Freescale Semiconductor: “The awards shortlist is an excellent way of raising awareness of our solutions”

Iain Davidson, Freescale

We speak to Iain Davidson, Business Development Manager (EMEA) at US-headquartered firm Freescale Semiconductor, which won the category ‘Enabling Silicon and Component-Level Technologies’ at this year’s Broadband InfoVision Awards for its Secure Broadband Gateway solutions.

Can you tell us a little more about your entry?

The classic silicon vendor approach to enablement is to ship a processor on an evaluation board together with software tools ranging from development and debug tools (almost always), an operating system (usually), communication protocol stacks and demo app (sometimes).

For broadband gateways, Freescale takes this to a new level. Freescale’s secure broadband gateway portfolio, based on the QorIQ Multicore Communication Processors, also integrates Freescale’s VortiQa commercial-grade IP Networking software to provide a range of production-ready solutions in a box.

The solutions are helping service providers to quickly and cost-effectively create a range of secure gateway applications from a common architectural platform. These include unified threat management (UTM) appliances, Wi-Fi access points, secured routers, VoIP gateways, VPN routers, secured switches, multi-service business gateways and intrusion prevention/detection (IPS/IDS) appliances.

Why do you think the judges selected your entry for this award?

The solutions-based approach is very evident in this market offering. It recognises and delivers on the needs for service providers to speed time-to-market and maximise return-on-investment. Achieving product differentiation through software is the norm. Most of the development effort and costs are in software.

Freescale is addressing this by, first of all, taking care of the connectivity and bandwidth requirements with an abundance of processor headroom left-over. Secondly, by integrating optimised carrier-grade networking stacks with production-ready hardware.

This allows service providers to focus their software development resources purely on their product differentiation and value adding applications or services. The net effect is faster time-to market and greater return-on-investment.

What recent industry developments does it specifically address?

Network security and secure computing: recent publicity around security glitches has brought the issue of network security and secure computing onto “the front pages” of the mainstream media and serve as an acute reminder of the challenges involved in balancing the benefits of being connected with the risk to privacy while being online.

Privacy is not the sole concern. Less well reported were the ‘stuxnet’ worm attacks targeted at industrial control systems and various cases of car hacking, which highlight additional concerns around safety and security.

These days there is little or no debate about the benefits of being connected. The positive impact it has on regional/national GDP, the increased exposure and sales turnover of online companies (versus those offline), the efficiencies and productivity increases for businesses and business users; and not forgetting the fun it brings to our lives. To emphasise the point, our award submission piece was written in a week where the ‘mobile wallet’ was launched in the UK – everyone loves the simplicity and convenience, everyone worries about security and privacy.

Mobile broadband and data offload: at mobile broadband technology events this year, including May’s LTE World Summit in Amsterdam, the promotion of small-cell base stations as a key component in 4G network roll-out has continued. At the same time, services like Netflix continue to add weight to the threat of a data tsunami overwhelming precious radio capacity, even in improved 4G networks.

In response, operators are looking for additional offload solutions, and Wi-Fi has an increasingly significant role to play here. Freescale can meet this challenge with its Wi-Fi Access Point reference design solution, already prevalent in the Enterprise networking space and ready to tackle Wi-Fi offload in next generation mobile networks.

What plans do you have to improve it in the coming months?

A recent addition to the QorIQ product family is the P1023 processor, which includes a performance-optimised implementation of the QorIQ Data Path Acceleration Architecture (DPAA). This datapath architecture provides the infrastructure to support simplified sharing of networking interfaces and accelerator resources by multiple CPU cores. In turn, this significantly reduces software overhead associated with high touch packet forwarding operations.

These software efficiency improvements, combined with dynamic power management of CPU and I/O resources, will yield optimised performance/power density (performance/Watt) benefitting the end-user by reducing energy consumption without compromising on data throughput.

What do you see as being the biggest single challenge to the broadband industry in the next few years, and why?

I have described security and privacy before and it’s tempting to continue that theme here but instead I will use three other words: coverage, capacity and connections, which for most consumers will mean high bandwidth, everywhere.

We have already discussed the merits of small-cells and Wi-Fi as a means of expanding overall network capacity to deliver high bandwidth coverage without saturating radio capacity. Such approaches have the added benefits of being more affordable (to the operator) and having a lighter environmental impact which are a fundamental part of the same conundrum.

If this first group places coverage/capacity demands on the broadband industry, there is another user group which require coverage (again) but require capacity of a different nature, and care increasingly about resiliency.  M2M applications such as smart metering, mHealth, automotive, smart building and monitoring of infrastructure, plant and assets may not stretch peak data capacity but do have the potential to stretch capacity from a connection point of view. These services constitute a potentially vast number of low-bandwidth connections with connection profiles which are “always on” or “on-demand”.

So, resilient connectivity with broad coverage (for M2M) and high bandwidth everywhere for consumers – Coverage, Capacity, Connections.

How does being named for this award benefit your business?

The awards shortlist is an excellent way of raising awareness of our solutions and presence at the Broadband World Forum ahead of time. We have already received meeting requests based on the Freescale name (of course), but also thanks to the more targeted information we put on the event web pages, and especially the Infovision Awards nomination, which positions us in precisely the right light for the upcoming event.

This year’s Broadband InfoVision Awards were announced during a gala dinner held aboard a river cruise in Paris on September 27th, 2011. For a complete list of winners, please click here

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