ATCA: Freedom of Choice Through Best-of-Breed
Using ATCA as a COTS platform has clear benefits for NEPs. These include reducing time to market, alleviating resource constraints, and eliminating the need to create, support and service proprietary platforms. Most importantly, it gives NEPs the freedom to select COTS vendors from the ATCA ecosystem, which greatly reduces the cost associated with creating new platforms. Choice drives competition and innovation.
Most Tier-1 NEPs are opting to integrate ATCA building blocks themselves while developing their own value-added applications and software stacks. The use of standardized ATCA platforms and building blocks gives NEPs a flexible, interoperable framework for quickly integrating cost-effective components from multiple suppliers and reusing those components across multiple network elements and applications.
Even if NEPs elect to purchase integrated solutions from a single ATCA supplier, the open nature of those solutions still gives them multiple-sourcing options for the future. This avoids the "lock in" mechanisms often found with sole suppliers or proprietary architectures. This is a wise consideration when one factors in the pace of technology change today. Open platforms such as ATCA limit this dependency, enabling NEPs to quickly build best-of-breed technology and solutions at the lowest possible cost tailored to their platform needs.
Tier-1 NEPs have developed a business model based on strong ecosystem NEP collaboration that emphasizes flexibility and multiple sourcing. The driving force for this approach is the requirement for long product life cycle support, which is in turn driven by the tremendous validation costs and reliability requirements of global service providers. NEPs that develop network elements based on a closed proprietary architecture run the risk of losing control of their own product direction and costs, whereas open platforms eliminate this risk.
"Service providers are grappling with meeting customer demand for new services without increasing network complexity. To address this challenge, Nortel is developing platforms based on ATCA technology and built from commercial-off-the-shelf hardware," said Dave Ayers, vice president, Common Engineering, CTO, Nortel. "By building on these industry-standard ATCA common platforms, we can help our service provider customers reduce time to market for innovative services, while establishing a flexible foundation for the continuing evolution of their network."
ATCA technology suppliers understand this open platform requirement and are working together through organizations such as PICMG and the Communications Platforms Trade Association to address the Tier-1 NEPs' requirements. This collaborative approach enables suppliers to offer components and platforms that meet the NEPs' needs while also enabling the NEPs' engineering teams to work closely with suppliers. This approach also ensures that NEPs will be able to drive costs down by utilizing a common architecture and components across a broad range of network elements, thereby generating economies of scale.