Dealing with ATCA
Robin Kent, Director of Operations at Adax Europe, sees operators and equipment manufacturers plate spinning with telecommunications standards.
As telecommunications signalling vendors clamour to develop and launch products based around Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA), operators and equipment manufacturers must decide on the extent to which the standard will shape their future business.
ATCA is set to have a massive influence on the telecommunications industry, with more than 200 vendors specifying the standard to date.
It has been developed to facilitate greater levels of interoperability between different vendors' products and will be of particular benefit to telecommunications operators in the access, edge and transport and service delivery environments.
Once it is an established technology, ATCA will enable operators to reduce capital and operational expenditure whilst providing them with the flexibility to supply a greater range of value-add services to their customers.
But its introduction does not come without challenges.
ATCA is a technology in development and is currently the subject of extensive trials and evaluations.
Whilst this practice will become increasingly commonplace throughout 2007, it's possible that it will be 2009 before large-scale field deployments commence.
As a result, current infrastructure development strategies will inevitably need to address the potential role of this emerging standard.
Furthermore, although ATCA is a welcome development, there are, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, aspects of the telecommunications infrastructure that will be better served by the continued use of existing standards and architectures.
This is an inevitable cause for concern for operators tasked with managing a multitude of standards.
There are also questions over its scalability (although the Micro-TCA initiative will help to address some of these concerns), and there is the ongoing pressure to deliver excellent service at the lowest capital and operational cost.
So how can operators begin to address these challenges?.
On the surface the options are clear - they either adopt or ignore ATCA.
But both approaches have their downfalls.
Choosing the former at this particular point in time may result in long-term benefits, but until the technology is more widespread and proven, it is an expensive, high-risk approach.
On the other hand, a failure to prepare for the introduction of ATCA-compliant technologies could cause them to lose ground to the competition over the medium to long-term.
On balance then, it's clear that an approach that readies the infrastructure for the adoption of ATCA, without compromising the operator's ability to exploit existing and forthcoming revenue opportunities in the interim, has to be the ultimate goal.
To achieve this aim, they will need to need to re-evaluate both the hardware on which their existing infrastructure is based and the capabilities of the software systems they use to manage them to deal with emerging standards and protocols.
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