August 9, 2006, Intel announced that it would sell off its DSP (Digital Signal Processing) media and signal processing business known as the Dialogic division to Eicon Networks which Intel had originally acquired Dialogic back in 1999. This comes on the heals of Intel's sale of the ARM processor business to Marvell in late June of this year. This means that Intel will sell off the following assets to Eicon Networks:
With every increase in CPU cores and performance in general-purpose processors, the market for special-purpose DSPs are squeezed tighter and tighter.
- HMP (Hosted Media Processing) software
- HMP-enabled blades
- PBX integration
- Gateway solutions
Along with the physical assets, the roughly 600 employees of the Dialogic division will also be available for transfer (those who will be lucky enough to still have a job in a month) to Eicon.
I had a chance to speak with Rip Harris who is a Product Manager for Intel's Dialogic division about the sale and where Intel's headed with their media/signal processing strategy at the VoIP developer's conference in Santa Clara CA. According to Harris, Intel's previous-generation dual LV (Low Voltage) Xeon processors based on the "Yonah" Core Duo mobile processor is already capable of delivering 250 channels of G.729 compressed audio streams using half of the CPU resources in a dual socket configuration.
By the time the quad-core Core 2 based processors arrives next year, that capability goes well above 1000 channels and that number is sure to rise with Moore's law as more CPU cores are added. With every increase in CPU cores and performance in general-purpose processors, the market for special-purpose DSPs are squeezed tighter and tighter. DSPs will either be delegated to the embedded market like hand-held VoIP phones where power and hardware resources are at a minimum or the ultra high-end call center that needs to mix and transcode thousands of conferencing calls simultaneously. Anything in the middle will simply be able to leverage the economy of scale of general purpose multi-core x86 processors from Intel and AMD.
With the DSP market seemingly shrinking, could this be a bad deal for Eicon? Rich Tehrani (President of TMCnet) doesn't seem to think so and blogged extensively on this sale. Rich puts some historical perspective in to Dialogic and the communications market and what could become a great relationship between Eicon-Dialogic and Intel and it's worth a read.