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Intel may not be competing in the 5G smartphone market, but it will still be powering the 5G network infrastructure

By Ken Wong - on 2 Mar 2020, 4:16pm

Intel may not be competing in the 5G smartphone market, but it's announcements show it will be hanging around for a while more

Intel may have given up competing in the 5G smartphone space, but the company isn’t throwing the towel in completely. In November, it announced a partnership with MediaTek to develop, certify, and support 5G modem solutions for next-generation PC platforms.

To further support this, Intel made a series of hardware and software announcements, including the launch of the new Intel Atom P5900, a 10nm system-on-a-chip (SoC) for wireless base stations, which is a critical early deployment target for 5G networks. Built with Intel's hardware-based network acceleration, the Intel Atom P5900 is primed to deliver ultra-low latency which is especially important for 5G connectivity. In addition to a built-in hardware-based dynamic load balancer for higher packet processing throughput, the processor also leverages on Intel's QuickAssist Technology (Intel QAT which we've summarized here) to make short work at cryptograhy that accounts for a sizeable portion of its workload given its base station network processing deployment.


Other related hardware and software announcements

With the arrival of 5G, businesses are looking for ways to deliver micro-services to where they are needed over networks with lower latency.

During an online briefing to replace the cancelled Mobile World Congress 2020 in Barcelona, Lisa Spelman, Corporate Vice President General Manager, Intel Xeon Processors and Data Center Marketing at Intel said that many of the new services that will be enabled by 5g will require redistributing where data is processed and bring it closer to the edge. This is a perfect space for Intel she said. 

Besides 5G, the other key focus area for Intel is around Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

According to Spelman, AI is driving disruptive innovation across the data-centric landscape from the data centre to the network to the edge. Intel shared how AI is an umbrella for a multitude of different models and applications from machine learning (ML) to deep learning (DL) and the subcategories that are spanning smart devices to the intelligent edge and multi-cloud. The AI field is progressing rapidly and computing requirements continue to evolve. "All told, we do believe there is no one size fits all approach to satisfy the diverse requirements for all of these different use cases.

Besides Intel's Atom P5900 platform for wireless 5G base stations, their other hardware and software announcements include:

  • New 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors: Although Intel launched the 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors nearly year back, they have now enhanced the processor lineup with SKUs to deliver higher frequencies for high-performance usage, better customer value and market differentiation. With octa-core Xeon Gold 6250, Intel is boasting base clock speeds of up to 3.9GHz and a boost clock of 4.5GHz. There's also a 12-core Xeon Gold 6256 that can deliver similar boost clocks, but base clocks start from 3.6GHz.

    For mainstream server deployment new Xeon Gold 6200R and Xeon Gold 5200R models pack more cache (35.75MB) and more cores to target workloads where higher processing capacity-per-server is critical such as virtualized clouds, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and network function virtualization (NFV). For entry-level, edge and IoT deployment, the Xeon Gold 6200U single-socket processor and Xeon Silver 4200R/4210R + Xeon Bronze 3200R models are fielded respectively. to recap, Intel Xeon Scalable processors helps protect the integrity of the data and the platform with hardware-enhanced security and built-in encryption accelerators. For the full processor list, refer here.
  • Diamond Mesa: Codenamed Diamond Mesa, Intel’s first next-generation structured ASIC for 5G network acceleration is designed to complement Intel’s portfolio of processors and FPGAs to deliver high performance and low latency required for 5G networks. Structured ASICs like Diamond Mesa provides a minimum-risk optimisation path for workloads that do not require the full programmability of FPGAs, targeting double the performance efficiency versus the prior generation. This is currently open to early access customers.
  • Intel Ethernet 700 Series Network Adapter: As Intel’s first 5G- optimised network adapter, it offers GPS-based cross-network service synchronisation with Hardware-Enhanced Precision Time Protocol (PTP). Latency requirements across 5G network implementations have challenged existing Ethernet technology, especially in edge servers. Maintaining accurate time synchronization across the network at a cost-effective price point, however, is one avenue to help address application latency. The Ethernet 700 series adapter is expected to enter production in Q2‘20.
  • Open Network Edge Services Software (OpenNESS) toolkit: Intel has also expanded its edge computing software toolkits to accelerate time-to-market innovation for customers and partners. The OpenNESS toolkit now supports standalone 5GNR and Enhanced Platform Awareness (EPA) deployments, giving customers the flexibility to easily deploy their choice of cloud-native edge micro-services.
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