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Intel Updates 5G Network Infrastructure To Focus on $25 Billion Market
by Daniel Newman | October 1, 2020

The News: Intel today announced an expanded lineup of hardware, software and solutions for network infrastructure, including: enhancements to Intel’s software reference architecture, FlexRAN; Intel® virtualized radio access network (vRAN) dedicated accelerator; network-optimized next-generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable and D processors (code-named “Ice Lake”); and upgraded Intel® Select Solutions for Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI). Read the full press release from Intel.

Analyst Take: Intel continues to maintain a keen focus on the opportunity for network infrastructure as NFV and SDN continue to dominate the transition from proprietary service provider infrastructure to flexible architectures that provide more agility for these providers as we rapidly deploy 5G across the globe.

What did Intel Announce? 

The first announcement was that Intel’s FlexRAN software reference architecture was being updated. It will be optimized to support the massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO) mid-band pipeline for increased bandwidth and support for ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC). Amdocs, a leading provider of BSS/OSS solutions among others to Telcos endorsed this announcement immediately by announcing a FlexRAN integration with its SmartRAN analytics.

The next announcement from Intel was its new vRAN Dedicated Accelerator ACC100, which is based on Intel’s eASIC technology. This solution is designed to offload and accelerate the computing-intensive process of forward error correction, freeing up processing power within Intel Xeon processors. Intel worked with key service providers and partners to bring this product to market including a who’s who list of telco players (per Intel): Telefonica, Altiostar, ASTRI, Baicells, Comba, H3C, HPE, Mavenir, Nokia, Radisys, Ruijie, Silicom, Supermicro and ZT Systems.

Perhaps one of the most important announcements was the updates to architecture that favor a modernized IT approached. Using Next Generation Intel Xeon processors for network infrastructure, customers will now be able to use a  common architecture across the network for various workloads and performance requirements.  The third generation processor is designed for many use cases, but has a compelling set of capabilities for communications networks that require higher performance per watt. This addresses wireless core, wireless access and network edge workloads and security appliances. It is also friendly for some of the newer form factors that are creating new constraints for building systems at the edge.

Also, and as I would expect, the company brought forward in its announcement a new set of “Enhanced Intel Select Solutions” for network.  The company said that these solutions will improve application efficiency and network performance for high-performance network workloads and have been upgraded to support the new Intel® Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapter. The Select Solutions program has yielded a successful and scalable approach to delivering validated solutions to optimize Intel’s partners and ISV’s etc. I was glad to see this is a focus area as it will be important for the company to meet its expected targets in this space.

Overall Impressions of Intel’s Network Infrastructure Announcements

Intel continues to forge ahead aggressively in the network infrastructure space and these announcements fortified these endeavors.

With the significant market opportunity ($25 Billion by 2023) that exists right now around silicon for 5G deployments, Intel, with its innovation and core components required to build and deliver next generation vRAN finds itself in a strong position. With more than 15,000 deployments at the edge already, this position of strength will be validated if it meets its aggressive market share ambitions and projections for its Atom 5900 process (Snow Ridge), which the company expects to lead in silicon provider base stations by 2021.

Intel is on the right track here, and these announcements will play a key role in the company meeting its ambitions in this market.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

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Image: Intel

Daniel Newman