Multi-core Processor AMC’s - Re-shaping the Network

By Advantech Corporation

Intel® Core™2 Duo processors are members of Intel’s growing product line of multi-core processors based on Intel® Core™ micro architecture, delivering breakthrough energyefficient performance for embedded platforms. These processors provide an excellent performance-per watt choice for small form factor applications such as interactive clients (i.e., point-of-sale terminals and ATMs), gaming platforms, industrial control and automation, digital security surveillance and medical imaging. Beyond the more deeply embedded applications in these markets, another performance- hungry, power sensitive market exists in Telecom and Networking equipment, where power per backplane slot as well as optimum slot usage is paramount.

Thermal constraints within legacy bladed systems such as CompactPCI® and the more recent MicroTCA architectures make Intel Core™2 Duo processor-based products ideally suited for the next wave of product upgrades or complete technology overhauls. The Intel Core 2 Duo processor also provides the optimum performance per watt when designed on to Processor AMC’s inserted in to ATCA-based Compute blades or Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC) Carriers.

Products such as Advantech’s MIC-5602 can now become Intel Core 2 Duo processor-based TCP/IP offload engines or packet processing AMC’s. They can be integrated into ATCA Blades or Carriers as well as MicroTCA systems to accomplish network processing tasks with the advantage of running on dedicated general purpose processors executing legacy code.

Further performance advantages can be obtained by the incorporation of multi-core aware network middleware from companies such as 6WIND who provide an open framework which eases the transition from single to many cores. In fact they even go a step further by placing configuration and management at the heart of their software to solve real business issues of time and cost savings associated with software integration, interface, configuration and network management of multi-core machines.

As we move forward through 2008 developers will be testing the ability of general purpose processor cores to outperform network processors in certain applications. Network processors are also multi-core processors, but augmented with networking-specific instructions, on-chip accelerators and memory. However the key measurement criteria will be to evaluate how well multi-core general-purpose processors could work within programmable networking equipment, such as routers, network analyzers or integrated security platforms.

memory. However the key measurement criteria will be to evaluate how well multi-core general-purpose processors could work within programmable networking equipment, such as routers, network analyzers or integrated security platforms.

Currently, the specialized network processor features mentioned above provide improved performance, but they do come at the cost of reduced generality and familiarity which can also be conceived as somewhat detrimental to programmer productivity. A larger installed base of software and developers exists around Intel-based platforms and there is also an expectation of better application portability to future systems.

Intel’s multi-core revolution is leading the way for reduced slot counts in CompactPCI, ATCA and MicroTCA bladed systems and offers economies of scale in both product provisioning and re-use. Not only can the same Intel Core 2 Duo processor-based blade be used in multiple instances as an application processor, but it can be used as an intelligent packet processing engine with multiple gigabit Ethernet ports offering line-speed packet inspection capabilities.

In a CompactPCI environment the same Intel Core 2 Duo processor- based blades can be used as the baseboard for application processing, intelligent I/O control and gateway functionality by populating them with I/O-specific PCI Mezzanine Cards (PMCs). This provides some compelling benefits such as the same communication interface between baseboards, be it via PICMG 2.16 packet-switching or non transparent PCI bridging mechanisms with identical programming interfaces. Beyond the pure technical advantages, commercial benefits such as reduced inventory and improved volume pricing can also be achieved.

With the many-core revolution well underway and advanced general purpose system-on-chip functionality approaching fast, we are entering an accelerated software-defined functionality era. Host Media Processing brought us the ability to process a telephony call’s media stream rather than use digital signal processors (DSP’s) to perform the task. Right now, software defined Radio, RFID and Radar initiatives are moving ahead fast. By developing with multi-bladed, multi-processor and multi-core configurations today, our embedded Intel Core 2 Duo and Intel® Core™2 Quad processor-based computing blades are preparing the future shape of the network.


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