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Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Intel Unveils New Communications Platform

Intel today disclosed features for the company's next-generation communications platform, codenamed "Crystal Forest."

The company says that the new platform will handle data processing across the network more efficiently and securely, while addressing the specialized needs for handling cloud connectivity and content processing.

Intel is trying to make a mark in the network processor market with the new chipset, where it could compete with companies such as Cavium, AppliedMicro and Tilera.

Crystal Forest succeeds Jasper Forest, a Xeon chip that had an integrated I/O hub and found adoption in storage devices and server appliances.

With Crystal Forest, equipment manufacturers will be able to consolidate three communications workloads - application, control and packet processing - on multi-core Intel architecture processors. They can also develop a scalable product line based on multiple Intel processor options to plan for future performance increases.

"The demand for increased network performance will continue to grow as more smart devices connect to the Internet every day," said Rose Schooler, general manager of Intel's Communications Infrastructure Division. "And with the popularity of social networking and other high-bandwidth services, such as video and photo uploads/downloads, interactive video, crowdcasting and online gaming, service providers will be challenged to efficiently provision sufficient upstream capacity and manage the spike in network traffic."

The chipset includes a CPU based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, I/O, Ethernet interface and new hardware called QuickAssist. Intel QuickAssist technology processes and accelerates specialized packet workloads - cryptography, compression and deep packet inspection included - on standard Intel platforms. Using this technology, secure Internet transactions can be accelerated up to 100Gbps on the platform to give service providers the ability to handle many more secure transactions and without the cost of specialized solutions. The network will also be able to evolve to provide "always-on" secure Internet connections, as opposed to the opt-in connections currently used on select applications or for financial transactions online.

Intel's next-generation communications platform is expected to deliver up to 160 million packets per second performance for Layer 3 packet forwarding, making it possible to send thousands of high-definition videos across each network node. Previously, only ASIC or specialized processors were capable of sending more than 100 million packets per second. The Intel Data Plane Development Kit, a set of software libraries and algorithms, improves the performance and throughput of packets on Intel architecture platforms to yield more than five times the performance over previous generations of Intel platforms.

Intel designed the Crystal Forest platform to enable equipment manufacturers to design more flexible platforms, from small- to medium-sized business firewalls to high-end routers. Service providers, too, can save money by deploying fewer complex platforms, making their network easier to manage and maintain. The Intel platform roadmap plans to deliver annual performance refreshes for several years, so equipment manufacturers and service providers will be able to scale and refresh their designs to meet future network needs. Additionally, Crystal Forest will use a common application programming interface and common drivers so that multiple designs can be implemented in much less time and at much lower development costs.

Developers can accelerate software development, testing and integration by utilizing a simulation model of the Crystal Forest platform provided by Wind River Simics. With Simics, users can model any Crystal Forest target configuration and then run unmodified target software on that model. Wind River Simics enables developers to do BIOS bring-up, operating-system optimization and application development more efficiently.

The new platform is scheduled to be available later in 2012.

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