Intel Shuffles Networking Groups, Product Mix

Article By : John Walko

CEO Pat Gelsinger puts his stamp on Intel’s far-flung networking units, targeting data center infrastructure and emerging AI.

An organizational shakeup at Intel Corp. and related technology announcements indicate its move to become a more significant player in the global market for networking components and systems.

To that end, Intel announced this week it has formed a network and edge group that combines its existing network platforms business, Internet of Things initiatives and the company’s influential Connectivity Group.

The new business unit will be headed by Nick McKeown, a respected figure in the data networking world. McKeown has been working part-time at Intel since 2019, when the chip giant acquired Barefoot Networks, which McKeown co-founded. He also co-founded software-designed networking and network virtualization pioneer Nicira.

Nick McKeown

The new group’s charter, according to Intel, is “to drive technology and product leadership throughout the network to the intelligent edge.”

Intel has also created two separate business units, one focusing on software and the other on high-performance computing.

The reorganization is among the largest and most significant moves by new Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who commented: “Since re-joining Intel, I have been impressed with the depth of talent and incredible innovation throughout the company, but we must move faster to fulfil our ambitions.”

Gelsinger said the reorg will “sharpen the company’s focus and execution, accelerate innovation and unleash the deep well of talent across the company” in the increasingly important communications networking sector.

As part of the shakeup, the Data Platforms Group is being restructured into separate business units: data center and AI, focusing on data center products for cloud-based applications. The group will extend its portfolio based on Intel’s Xeon and FPGA expertise.

Sandra Rivera, who previously led the Network Platforms Group, was named executive vice president and general manager of the new unit. Her responsibilities also will include driving Intel’s AI strategy.

Sandra Rivera

The new Software and Advanced Technology Group will be overseen by Greg Lavender, former VMware senior vice president and CTO, who will also take a similar role at Intel. (Gelsinger was VMware’s CEO before returning to Intel in January.)

Raja Koduru, previously general manager of the architecture, graphics and software unit, will head a new Intel compute and graphics business sector. The goal is to greatly expand Intel’s presence in the competitive high-performance computing sector currently dominated by arch-rival Nvidia.

The changes also mean that long-serving Intel executive Navin Shenoy, currently head of the Data Platforms Group, will leave the company in early July.

Tech foundation

Meanwhile, ahead of its virtual events scheduled for Mobile World Congress 2021, Intel unveiled its network platform while showcasing a host of new devices targeting the 5G and edge space.

Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Network Platforms Group, claimed Intel is now “the leading network silicon provider” and a major force in the “industry’s shift to virtualizing the core to access to edge, and implementing edge computing capabilities.”

Dan Rodriguez

The company also claims that most commercial vRAN deployments running on its technology. Intel’s devices are currently deployed in more than 35,000 customer edge implementations.

During the virtual conference, Intel noted it is working with operators such as Dish Wireless, Deutsche Telekom and India’s Reliance Jio on networking development and deployment projects, as well as with Cohere and EXOR International.

Santa Clara-based Cohere offers a novel approach to improve spectrum utilization by leveraging FlexRAN capabilities. The startup said its software-based approach can double spectral efficiency. A cloud-based version will be available by the end of the year. The Spectrum Multiplier Platform is designed to be integrated without changes to handsets, radios or antennas.

Cohere said Vodafone has already tested the delay doppler spatial multiplexing technology at its labs; the startup said it can be used with any cellular standard and most spectrum bands.

Intel also highlighted a new range of Agilex FPGAs incorporating cryptography acceleration that supports MACSec in 5G applications. This, the company noted, would add an additional layer of security to vRAN at all three levels: front-, mid- and back-haul.

Agilex came as part of Intel’s acquisition of Altera.

The chip maker also announced expansion of its Ethernet 800 Series, the most novel version being the first SyncE-capable Ethernet adapter specifically designed for tight edge deployments. It is also promoted as suited for both high-bandwidth 4G and 5G RAN as well as other time- and latency-sensitive applications in sectors such as industrial and energy.

Rodriguez likened the Intel Networking Platform to a “technology foundation” capable of reducing development complexity while helping partners and customers take advantage of Intel hardware features from core to access to edge.

The platform incorporates system-level reference architectures, drivers and software building blocks combined to accelerate development of networking platforms.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

John Walko is a technology writer and editor who has been covering the electronics industry since the early 1980s. He started tracking the sector while working on one of the UK’s oldest weekly technology titles, The Engineer, then moved to CMP’s flagship UK weekly, Electronics Times, in a variety of roles including news deputy and finally editor in chief. He then joined the online world when CMP started the EDTN Network, where he edited the daily electronics feed and was founding editor of commsdesign.com (which, over the years, has become the Wireless and Networking Designline). He was editor of EE Times Europe at its launch and subsequently held various positions on EE Times, in the latter years, covering the growing wireless and mobile sectors.

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