As predicted by The Register, Intel has created an x86-powered reference platform for home gateways that makes the box you use for broadband services an Atom-powered target for virtual machines delivered by carriers.
Announced today at Computex in Taipei, the new AnyWAN GRX750 is a system-on-a-chip that can serve as the basis for modern/routers that is ready to build into devices capable of connecting over DSL, fiber optics, G.fast or 4g/5G wireless. A dual-core Atom at 2.5GHZ resides within and the reference spec includes the opportunity to add storage. Chipzilla has also created a new Wi-Fi chipset, the XWAY WAV500, that it expects will often reside in the AnyWAN. The company's said the combination can serve 100 Wi-Fi-connected devices at up to 1Gbps.
The multi-connection cocktail alone will put the cat among the pigeons in the home gateway market, a field in which many players specialise in one carriage standard or another.
But there's more afoot as Intel's Diane M Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of Chipzilla's Data Center Group, said the AnyWAN is a target for network function virtualization (NFV).
"Being able to deploy on-premises applications is a far more efficient way than upgrading devices," she told The Register. She also used the opportunity to call on carriers to embark on a "cloudification" of their infrastructure to reduce dependency on proprietary kit and instead just use servers for everything.
Bryant said she also hopes carriers will start to deliver virtual functions as an alternative to other gadgets. If your home gateway can, for example, pack a web server that offers an interface to a personal video recorder, it provides a carrier with all sorts of possible ways to upgrade your device rather than shipping you new tin. And of course the gateway itself becomes far more easily upgradable, a nice change from the mostly dumb broadband boxes sold today.
Intel's own reference box for the gateways includes a 1TB drive and software to gather new images and video from mobile devices, run some recognitionware on them to present something more than a list of photos. The photo-harvesting code isn't native, but is something Intel thinks ISPs and carriers might deploy as VMs to their own gateways.
Making home gateways a target for NFV also plays into Intel's new strategy, outlined today by Bryant and Client Computing Group corporate veep and general manager Navin Shenoy. The pair explained that Intel's post-PC plan starts with helping device-makers to cook up cool kit – be it PCs, telematics modules for cars or drones packing an Edison board and Intel's RealSense depth-viewing camera.
That hardware should, whenever possible, feed data to, rely on or integrate with cloud services running Xeons inside servers... lots of servers. In Intel's ideal world, that Xeon-powered back-endery is so much fun to consume that we all buy more devices, which means more servers, and before you can worry about the decline of the PC market, Chipzilla will have sold more stuff into cars and Internet of Things things than it ever dreamed of selling into PCs or smartphones.
Which is not to say Intel has lost interest in the PC or thinks it doesn't play a part in the devices-and-servers strategy. Consider the new Core i7 Extreme Edition announced at Computex. The new silicon packs up to 10 cores and clock speeds that touch 3.4GHz before overclocking. Intel's updated its Turbo Boost Max tech to a new version 3.0 that can detect the best-performing core and send workloads that way for faster fragging. Or to make sure that your VR headset doesn't get laggy delivering the video that was rendered and/or transcoded on a Xeon-infused video cloud.
High-resolution or virtual video can run on any device, but Intel is betting that more grunt makes a difference and will mean people use PCs for 4K and virtual viewing. For the home gateways, it's betting that developers will be happier targeting end-to-end x86 than more varied environs.
Over to Intel's partners, then, to see if they can take Chipzilla's vision and turn it into products people want to buy to set the wheel turning. ®