Intel Tweaks Chips for VoIP Revolution

by Michael Singer

The company's new NPUs focus on DSLAMs, wireless access switches and enterprise router line cards.

Intel introduced two families of XScale processors it said will help carriers speed up their Voice and Video over IP deployments.

The network processor units (NPUs) introduced this week are expected to find their way to DSLAMs , wireless access switches and enterprise router line cards for traditional communications applications and for the emerging embedded networking segment.

The chipmaking giant is striking before the iron gets really hot. Jupiter Research forecasts that VoIP telephony services will grow to about 400,000 U.S. households by the end of 2004, and to 12.1 million households by 2009, which represent about 10 percent of all U.S. households. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are owned by the same parent company.)

Intel said its new IXP2325 and IXP2350 network chips can help combine data-plane and control-plane processing capabilities in a single chip and are the company's first network processors built on 90 nanometer process technology.

The NPUs run up to 2 Gbps line rates and use the same hardware and software architecture as the rest of the IXP2XXX product line.

"It is interesting that Intel is releasing the chips in 90nm," Kevin Krewell, principal analyst for In-Stat/MDR told internetnews.com. "Intel has in the past reserved its leading edge process for its x86 processors. It seems Intel has enough 90nm capacity to now use it in its embedded processors line."

But that is just the kind of thinking that Intel network processor business manager Terry West wants the competition to fear, especially with the migration in North America to 3G networks and the rush toward VoIP.

"We have VoIP happening at breakneck speed, and once we figure out that issue, video is right behind it," West told internetnews.com. "Intel has been this big proponent of open standard and module architectures. Most of the equipment in the past has been proprietary design. People sometimes accuse us of being some type of Darth Vader and trying to commoditize the industry. But shifting to programmable chips instead of ASICs means that you can have more boards. The downturn in the telecom industry accelerated that change. Now we are seeing ATCA [Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture] standardized chassis

Intel said it has more than a dozen companies like Samsung and HP taking the off-the-shelf boards based on the IXP23XX family, and offering it up to telcos and carriers.

On the lower end of the spectrum, Intel released its IXP460 and IXP465 network processors to augment their current 16 or so SKUs. The latest additions include features like built-in Ethernet, USB and real-time synchronization. Rockwell Automation said it would use the chips in its next generation of network automation equipment. HP is also planning to use the IXP46X in a future line of high-end printers.

Intel and members of the Intel Communications Alliance also debuted development tools, hardware platforms, software building blocks, and application-specific software solutions to support the IXP23XX and IXP46X product lines.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Oct 20th 2004