AdvancedTCA® Overview

atca2The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA®) atca37458specifications, denoted PICMG 3.X, are a series of PICMG specifications, designed to provide an open, multi-vendor architecture targeted to requirements for the next generation of carrier grade communications equipment. This series of specifications incorporates the latest trends in high speed interconnect technologies, next generation processors and improved reliability, manageability and serviceability.

AdvancedTCA, also known as ATCA, is the first open architecture that provides an extremely sophisticated and robust system management architecture that enables High Availability systems that keep running in the event of individual component or sub-system failure. This also enables “on-the-fly” software upgrades while the system is operating.

The original AdvancedTCA specification was released in January of 2003 and has been adopted by many of the top telecommunication equipment providers. It has expanded its reach into non-carrier grade environments where high processor and I/O density coupled with high system bandwidth are required.

AdvancedTCA is the most widely used open standard for global telecommunications infrastructure and is becoming so for a variety of critical military applications. AdvancedTCA is also employed in large-scale physics experiments and ruggedized applications in the military market.

Companies participating in the AdvancedTCA effort have brought a wide range of knowledge of the industry. They include telecommunications equipment manufacturers, board and system level vendors, computer OEMs, software companies and chassis, connector and power supply vendors.

The specifications provide enough information to allow board, backplane, and chassis vendors to independently develop products that will be interoperable when integrated together. Details include board dimensions, equipment practice, connectors, power distribution and a robust system management architecture that can be used independent of the switch fabric link technology. Interoperability of system components from different manufacturers is tested regularly through an on-going series of PICMG-sponsored Interoperability Workshops.

The AdvancedTCA community has recently completed and released of a fairly major enhancement to the core ATCA standard. This new specification is known as “PICMG 3.7” or “ATCA Extensions.” It expands the packaging definitions to include dual sided shelves, where ATCA boards can plug into either the front of the back of a double-deep rack and interconnect through the backplane. In addition to this, the Extensions specification also allows for something called Extended Transition Module (ETM) that is essentially a front board-sized circuit board that connects to a front board via Zone 3, much like a standard Rear Transition Module. There are many variations of interconnects allowed, but Figure 1 below gives a general idea of the concept.

37picmg

Importantly, PICMG 3.7 provides a much more detailed definition of, and support for, double wide modules than the original specification. These can support multiple processors, bigger heatsinks, cheaper full height memory modules, and multiple disk drives on a single assembly if desired. PICMG 3.7 also defines requirements for typical data center environments in addition to the telco central office. Double wide modules can support up to 800W of power dissipation if the shelf is built for that. AC as well as traditional -48VDC power environments are also supported.

The PICMG 3.1R3.0 – 100GbE ATCA specification has also been ratified.  Driven by the need for higher bandwidth in mobility, video and security, this effort provided capacity improvement to the ATCA platform by incorporating 100Gb backplane Ethernet. Backward compatibility has been maintained. PICMG 3.1 R3.0 updated the PICMG 3.1 specification to incorporate 100GBASE-KR4 (NRZ) Ethernet signaling with full simulation/characterization studies to ensure compliance.

AdvancedTCA now supports IPv6 Addressing Protocols

Key Benefits and Features

  • AdvancedTCA provides the high availability necessary for central office applications which often require European Telecommunication Standard Institute (ETSI) and Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) compliance.
  • Each chassis can accommodate up to 16 slots (23” width) or 14 slots (19” width) to offer scalable capacity up to 10 terabits per second.
  • Includes hot-swappable, managed and redundant fan units to cool blades which can dissipate 400 Watts per slot.
  • Redundant -48 VDC power infrastructure compatible with global telecom standards.
  • The mid plane design allows usage of Rear Transition Modules (RTM) for I/O connectivity to the companion front board blade. This is popular in central office telecom applications where it is desirable to be able to change computer modules without disturbing wiring.
  • Blades are interconnected redundantly in star or mesh fabric topologies via a base interface and via an optional fabric interface.
  • The base interface and higher speed fabric interface provide connectivity across the slots allowing separation of control plane processing from higher bandwidth user plane data.
  • Supports multiple switching fabric interfaces as defined in standards PICMG 3.1 (Ethernet and Fiber Channel) through PICMG 3.5 (Serial RapidIO).
  • High levels of modularity and configurability can be achieved through the use of Advanced Mezzanine Cards as defined in the PICMG AMC family of standards.
  • Shelf management monitors and controls blades and other Field Replaceable Units (FRUs). It also controls power, cooling, and interconnection across the system enabling enhanced functionality
  • The shelf management system can retrieve inventory information and sensor readings as well as receive event reports and failure notification from any FRU.
  • The shelf management also performs basic recovery operations such as power cycle and reset of any managed entities.

Family of Specifications

System Fabric Plane Internal TDM
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG SFP.1

System Fabric Plane Internal TDM

System Fabric Plane
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG SFP.0

System Fabric Plane

Physics Design Guide for Clocks, Gates, and Triggers
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PDG.0

Physics Design Guide for Clocks, Gates, and Triggers

Intelligent Rear Transition Module
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
IRTM.0

Intelligent Rear Transition Module

AdvancedTCA Rear Transition Module
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.8

AdvancedTCA Rear Transition Module

AdvancedTCA® Extensions
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.7

AdvancedTCA® Extensions

Serial RapidIO for AdvancedTCA
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.5

Serial RapidIO for AdvancedTCA

PCI Express® for AdvancedTCA
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.4

PCI Express® for AdvancedTCA

InfiniBand for AdvancedTCA
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.2

InfiniBand for AdvancedTCA

Starfabric/Advanced Switching for AdvancedTCA
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.3

Starfabric/Advanced Switching for AdvancedTCA

Ethernet/Fibre Channel for AdvancedTCA
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.1

Ethernet/Fibre Channel for AdvancedTCA

AdvancedTCA® Base Specification
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description
PICMG 3.0

AdvancedTCA® Base Specification

Target Applications

  • Telecom infrastructure equipment including many of the elements in the Evolved Packet Core(EPC) and IP Multimedia Subsystem(IMS).
  • High-end network security platforms which secure enterprise data centers (banks, insurance companies, etc).
  • Large-scale physics experiments.
  • Military radar, shipboard, and ground mobile

System Requirements

An AdvancedTCA system typically consists of a shelf (backplane and card cage), one or more fabric witch cards, a variable number of processors boards (blades), system management infrastructure including one or more Shelf Management cards, and a source of -48VDC, usually dual and redundant. 

The design flexibility offered by the Data Transport Interfaces, particularly the Fabric Interface, requires some guidelines to ensure proper inter-operability between compatible Boards. 

The AdvancedTCA™ Electronic Keying mechanism will confirm compatible connections exist prior to interface drivers being enabled. This ensures incompatible Boards do not damage one another if installed into a Shelf together; however, inter-operability of compatible Boards can only be obtained when they are installed correctly. In general, it is best to install Boards starting with the lowest numbered Logical Slots