40G ATCA – Mobile Internet Offload

Mobile World Congress remained a very busy show in 2010 with demanding schedules and exhausting hours. Focused on handsets and applications, it was interesting to note the widespread discussions related to network capacity and the congestion being caused by the latest smart phones and netbooks equipped with 3G data cards – all of which plays well to ATCA for core network applications.

40G ATCA is poised to take this segment by storm and resolve many of the problems created by the uptake of mobile broadband. It is particularly significant because it radically changes the dynamics between the large incumbent equipment manufacturers with “router” product lines and the smaller vendors entering the market or expanding their portfolios to include data plane.

The latest advances in ATCA backplane technology and next generation blades will deliver these “innovators” a carrier-grade platform with edge router levels of capacity – without the need to own and fund a complete hardware development team. Unlike the big players in mobile, these innovative companies look to solve specific problems in a unique way. Rather than waiting for next generation upgrades of the infrastructure, they look for opportunities to add new, relatively low cost and compact solutions to the network – fix the problem now, fix it cost-effectively and fix it without needing to replace the core network.

An excellent example of this is internet offload. This places a device prior to the mobile core – usually at the edge of the RAN or within the Provider Edge. Its task is to intercept traffic heading for the mobile core and make a decision whether to offload the traffic directly to the internet or route it via the highly managed, but relatively expensive and bandwidth constrained, mobile core.

With the introduction of 40G ATCA, the “innovators” are now able to get the following capabilities off-the-shelf…thereby reducing time to market, lowering capital outlay and even reducing operating costs by sourcing a complete solution that ships direct to their customers:

  • Advanced hub switches with 10G, 40G and 100G Ethernet uplinks
    • Including load balancing and routing software to re-direct sessions
  • 40G packet processing blades
    • Supporting fast path tunneling GTP and routing required, such as GTP
    • L7 application awareness required to make the offload decision, plus any subsequent traffic management and policy enforcement that may be required
  • Latest generation compute blades
    • Packaged in a range of scalable chassis able to cool up to 300W per slot

It will be interesting to see how this rolls out over the next 12-24 months, but what is clear is that the market needs a solution today to 3G capacity problems and ATCA is well poised to solve that problem both in terms of current 10G and future 40G platforms. And it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that one or more of these new entrants could become the next Starent Networks and take on the big players for LTE mobile core.


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