Mobile operators have a dilemma. They need to expand network capacity to meet ever-increasing customer expectations for bandwidth, but they must also reduce cost per bit and preserve margin. The recent proliferation of smartphones and consequent explosion of mobile video has upped the ante exponentially for mobile network infrastructure. Overwhelmingly, smartphones and tablets offer larger screens, dual- and quad-core processors and the ability to access video services—such as Netflix—on the go. To remain competitive and profitable, mobile operators must invest in increased capacity and pay close attention to the ways in which next-generation advancements can help reverse flattening revenues caused by the upsurge of mobile video.
As Figure 1 shows, Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) estimates that by 2016, mobile video will constitute more than 70 percent of mobile data traffic—up from 52 percent in 2011. Cisco’s VNI also found that from 2010 to 2011, average smartphone data usage ballooned from 50 MB per month to 150 MB per month, making cost-effective, scalable solutions a requirement of staying ahead of the technology curve.
Next for Mobile Infrastructure: Long Term Evolution (LTE) as a Standard
At the forefront of advancement in mobile infrastructure is Long Term Evolution (LTE), which works in tandem with existing 2G and 3G networks to allow substantially more bandwidth to users (up to 100Mbit/s) at a reduced cost per bit. 3G and LTE networks are supported by a relatively mature and proven platform, Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA), which facilitates 3G wireless infrastructure and IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS). Now with the rollout of LTE, the latest 40G ATCA technology addresses the need for higher bandwidth at a lower cost per bit, building upon a widely adopted platform in the 3G and more advanced LTE packet core systems to dramatically increase performance and system capacity. Companies employing 10G ATCA systems used in 2G and 3G networks can quadruple their data bandwidth per blade by incorporating 40G blades in the chassis and backplane.
Both highly scalable and highly customizable, 40G ATCA is available in a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) format, featuring switch blades, CPU/server blades, and packet processing blades, all capable of running at 40G. This is a compelling technology for Telecom Equipment Manufacturers (TEMs) and mobile network operators because it quadruples data bandwidth capacity per blade at a cost-per-bit reduction of up to 50 percent, as well as enables the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) required for LTE networks.
Figure 2 is an example of a 40G ATCA hardware.
The building blocks of ATCA include chassis design (backplane, cooling trays and shelf-management modules); switch blades; CPU/server blades and packet processing blades. The switch blades pair two separate switching functions that connect to the backplane and front panel, facilitating the data transfer functionality to each node blade. CPU/server blades include one or two general-purpose multicore processors that support control plane applications and can also support lighter-weight Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) applications through the use of Intel’s DPDK. Packet processing blades—also known as integrated multicore processors—aid in networking heavy-weight DPI and traffic management.
High-performance 40G ATCA systems require more advanced hardware integration of these building blocks to meet performance and thermal requirements. TEMs can work with a system integrator such as Radisys to leverage their expertise in ATCA platform design and help increase the performance of the platform. In addition, companies that use an application-ready ATCA platform can dramatically reduce their time to market even further, as seen in Figure 3.
Application-ready platforms include full hardware (chassis, switch and CPU blades) and middleware integration. By leveraging these solutions, TEMs can lower development costs and reduce time to market for new technologies—especially those pertinent to Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and network gateways. TEMs can utilize ATCA components available from a trusted ecosystem of companies or leverage a pre-integrated platform to support the latest advancements in the wireless infrastructure core. 40G ATCA Performance Gains Equals Reduced Cost Per Bit
40G ATCA platforms provide significant performance gains over their 10G counterparts. When using a 40G platform, the capacity of a 16-slot chassis increases from 154 Gbit/s to 574 Gbit/s.[i]
By using 40G platforms with the latest processing blades, TEMs can pack more applications into a single ATCA shelf, dramatically increasing system density and thereby significantly reducing the cost per bit. The following case study provides an illustration of the performance gains and reductions in cost per bit that can be achieved with 40G ATCA.