Hardware Corner: ATCA growth ahead

The Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA, or if you're in a hurry, ATCA) is not something that we often hear network operators talk about publicly. It has a lot to do with enabling open, standardized, communications-specific equipment chassis and form factors, and to hear a major telco promote ATCA would be somewhat like listening to a major automaker talk about the viability of the sound undercarriage on its newest car model. In other words, it's not necessarily the most glitzy aspect, and it's not necessarily something that's going to be the biggest factor in winning over the end user. Yet, it enables everything above it to work better.

Perhaps, that is partly why market research firm IDC said in a new report this week that the broad xTCA market, which includes both ATCA gear and smaller form factor microTCA gear, could be worth about $2.65 billion in 2013. This outlook follows a Heavy Reading report this year that said the market could surge even higher.

It remains to be seen how the market will shake out, and which network operators and equipment and technology vendors will benefit most. Industry consolidation, both at the network operator and vendor levels, could have an effect on the market. ATCA has been around for a while, but it may not have been top of mind for carriers who were busy integrating mergers in recent years. Likewise, recent vendor consolidation could factor into near-term availability of ATCA platforms from some of the largest vendors. That might leave an opening for other companies to grab their share of that coming $2.65 billion.

Particularly as network operators continue to focus on how to take costs out of their networks, they will be looking for vendors prepared to deliver systems built on highly standardized platforms. Commercial-off-the-shelf components will become increasingly important. ATCA will become the new stamp that network operators will be looking for from their vendors. In that regard, ATCA is a bit reminiscent of the Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) standards group that was developed decades ago and still guides the construction of telco central offices. ATCA is the latest resident in the house of NEBS, and in time, it will become as much a cornerstone of network foundations.

For more:
- IDC announced its new research this week

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