The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA®) specifications, denoted PICMG 3.X, is a series of specifications originally developed to set requirements for the next generation of carrier grade communications equipment. These specifications, which were developed over a decade ago, incorporate the latest trends in high speed interconnect technologies, next generation processors and improved reliability, manageability and serviceability. More than 100 companies participate in the AdvancedTCA effort bringing with them a wide range of industry knowledge covering everything from telecommunications equipment to power supplies. But after huge projections of adoption and more than a decade later, where does ATCA stand as a viable technology for the future?
UNICOM Engineering recently conducted a survey of more than 50 technology companies currently shipping their solutions on ATCA designs to answer this question first hand. What we found is that roughly one-third of those surveyed said they are unsure or do not plan to use ATCA in the next 5 years. Conversely, two-thirds of those surveyed plan to continue with the standard for future products. Those who are “opting out” are either moving to standard off the shelf rack mount servers or may still leverage some portions of the standard to create a market focused vertical solution. The top reasons that companies plan to stay with ATCA are reliability, payload options, and upgrade serviceability. The full redundancy and centralized management features of ATCA along with low mean-time-to-failure continue to make it a solid choice for mission critical applications. Companies using ATCA have also been able to leverage DSP, SBC, and Packet Processing blades that are not viable in other form factors. And after ten plus years of deployment, many of these companies have been able to upgrade end customers into higher performing platforms using new hardware blades and software without requiring a forklift upgrade of the rack or chassis.
So what’s the final score?
Certainly ATCA has not lived up to the huge projections from it’s early years, but the companies that are leveraging the standard have reaped a competitive advantage. They have seen higher throughput (up to 100GE egress), lower cost upgrades, and improved field up-time performance. It’s clear why these companies plan to stay with ATCA for the foreseeable future.