Intel is still working to catch up on smartphone and tablet application processors and LTE modems, and is also pursuing efforts in wearable computing. However, the company is also planning a major push to get its silicon into hardware that represents the guts of networks--routers, switches and base stations.
The driving force behind Intel's move is carriers' decisions to move away from purpose-built network gear to more flexible solutions. Carriers are looking to consolidate such hardware, as GigaOM notes, and chipset companies, including Intel rival ARM Holdings, are looking to provide the silicon that will be the basis for these new, more agile networking platforms.
One of the biggest forces behind this transformation is software-defined networking, which essentially decouples network functions from purpose-built hardware--by virtualizing the infrastructure--and can enable networks to better handle surprise traffic surges, improve time to market for new services and result in cost savings for operators as they deal with increasing data traffic.
"This isn't a strategy that started when SDN started to get attention," Rose Schooler, vice president and general manager of the Communications and Storage Infrastructure Division at Intel, told GigaOM. "We've been on this journey for a decade. We've been looking at the evolution for the IA [Intel architecture] franchise within communications and redefined networking to boil it down into all of the infrastructure and workloads that support a network function."
Schooler plans to detail more of the work Intel is doing in this arena in a webcast on Wednesday. Intel wants to focus on application processing for things such as billing, and data plane processing, where routers route data packets. Schooler said Intel is not likely going to replace the giants in that arena, such as Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Broadcom. However, she said Intel is also likely going to be focused on control plane processing, which moves data bits around a network, as well as signal processing for radio access networks, an area in which Intel is weak and likely would need a partner, though it's unclear which company that might be.
Intel will likely need to develop new silicon to handle these network function and put them together in a package that is attractive to carriers. However, it wouldn't be the first time that Intel has developed new chip lines to attack new and emerging markets. After all, just in October Intel announced new low-power chips under the Quark family name for connected devices, part of the company's "Internet of Things" strategy.
- see this GigaOM article
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