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Telecom leaders take Intel x86 over NPUs

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:telecom? Internet Protocol? interview? Fred Kemmerer?

Intel is reaping gains in the transition to telecom networks based on Internet Protocol, according to Fred Kemmerer, chief technical officer of Genband. He also says that a lack of policies for an industry shifting from voice to data is holding back business for the manufacturer of IP-based telecom systems that use a mix of DSPs, network processors and Intel x86 chips.

EE Times: What is the shift in silicon at Genband?

Kemmerer: Our overall processor use is more dominated by Intel than network processors (NPUs).

Most of our heavy lifting in processing packets is now on Intel which is the opposite of classical thinking that says you do non-real-time work on the x86 and use network processors for heavy lifting in deep packet inspection. We find for DPI the Intel silicon with its extra memory provides higher performance than we usually get with NPUs.

NPUs support about a GB of memory, but the latest Intel processors can support hundreds of GB if you want it. And there's no comparison between Intel and NPUs in memory bandwidth and cache performance. The level one and two caches can be as important as external memory in applications with big working sets like call control.

In the last couple generations, Intel has made some great strides in core sizes and clock speeds, and they have gotten ahead of AMD in raw MIPS.

EET: Are there other technical issues ahead?

Kemmerer: One thing we'd like to see is faster availability of native 40Gbit/s ATCA boards. If we had that technology available today, we could use it.

There's a good road map for backplanes but we still need the native 40G I/O and fabric boards, and we are looking to see our ATCA partners move quickly. For wireline DPI and wireless LTE applications we need to move data faster than 10G platforms can handle, so these native 40G interfaces are becoming important.

The x86 is dominating NPUs at Genband, said Fred Kemmerer

EET: How is the adoption of DPI going?

Kemmerer: We announced our systems just three or four months ago and so far there has been a tremendous amount of early interest in several regions, especially among mobile carriers. There's an explosion of mobile traffic, so carriers have a burning need to manage the traffic better and understand what the traffic is.

EET: Does this mean the end of flat-rate data services?

Kemmerer: As services migrate to broadband networks, classical service models won't apply. Voice can't subsidize flat-rate data services in the future. We can't expect to pay a flat rate for electricity, so why would we believe broadband could be sold at a flat rateit's not realistic.

There are usage sensitive costs for electricity and broadband. North American carriers are already moving to usage-based broadband plans. You will pay less than the flat rate for a certain amount of data, flat rate for a medium tier and more for heavy use. I think that model is inevitable.

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