifted IT budgets away from custom, low-volume proprietary solutions towards standards-based, modular communications servers and equipment.

"Current conditions have compressed ten years of change in the communications industry into one year. To stay competitive, communications equipment providers must begin developing solutions with modular communications servers and equipment," said Maloney.

Standards-based modular communications servers and equipment are what Intel says let network equipment providers deliver high-availability solutions on shorter development cycles. The servers and equipment are made up of standards-based hardware, carrier grade operating systems and high availability application programming interfaces (APIs).

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel is currently working with over 100 companies to standardize the hardware, operating systems and software that will enable communications vendors to begin using the servers and equipment. An example of these efforts is Intel's work with the PCI Industrial Manufacturers Group (PICMG) on the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA) specification, a key industry initiative for standard blade-based servers.

AdvancedTCA is an industry standard blade and chassis form factor specification that is optimized for communications and is designed to meet the requirements of communications applications through year 2010. This includes backplane capacity up to 4.5 terra bits per second, multi-protocol blade interfaces up to OC-768, RAM support beyond 8 GB/board, increased system availability and headroom for future increased performance processing.

To help the process speed along faster, the semiconductor making giant announced the development of a Modular Platform Design Guide.

Intel said the guide helps communications hardware and software developers to quickly develop next-generation, standards-based modular communications building blocks based on AdvancedTCA.

"Network equipment providers need to standardize underlying product platforms, thereby reducing product cost and increasing their flexibility to shift investment from hardware to revenue generating applications and services," said Intel Network Processing Group vice president and general manager Howard Bubb. "The Modular Platform Design Guide enables network equipment providers and the ecosystem to begin immediate development of standard, blade-based communication server and equipment."

Authored by Intel with input from over 20 communications companies, the Modular Platform Design Guide details implementation guidelines for interoperability on top of the base AdvancedTCA specification scheduled for release later this year. It also provides guidelines on building an AdvancedTCA compliant system, interoperability of key elements, usage models and provisioning and management.

In addition to defining a blueprint for standards-based modular communications platforms, Intel is also helping network equipment providers build products based on the current generation of industry standards -- PICMG 2.16.

Because they aim to be a one-stop shop for all your IT needs, Intel also announced a line of communications blades that it claims are perfect for those using PICMG 2.16.

The 2.16-compliant blades include the Intel NetStructure ZT 5524 System Master Processor Board, Intel NetStructure ZT 5088 12U General Purpose Packet Switched Platform and the Intel NetStructure ZT 5085 12U General Purpose Packet Switched Platform. The slimmer servers are based on Pentium III processors and are designed specifically for communications applications such as telecom servers, broadband access servers, telecom switches, mobile base station controllers and storage.

Prices and availability dates for the new blade servers were not disclosed.