IDF: Intel eyes converged server-network boxes

Intel is to collaborate with Fujitsu-Siemens Computers to bring telecommunications middleware to Intel platforms.

Intel is to collaborate with Fujitsu-Siemens Computers to bring telecommunications middleware to Intel platforms.

The chip giant also plans to introduce its first dual-processor server blade that complies with the most recent Compact PCI interface standard as it moves to usher in a new generation of network devices.

The announcements at the Intel Developer Forum in Munich, Germany, are intended to help system vendors build Intel-based platforms for a telecommunications industry in transition, Intel officials said. As carriers rush to create new services and keep costs down, the industry is expected to migrate towards the Intel architecture for servers just as enterprises did several years ago, said Shantanu Gupta, director of the Telecom Platform Office of Intel's enterprise platforms group, in Oregon, USA.

"What we bring to this space is very similar to what we brought to the other computing sectors," Gupta said.

The Intel/Fujitsu partnership will see Fujitsu-Siemens port its RTP (Resilient Telco Platform) middleware to the Intel platform. This will allow system vendors to leverage the Intel architecture for applications such as (Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateways, virtual private networks and Web-based call centres, according to Intel.

Intel will also use the Intel Developers Forum to introduce the ZT 5524 blade server, with dual low-voltage Pentium IIIs and two Gigabit Ethernet ports; the ZT 4901 I/O mezzanine, which adds Fibre Channel capability to that blade, and the ZT 5085/5088 chassis. The blades and chassis comply with PICMG (PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group) 2.16, the latest Compact PCI standard. PICMG 2.16 allows for the use of Ethernet as well as the Compact PCI interface for communication between cards in a chassis.

The ZT 5085/88 represents a new type of device Intel calls a converged network platform, which is intended to accommodate both network interface and processing blades. That would allow service providers to install server blades to meet processing needs, and interface blades to meet bandwidth demands, all in the same device, he added.

Intel does not intend to produce communications servers under its own brand but will supply components to system manufacturers who will use Intel's hardware and load their own operating systems and other software.

Intel is also making available a design guide to the emerging ATCA (Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture) for server and communications blades. The guide, which Intel said has been reviewed by the industry, is intended to help developers start designing products now to meet a baseline set of ATCA specifications. That should help bring interoperability sooner, according to Intel officials. ATCA is a higher-performance version of Compact PCI optimised for carrier needs. Products using it are expected to ship by the first quarter of 2003.

As part of its push for standardised carrier platforms, Intel is also helping to promote a carrier-grade Linux initiative that is intended to establish Linux as an alternative to Sun Microsystems Solaris in carriers within two years.

Most equipment for carrier networks today uses proprietary hardware and software, which prevents competing vendors from developing new capabilities quickly and driving down prices, Gupta said. A standard hardware architecture and carrier-hardened Linux would allow for devices that could accommodate cards from a wide range of vendors, he said. More closely defined blade standards are key, according to Gupta. The current Compact PCI leaves too much room for variation in vendor implementations, he said.

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