Author's Picture
Author's Picture
Issue: EMEA 2008
Article no.: 13
Topic: Platform development
Author: Norbert Hauser and Wolfgang Huether
Title: Vice President Marketing EMEA, Business Development,
Organisation: Kontron
PDF size: 190KB

About author

Norbert Hauser is Kontron’s Vice President for Marketing in the EMEA region. Mr Hauser has held a variety of management positions in international sales and marketing at Kontron Modular Computers (formerly PEP Modular Computers) in Kaufbeuren. He began his career as a Marketing Engineer at HP in the EMEA region. Dipl. Ing. (FH) Norbert Hauser studied technical computer science at the University of Ulm in Germany. Wolfgang Huether heads Business Development at Kontron Modular Computers; he is responsible for telecom market business development in Europe and Japan. Prior to Kontron he worked as a Field Application Engineer for Central Europe at Force Computers in Neubiberg. He began his career at Lippert Automationstechnik in Mannheim where he worked in R&D as an engineer and as a sales engineer. Dipl. Ing. (BA) Wolfgang Hüther studied Electrical Engineering at the Berufsakademie Mannheim in Germany.

Article abstract

IPTV, video applications, and a wide variety of other bandwidth intensive uses, are driving operators to constantly upgrade their networks to meet the demand for bandwidth. Traditional proprietary network platforms are not only costly, they are difficult to implement and difficult to expand. There is a growing tendency to adopt the use of standardised equipment architectures, such as AdvancedTCA (Advanced Telecommunication Architecture), that make it possible to use standardised, off-the-shelf components to build and expand, as needed, their basic network platforms.

Full Article

IPTV shows huge promise as a comprehensive communication experience that includes everything from entertainment, to corporate information dissemination, complex conferencing, public information access and much more. Today, service providers are packaging IPTV-based products as a ‘triple play’ packages, that incorporate home telephone, television, and high-speed Internet in a single package, and ‘quad play’, which adds mobile service to the triple play package. In the near future, corporate information dissemination and public access will be growing segments of IPTV usage. VoD, personal video recorders (PVR), and electronic programme guides (EPG) provide limited interactive options for current service packages. Advances in next-generation networks, middleware, processor platforms and processing and storage technologies provide a foundation for fully interactive and networked video, voice and data services to residential and business customers based on IPTV and IP set-top-box (STB) models. Moving away from proprietary platforms The growth of new and exciting content is matched by its huge sales potential. Recent studies predict that the number of households using IPTV worldwide will increase from six million at year end 2006 to more than 63 million by 2011. This represents an impressive compound annual growth rate of around 60 per cent. The European market is one of the strongest in terms of growth and number of subscribers, growing from 3.8 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2007 to, currently, 8.4 million – an increase of around 117 percent in a bit more than a year. In order to increase their share of this expanding market, service providers compete to deliver end customers the best possible quality of experience. The constantly increasing traffic driven by enhanced IPTV content is going to require computing platforms with higher processing power and more bandwidth. More significantly, to keep up with the rapid growth of the competitive IPTV market, TEMs (telecom equipment manufacturers) will be called upon to launch new, more powerful systems in a shorter period of time. This places high demands on the flexibility and scalability of the hardware deployed in the network and is a major challenge for TEMs either working with their own or externally supplied proprietary hardware platforms. With an estimated average product life cycle of five years, proprietary telecom systems are ill-equipped to react the high rate of change in the fiercely competitive and constantly developing European market. In order to maintain the steady growth of bandwidth and network processing power that service providers require, TEMs will have to move away from proprietary systems and re-think the product lifecycle approach to new platforms. Standardised design The best way forward is to adopt a standards driven, commercial approach with off-the-shelf customizable solutions consisting of interchangeable hardware units such as processors, carrier blades and platforms. Standards based systems not only liberate service providers from costly, proprietary contracts, but also enable them to easily and quickly upgrade and adapt their hardware systems to meet the demand for greater performance and new features. Likewise, off-the-shelf solutions allow TEMs to concentrate on their core competencies – delivering application-specific hardware systems that provide greater added value and performance for service providers. By buying reliable, high performance carrier-class systems and components that are flexible, comprehensive and non-proprietary, TEMs can re-focus their resources, achieve a faster time to market and reduce total cost of ownership. AdvancedTCA platforms One well-established and proven telecom platform meets all of the above demands on performance, flexibility, scalability and standards-based components – AdvancedTCA (Advanced Telecommunication Architecture). AdvancedTCA is an industry standard developed by the PICMG (PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group) that specifies standard chassis and board form factors for carrier-grade telecommunication platforms. It has been especially designed for the next generation of telecommunication applications that require greater performance and scalability with carrier grade features such as 99.999 per cent availability. The main building blocks of AdvancedTCA systems are the AdvancedTCA processor and I/O blades as well as AdvancedMC (AMC – printed circuit boards that follow PICMG standards) modules that provide the processing performance, storage capacity and IO flexibility. The blades and AMCs are housed in an AdvancedTCA chassis. The term ‘building block’ is extremely apt since the AdvancedTCA specification is a standard that gives TEMs the freedom to choose standard, off-the-shelf components to develop cost-effective, scalable and modular systems well ahead of market demands, thereby reducing their product development cycles by nearly half. When choosing an AdvancedTCA platform, TEMs decide which combination of chassis, processor blades, switch blades and storage capacity offers the best hardware mix for their intended application. This will depend upon the individual application requirements of the respective service provider. A start-up operator might need a simple low-cost system, but as the number of subscribers grows, additional off-the-shelf components can be easily added to quickly boost performance and capacity to handle the increased IP traffic. (See fig 1) Pre-integrated platforms To accelerate the deployment of AdvancedTCA systems, TEMs are turning to pre-integrated, validated and tested platforms, because otherwise even ATCA systems require an integration effort that can take from six to 12 months to make sure all the building blocks work seamlessly together. In addition, integrating the hardware platform at the operator’s site can require a great deal of support in the form of programme management, functional experts, quality assurance, tools and deployment support all of which adds up to a tremendous amount of precious personnel, time and money resources. When integrating multi-sourced standard components, further challenges arise when it comes down to identifying which ‘vendor’ is at fault when problems occur. For a product to be successful, it needs to be a complete solution with hardware, middleware, OS, etc. Integrating all these elements often requires a year’s worth of intense effort – a time-consuming and costly task for a systems provider. Platform integration It is important for developers to realize that adopting a standards driven, commercial approach and finding the right off-the-shelf software and middleware solutions is really just the start. Partnering with proven hardware and middleware experts that can provide integrated, validated and tested platforms is key to the long-term success of the application. Although there are a number of middleware solutions available, not all have been pre-validated and tested to work with a specific hardware platform. Pre-integrated open modular platforms take much of the guesswork out of system operability and reliability. The availability of open system solutions and open architecture middleware platforms make it possible to integrate essential services without being a technical expert in communications. Developers of telecommunication equipment have found the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) approach crucial in reducing risk and accelerating time-to-market. By taking advantage of COTS building blocks that include the computing hardware, operating system (OS), high availability middleware and components of the protocol, it is possible to assemble a carrier-grade platform more quickly. An out-of-the-box integrated package with middleware can deliver a complete control, management and data platform. Buying a market-tested product ensures greater operational flexibility, and takes foreseeable hardware, software, and application upgrades into account.