AdvancedTCA: The Next Generation Communication Equipment Platform

By Eric Kao, ADLINK Technology Inc.

The communications market used to be dominated by a few manufacturers that created their own standards and built products that were incompatible with each other. The outcome was a rise in already-high telecommunications equipment prices at a time when buyers made conservative purchases. Watching their profit fall while development costs rose, manufacturers sought to reduce development costs to lower market prices. However, there is little room to reduce development costs with closed-architecture designs.

Aware of the situation, the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) wanted to unite industry manufacturers with an open communication platform and for it to be accepted as convention. It formed the Advanced Telecommunication Computing Architecture (ATCA) and its consequent specifications.

The ATCA specifications allow manufacturers to implement their own unique core technology as long as they utilize an open architecture. This ensures compatibility regardless of brand and moderates development costs while creating healthy competition.

ATCA design requirements promote high-performance applications with more efficient power consumption, power system, system management and larger bandwidth than CompactPCI. The ATCA board is 8U with a depth of 280mm and the distance between boards is 6HP. The 8U size allows for up to four PMC sites making it ideal for Hot Swapping. On-board connectors are divided among three zones: Zone One handles power and system management, Zone Two controls dataflow and Zone Three supports rear panel I/O. ATCA offers flexibility by incorporating a passive backplane framework with corresponding connectors, bypass capacitors and components.

The ATCA chassis is a standard 10-12U 19-inch rackmount for up to 14 slots. Fans can be positioned at the air inlet for a push design, the outlet for a pull design or both for a push-pull system. ATCA specifications require dual -48V DC input redundancy to prevent an entire system collapse should one power outlet fail. This greatly improves power source reliability. ATCA limits power consumption to 200W per slot or 2800W max. if all 14 chassis slots are opened. Additionally, the main board power supply must support Hot Swapping.

ATCA data rates between cards can reach 2Gbps through dual Ethernet ports and a specialized Dual Start Topology converter. It combines a standard base interface with an advanced data fabric interface using high speed LVDS pairs to form a channel unit. Channel bandwidth ranges between 1Gbps and 10Gbps depending on protocol.

Electronic keying allows the system to check for compatibility between cards or fabric interfaces and determine which data channels can be opened. The number of channels in each slot distinguishes the five backplane data fabric interfaces: Star, Dual Star, Dual-Dual Star, Replicate Mesh and Full Mesh.

The ATCA chassis must contain at least one Shelf Management Controller (ShMC) to act as the central system controller and manage the internal slots, fans, temperature sensors and communication with external system administration software. Each card is designed with an Intelligent Platform Management Controller (IPMC) to record status, fix errors and open channels for power supplies and data. The ShMC and IPMC communicate through a dual Intelligent Platform Management Bus design.

ATCA targets next generation communication equipment, network data centers and the latest custom central office media gateway servers that demand high-volume, high-speed bandwidth. Its specifications push for the development of compatible and standardized next generation hardware.

Eric Kao is the Technical Marketing Manager and has been with ADLINK Technology for four years. He is a graduate of the National Taiwan University with a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering. ADLINK Technology is an Associate Member of the Intel® Communications Alliance.

Contact Information

ADLINK Technology Inc.
8900 Research Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
866.4.ADLINK Telephone
949.727.2099 Fax