Intel is offering a sneak peek at Crystal Forest, the company's next-generation communications platform. Crystal Forest promises to handle data processing across the network more securely and efficiently and deal with cloud connectivity and content processing. The new platform is scheduled to be available later in 2012.
Like Cisco, Intel sees the opportunity in video. Every minute of the day, 30 hours of video are uploaded across the network, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index, and by 2015 it will take about five years to watch all the video crossing IP networks every second. That demand cries out for solutions that can manage traffic without lags in performance or security.
"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, crowd-casting and online gaming, service providers will be challenged to efficiently provision sufficient upstream capacity and manage the spike in network traffic."
Fast and Secure
Crystal Forest is Intel's answer. The platform allows equipment manufacturers to consolidate three communications workloads -- application, control and packet processing -- on multi-core Intel architecture processors. The promised result: better performance and faster time to market.
Intel expects Crystal Forest to deliver up to 160 million packets-per-second performance for Layer 3 packet forwarding. With that kind of speed, it's 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.
Crystal Forest will also tap Intel QuickAssist technology, which 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.
Intel's Tried-and-True Strategy
"In essence, Intel's strategy around networking is similar to many of its previous efforts: utilize highly adaptable, industry-standard x86 CPUs and related technologies, tweak solutions with innovative algorithms, software and programming tools, and take advantage of its remarkable manufacturing and supply chain assets to deliver powerful, flexible solutions at highly attractive price points," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
That approach, said King, has already led Intel into enviable positions in the PC, notebook, server and storage markets, but could networking be any different? As King sees it, no bet is a sure thing. But he's bullish on the opportunity.
"Overall, it seems likely that Intel will find similar success within networking, especially as elemental computing and storage functionalities find their way further and further into those infrastructures," King said. "Intel's efforts in separate yet often tightly related fields -- integrated security functionalities via its McAfee acquisition seems one good bet -- are likely to further spur this transformation."