Intel Boosts Optical Networks

Intel executives on Wednesday unveiled products, including a device called GigaBlade OC-48, which they said will add intelligence to networks for the purpose of billing and getting maximum performance while consuming the least amount of power in wireless devices.

"At the end of the day, it's all about billing," said Mark Christensen, the vice president and general manager for Intel's Network Communication Group, said in a keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum.

Christensen said that although communication companies realize they will have to continue to carry "commodity voice traffic," its decreasing profitability is driving a trend toward offering more services. The challenge in deploying such services, like streaming rental movies for example, will be "adding intelligence on top the communication network" and the ability to add customers seamlessly, he said.

To meet this challenge, Christensen announced the Intel GigaBlade OC-48, a device that "enables IA (Intel Architecture) servers to go right in to the optical network."In a demonstration of the GigaBlade, a software application called the Narus Optical Analyzer, from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Narus, was used to analyze a streaming-video movie feed. As the video played and began to deteriorate in quality, the software running over the GigaBlade was able to transform a network activity into a billable spreadsheet. The software can thus recognize the poor quality of the video feed and discount the customer for the inconvenience.

With the GigaBlade-enabled software, users can analyze and more accurately bill Web transactions, mail messages, and audio and video teleconferencing, "enabling the next generation of billable services," said Christensen.

Christensen closed his section of the keynote by announcing a new line of products from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company that will be called the Internet Media Switch family. Complete solution stacks from the software to the silicon, the new class of switches will help equipment manufacturers build multi-service capabilities over Ethernet networks, and enable voice and video integration over IP networks.

Following Christensen, Ron Smith, the vice president and general manager for Intel's Wireless Communications and Computing Group, in his portion of the keynote Wednesday introduced a new wireless architecture called Intel XScale Technology.

Built from the base of Intel's StrongARM mobile processor, the XScale processor architecture is designed to optimize performance while using the least amount of power possible, a function Smith called vital to the future of hand-held wireless devices, which he expects to multiply rapidly over the next year.

In a demonstration of XScale architecture on an XScale processor prototype, the application of 1.4 volts of power yielded a processor clock speed of 800-MHz while consuming less than a single watt of power and executing just over 1,000 MIPS (million instructions per second). Dropping the available power supply down to 0.07 volts, the XScale demo was clocked at 200MHz while performing 250MIPS -- enough, Smith said, to operate third generation cell phones, applications like streaming video, and most PDAs (personal digital assistants).

Smith said that the possibilities exist for the XScale architecture core to go beyond handheld devices and into certain network routers, switches, and I/O processor products for storage devices, many of which will appear on the market this year.

To fuel such development, Smith said that before the end of the year, Intel will make available XScale's Integrated Performance Primitives, which are libraries of code for the XScale architecture.

By writing to the Integrated Performance Primitives, which Smith said are operating system-independent, developers can also write to the StrongARM architecture, Intel's IA-32 architecture, and Intel's next generation IA-64 architecture, all with the same stroke.

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