Building a foundation for ATCA

Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) and its brother MicroTCA have a lot of advertised potential for the telecom and other vertical industries: lower-cost, accelerated product development and multi-vendor interoperability.  

FierceTelecom will chronicle the role of ATCA in its second eBook, which you can download by following this link.

ATCA and MicroTCA continue to be a work in progress. Early ATCA and MicroTCA prognosticators in 2003 predicted that ATCA would hit the $3 billion mark by 2007, but as of 2008--a time when a major global recession hit every sector--the more sober results illustrated a $500 million market.

And while ATCA is far from its early $3 billion predictions, VDC Research argues that this number is promising given the state of the current economy.

So what does all of this mean for the telecom service provider and related equipment vendor community?

Well, unlike the traditional voice-centric days where big iron vendors would produce everything themselves for a new product, a process that could take up to 12-36 months, new data and bandwidth-intensive consumer and business applications are calling for a more rapid timeline.

One obvious benefit that ATCA and Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) components has for the vendor community is that it can cut their time to market to release a new product.   

Industry estimates say it could take a vendor 36 months to develop a new telecom product from scratch. CP-TA (Communications Platforms Trade Association) argues that by leveraging COTS products from third-party suppliers, a vendor could instantly shave 12 months off the product development cycle. Another additional 12 months can be taken off the product development cycle if a vendor leverages a fully-developed system platform.

Beyond time to market, the adoption of xTCA and MicroTCA allows vendors to shift their efforts from hardware development to application software creation. To date, wireless vendors have been the early adopters of ACTA platforms in either single or multi-function systems for HLR.HSS and subscriber data management, LTE and content delivery systems. However, ATCA blade vendor Kontron believes that there will be a third generation of ATCA products that will emerge in 2011 and 2012 that will be integrated into core and edge wireline network elements, including GPON-based Fiber to the Home (FTTH) network platforms.

For the service provider, these configurable products could help them also differentiate themselves as the service provider industry consolidates and migrates further into the next-gen IP service world.

Telecom is not the only vertical segment turning to ATCA--the military/aerospace industry has embraced MicroTCA as well. According to Crystal Cube Consulting, military/aerospace will make up 65 percent of the MicroTCA market in 2009.

ATCA may have a long way to go until it meets its initial multi-billion dollar dream, but if anything is for sure it has created a strong foundation from which the industry can build upon. --Sean