Schroff AdvancedTCA technology further accelerates development of Intune Networks’ optical-switching platform

AdvancedTCA systems and design expertise from electronics packaging specialist Schroff have played a key role in the development of the first commercial product from Intune Networks, the Dublin-based company responsible for pioneering sub-wavelength networking technology.

Unveiled in 2011, Intune’s Verisma iVX8000 network platform is the culmination of more than a decade of R&D. The product uses OPST (optical packet switch and transport) technology to deliver new levels of carrier-network efficiency, operational simplicity and flexibility, which are needed to meet the global challenge presented by the massive increases in on-demand data traffic.

Right from the early design stages, Intune had settled on AdvancedTCA (ATCA) architecture for the hardware of the Verisma product line since it provided a standardised framework that would both minimise development costs and reduce time-to-market.

David McDonald, Intune’s VP Engineering, takes up the story: “We recognised from the outset that our innovations in controlling optics could be applied to standard components. ATCA was already a mature technology that had been adopted fairly broadly by carrier-network operators. While there are a number of standard building blocks within the ATCA ecosystem that we could use, the architecture is also flexible enough to allow any necessary customisation to meet the requirements of our particular system specification.”

What Intune needed next was an ATCA vendor that could offer a complete solution, encompassing the design and manufacture of not only the mechanical parts of the system but also electronic subsystems such as the backplane,power entry module, rack alarm unit and clock synchronisation unit.

“We looked at a number of packaging providers who had strengths in one area or another,” said McDonald, “but it was Schroff that best met the criteria of our evaluation process. Their mechanical engineering team, their pedigree in ATCA technology, their strong capability in backplane design, and global coverage through their parent company Pentair – these were the factors that led us to selecting Schroff as our packaging partner.”

Schroff had to develop a number of new features to cope with the demands of Intune’s highly scaled system. The most demanding aspect of the project for Schroff was the development of a special electrical/optical backplane to handle the innovative OPST technology and its high transmission rates. This was achieved after extensive simulation and prototyping work, followed by 100 percent connectivity testing across all the paths in the backplane.

David McDonald again: “Because of the nature of the optical backplane we’re using, it’s a very unique design. However, Schroff demonstrated strong capabilities in that area and was able to deliver both the functionality and quality that our customers expect of us.”

The final Verisma iVX8000 product consists of an ATCA-based shelf measuring 753 x 448 x 285mm and is designed in such a way as to allow two of the units to be mounted back-to-back within a standard 600mm-deep ETSI cabinet. Each unit is equipped with two power entry modules for dual redundant operation, as well as hot-swap capability on other modules. By eliminating single points of failure in this way, it achieves a network availability of 99.999 percent.

With cloud computing and mobile broadband continuing to drive on-demand network-based services, the Verisma product line looks set for rapid deployment in the field. Indeed, the potential of Intune’s OPST technology has enabled the company to secure total funding in excess of 60 million euros in the last five years, making it one of the largest private equity investments in the global telecoms equipment sector in recent times.

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