Robert Courteau, General Manager of North America, Kontron
Prior to becoming General Manager of North America for Kontron, Robert led Kontron’s Canadian division for several years. A 10-year-plus veteran of Kontron, Robert also holds more than 15 years of management and engineering experience from the aerospace industry.
How does the whole equal more than just the sum of its parts for Kontron customers?
Kontron is an organization that has one of the strongest, if not the strongest, engineering and R&D arms within the global embedded computing market. All the various Kontron divisions benefit greatly by the sharing of engineering resources, tools, and more streamlined engineering methods across the globe.
Moreover, this enables Kontron to make high-volume component and processor purchases as one group. One product line can leverage existing Kontron products to perhaps complete a new design sooner. Kontron has full control of all components within, say, its platform product portfolio. For example, inside a carrier-grade rack mount server you can find a Kontron server-class motherboard. Designed into an AdvancedTCA switch is a Kontron COM Express module, and so on.
To provide AdvancedTCA best-in-class products we partner with the right vendors who have the right technology solutions. Intel is one of our key suppliers, but we also work with other technology providers, such as Cavium Networks and Broadcom, to support other hardware building blocks for our customers.
Examine the breadth of products across the xTCA ecosystem, and you will discover a healthy range of diverse technologies (MIPS64, Freescale, AMD, TI) that make AdvancedTCA and MicroTCA (and AMC modules) attractive to Telecom Equipment Manufacturers (TEMs). It’s no surprise then that in the past several years the adoption rate of xTCA among Tier-1 and Tier-2 TEMs has been highly significant.
Does AdvancedTCA now clearly belong in the smaller, faster, more power-efficient platforms discussion?
Absolutely, yes. The demand for AdvancedTCA from the military market is growing fast. Kontron military customers are able to leverage the fact that the requirements AdvancedTCA meets are close to the military communication requirements. Whether for military communications or government solutions, time-to-market and cost sensitivities are still valid factors in their overall purchase decisions. With the APLabs acquisition, Kontron has increased its capabilities to provide enclosures specifically for military environments, and we are drawing from this experience and know-how to make AdvancedTCA a perfect complement to our overall offerings to this particular market.
How are your development capabilities influencing your AdvancedTCA offerings?
IPMI software and Board Support Packages (BSPs) have long been a part of Kontron AdvancedTCA board and system-level packages. Our strong and highly stable IPMI software development knowledge base is used throughout multiple Kontron product lines. Kontron also has a 100 percent ownership of core software development expertise in RTSoft, a company of more than 600 software engineers. This is Kontron’s Global Software Center, offering services for BSPs for all-important OSs such as Windows 7, Linux, and VxWorks, including all drivers and support of all hardware features, and Hypervisor/Virtualization for validation with different OSs.
What is a good AdvancedTCA view?
One that considers both the technological and commercial aspects of AdvancedTCA within an ecosystem framework and considers ‘make versus buy’ and ‘open versus closed,’ proprietary architectures. The benefits are many when a vendor has the freedom to choose best-of-breed components and platforms at the best price points for their system designs. One only has to walk a Mobile World Congress or a CTIA event and see the number of equipment vendors who display their products that have been built using AdvancedTCA or MicroTCA hardware.
And the use of an AdvancedTCA blade is not limited to only core network elements. Typically, it can serve as a packed data network gateway in a full-scale, redundant 14-slot platform, but it could also be used in eNodeB implementations with a two-slot combination of x86 and MIPS64 (Cavium Networks) to serve the edge network. AdvancedTCA has reached maturity and all major TEMs (and that includes Ericsson and Cisco) are leveraging AdvancedTCA.
What's the infrastructure behind the AT8242?
We are the first to launch this type of blade into the market, and the Kontron AT8242 has been an exciting product for us to develop. However, getting to this point with this type of technology did not happen overnight. Kontron has worked extensively with silicon partner Cavium Networks over the years, and the AT8242 is the third generation of Kontron products based on Cavium multicore packet processors. But it goes deeper than that. We have been a Cavium Networks Partnership to Accelerate Customer End-solutions (PACE) member for the last five years, which has helped open new opportunities for Kontron as part of its overall hardware and software ecosystem.
Telecom core network requirements are based on multiple native 10G support processors with multicore packet processing capabilities, such as DPI in packet gateways. Some of these requirements cannot be met by a single micro architecture design.
Cavium Networks has developed multicore processors for just this type of application within a power budget that fits the AdvancedTCA thermal framework. Therefore, we provide flexibility for packet gateway developments that use AdvancedTCA. There were no compromises, and it is an entirely natural fit.
Kontron launched its 40G packet processor blade and 40G platform in line with Cavium’s launch of the OCTEON II cn6800 series. The hardware already exists for TEMs who are already developing LTE network systems, such as packet gateways. They can take full advantage of the existing AdvancedTCA hardware and start focusing – on day one – on their software development, way ahead of the competition. That’s certainly an attractive business case to equipment vendors of any size.