I could see this chip being used to offload packet processing functions from hypervisors or virtual machines. As networking is virtualized into the cloud, the packet processing requirements on cloud servers is increased. Perhaps this is Intel's admission that virtual networking doesn't compete and/or scale on x86. You still need specialized networking hardware.
Yeah, I thought about that, but it doesn't seem like those are going to be as dataplane-intensive as they are talking about here. I guess that if you throw in compression / encryption it might be a worthwhile target for a family of chips that scale to the job.
I think there will be a lot of macro, micro and pico base stations deployed in the next ten years, and Intel would love to see that shift to being an x86 app. It's not as big a market as smartphones for sure, but its significant.
It seems like a real niche market for a mass-market player like Intel. High-end switch fabrics for base stations are sexy, but they wouldn't seem to be a real volume business. You have to wonder if there is a larger market that they are using this to gain entry into at some point.
I love this comment: "Base stations using the chips will still need some external parts such as Viterbi decoders."
Um, last time I checked, nobody makes Viterbi decoder ICs anymore. That function is an IP block that one puts in an SoC.
In the past Intel had the Xscale communication processors and the IXP network processors specially designed for the data plane. However at that time it sold the Xscale to Marvell. Now it seems that Intel returns to the the data plane...