The growing popularity of Internet Protocol (IP) telecommunications networks has brought about the need to build new IP-based solutions that interoperate with existing infrastructure. New requirements encompass connecting IP-based or IP-enabled media gateways, multi-media servers, signalling transfer points, switches, databases, and other next-generation signalling applications with legacy circuit switched signalling architecture.

This need to interconnect different network demands multiprotocol solutions that combine and connect divergent circuit and packet switching architectures. In addition, there are new possibilities for replacing expensive dedicated SS7 circuits with the more cost-effective IP networks. Yet this throws up one of the major challenges in the transition to new “e” Radio Access Networks (eRANs): the provisioning of flexible, efficient transport interfaces between new equipment and the existing infrastructure.

The critical issue in eRAN evolution is determining how to manage, terminate, and switch voice and data over a common transport network. As core technology moves from asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) to IP, network designers must also provide the services critical for high-speed packet processing such as monitoring, inspection, prioritization, insertion, encryption, decryption, and security.

However, these challenges can be overcome by delivering highly configurable network processor cards that implement the lower-layer transport protocols in the 2.5G/3G/eRAN. These products can then be used to deliver the lub, lur, lu, and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) transport interfaces meeting the sometimes conflicting requirements of cost, flexibility, performance, scalability, and time-to-market.

ATCA Plays A Role

One such solution would be an intelligent Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA) carrier blade for I/O intensive telecom applications. These blades would have four advanced mezzanine card (AMC) slots to take any combination of AMCs and specialized network processor units (NPUs) such as the Cavium Octeon processors, memory, and cache on the carrier to provide a high-performance, highly flexible, scalable, and cost-effective ATCA blade for signalling and other applications.

The boards follow the ATCA PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) specifications for power conversion, Gigabit Ethernet switching, and PCI Express (PCIe) switching, which provides the on-board infrastructure for the CPU and AMC sites to communicate with each other as well as the ATCA chassis fabric. The ATCA carrier cards provide CPU application blades with access to I/O resources on the ATCA blade.

For example, it is possible to provide a library that is linked to the user’s application(s) to interface with the ATCA carrier card. This library should provide the application with a standard application programming interface (API) to access and utilize the I/O resources on the carrier card regardless of where they are on the ATCA chassis. Ultimately, with ATCA carrier cards, I/O is scalable. Additional I/O connections and capacity are achieved by populating another ATCA carrier card in the ATCA chassis.

With overall benefits available from this solution such as ease of migration, I/O density, and a data/control-plane subsystem, ATCA carrier cards are fast being seen as a way to provide the services critical for high-speed packet processing. Overall, the flexible architecture of these kinds of products fulfils ATCA’s promise of horizontal expansion. In a redundantly designed system, cards and blades may be added, removed, and relocated with virtually no loss of service. Carriers will be able to retain the value of their initial investment well into the future with this architecture in place.

Robin Kent joined Adax in 1994 to establish the Adax business unit in Europe, and he has successfully overseen its transition from an OEM technology supplier to a customer-focused provider of high-quality, high-performance telecommunications products and services to network equipment providers and integrators throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India. He can be reached at rkent@adax.co.uk.

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