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Intel Stalks Freescale With Crystal Forest

Intel is boosting up its communications processor platform to go head-to-head with Freescale, Broadcom/NetLogic and Cavium. The giant has unveiled its next generation offering, Crystal Forest, making its own pitch to help carriers survive the deluge of data across wireless and wired IP networks.

Focal Points:

  • It is important that the architectures for handling massive amounts of multimedia data are simplified, argues Intel, which says that manufacturers currently need to combine many highly specialized coprocessors with different programming models to meet demands of scalability. This increases costs and complexity, but Crystal Forest promises to consolidate three key communications workloads - application, control and packet processing - on standard multi-core Intel processors.
  • Crystal Forest promises to deliver up to 160m packets per second for Layer 3 packet forwarding, using Intel's QuickAssist technology, which processes and accelerates specialized packet workloads, to reach throughput levels which, according to the chip giant, were previously possible only with specialized processors.
  • Crystal Forest pairs a new generation Xeon processor with a companion chip called Cave Creek, which is now sampling. With this combination, Intel is moving x86 to a new level in the communications processing market, where it has made major inroads at control plane level. However, this pushes Xeon into the data plane, where the heavy duty processing takes place and where Freescale and others hold the fort.
  • The broader plan is to create a whole range of companion chips to take the x86 processors into new sectors previously addressed by specialized products. These new chips replace the elements specific to servers with those for comms, including hardware accelerators for cryptography and compression.
  • Next year is likely to see a Xeon-based platform with a companion chip targeted at digital signal processing in base stations, again hitting at a Freescale heartland, as well as at Texas Instruments. This is all part of a wider trend to use common architectures for more and more elements of the data network, to reduce costs and support standard programming methods.

Editor’s Note: While it is interesting to make note of Intel’s plans to head-off the rising demand for readily accessible video from a hardware perspective, it becomes obvious that in order for a technology manufacturer to survive, they must be several years ahead.

The ability of Intel and other technology manufacturers to stay with and hopefully ahead of demand is assisted by the growing market portfolio of technology startup companies. This is not a new idea, it has been around for decades. However, looking at all of the technological acquisitions in the trade press makes one wonder if this is not becoming more of a necessary business-survival strategy as opposed to just another alternative to growth.


Thinking about the explosive growth in business requirements, it becomes clear to any technological manufacturer that they can’t come up with all of the good ideas on their own. A constant survey of the start-up market, leading to acquisition, is a business requirement.