back to article Intel has ambitions to turn modems into virtual servers and reinvent broadband

Intel has assembled a stack of technologies it thinks can give broadband modems a brain implant and change the nature of home broadband services. At the core of Chipzilla's ambition, as Intel folk have explained to The Reg, is a plan to put x86 chippery into customer premises equipment (CPE) – the modem/router homes and …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Cite ?

      Good grief; not everything has to come from a press release. In fact, we hate taking stuff from press releases. This was sourced from well-placed people familiar with Intel's plans, speaking on condition of anonymity to The Register. Y'know, journalism. Finding stuff out, reporting it, not waiting for the emailed press release.


      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cite ?

        Ah you should wait ten mins before chastising them, then they can't delete

  2. Tromos

    Yet more scope for malware.

    At this rate we will shortly be needing to do AV scans on our CAT5 cables.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yet more scope for malware.

      We'll also need to power it off when no one's home so they can't run applications on our dime.

      I'd prefer that they work on adding something to the docsis spec that prevents nsubscribed channels from being displayed in the on-screen menus.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Yet more scope for malware.

        “Do you want faster downloads for $1/month?”

        Well that will be a dollar wasted since the malware will be busy sucking up that bandwidth launching various attacks and we can assume it will also automatically check the box for you to access that bandwidth assuming it's not an opt-out - "Do you want slower downloads to save $1/month?".

        Overall, although perhaps I missed it, I didn't see a whole lot of benefit to the consumer other than the supposed faster downloads and alleged "better security, without having to learn firewall administration." I say alleged because it only moves the firewall from the physical router platform to a virtual one in the modem only it's likely the consumer won't get the default admin password or the opportunity to change it but we know all the passwords will be in some text file safely stored in the cloud somewhere. What could go wrong?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I thought DD-WRT was for routers, not modems. Am I wrong?

    3. Tim Jenkins

      Re: Yet more scope for malware.

      "...At this rate we will shortly be needing to do AV scans on our CAT5 cables...."

      There's already that potentially exploitable ARM-chippery in Lightning connectors...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yet more scope for malware.

      @ Tromos

      Yes it does alarm one that a router and a server are combined, it's tough enough to lock these down for those in the know. In the hands of the great unwashed what possibly could go wrong ?

  3. DougS Silver badge

    This matters for the future of video delivery

    Look up CVP-2, that technology (or its successor or one similar to it) will be the method of video delivery within the home in a few years, whether it comes from the internet, cable, satellite, Blu Ray player, etc.

    The DOCSIS support matters because cable TV as we know it going away. The 6 MHz (8 MHz in Europe I think?) RF channels with QAM modulation and multiple MPEG streams for the different channels contained within will be replaced by an all IP delivery system based on DOCSIS 3.1. You'll have a single cable gateway device with ethernet/wifi/MoCA out that will provide both your internet and your TV. Smart TVs with CVP-2 client functionality will access it directly and look the same as if you had an external cable box, older TVs will have an external box but it will be small/simple since it will essentially be network in / HDMI+HDCP out with the smarts & interface provided by the gateway box.

    Intel knows this will be a big market, and they want to own it. There is zero advantage to having x86 in this market versus MIPS/ARM, though, so they'll have to compete to win. They'll have to beat not only stablished players in the set top market like Broadcom, but also hungry newcomers like Qualcomm who will no doubt be trying to make up for loss of share in the mobile market.

    I'm sure Microsoft will try to insert themselves in there somewhere, and insist there's a reason we want to run full Windows on the gateway or something ridiculous like that. Had this happened 15 years ago they'd probably have succeeded, and we'd all have to have a WMC PC as our gateway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This matters for the future of video delivery

      In other words, another protocol change in order to screw all existing customers into having to buy new hardware.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: This matters for the future of video delivery

        Consumers mostly don't own their cable set tops anyway (at least they don't in the US) so the cost isn't for them. It would give customers a LOT more flexibility not having to have a separate set top for every TV, and it would nicely integrate & unify all the different video delivery methods to your TV.

        I know satellite is a bigger market in Europe than it is in the US, and consumers own their own hardware, but the existing hardware would still work (aside from format changes where they obsolete MPEG2 only hardware at some point etc.) You could buy the satellite gateway to get new capabilities, but you wouldn't have to.

    2. Stuart Castle

      Re: This matters for the future of video delivery

      "I'm sure Microsoft will try to insert themselves in there somewhere, and insist there's a reason we want to run full Windows on the gateway or something ridiculous like that. Had this happened 15 years ago they'd probably have succeeded, and we'd all have to have a WMC PC as our gateway."

      Microsoft have already had several attempts at this (and probably spent the equivalent of the GDP of a small country in the process), but only seem to have had limited success..

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "A lot more likely to have a happy ending"

    Sounds like there are people who get more excited over broadband services than is good for them.

    Or is it implying there are some 'special interest' applications that could be deployed with this technology?

  5. Tom 64

    What's not to like?

    Err, the fact that I will have no control over it for one.

    1. Doctor_Wibble

      Re: What's not to like?

      And it wasn't me hacking the bank, it was my compromised modem, yes the one that also spews spam, and is part of a distributed phishing page cluster, and occasionally functions as a trojan bot control proxy, all of which are outside my control because the traffic rules are only on the domestic side not the public side.

    2. DNTP

      Re: no control

      Don't worry, the legal, contractual, and technical measures preventing you from having any sort of administrative control over your servermodem don't shield you from the legal repercussions should outside forces compromise the device sitting in your home and use it for illegal acts.

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


    A server connected to the internet in every home. What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Solly
    Black Helicopters

    This seems like a great idea, said every spook agency everywhere....

    Man in the Middle Attack anyone?

    1. Hellcat

      For everyone wearing tin hats

      ...worrying about people hijacking your modem/router server, or having <insert favourite 3/4 letter acronym here> backdooring - how many of you have reviewed the hardware and sowftware of your existing dumb modem/router? Since we're just recently hearing of backdoors baked into existing dumb modems, it's likely they all have some of these vunerabilities that we just don't know about.

      A massive increase of potential functionality is very tempting, based just on my own testing of a monowall firewall VM which runs on a tiny amount of resources. Private VPNs, VoIP gateways, so many interesting and exciting possibilities.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: For everyone wearing tin hats

        Isn't your "argument" for it, pretty much the argument against it?

        "how many of you have reviewed the hardware and software of your existing dumb modem/router"


        So a router that could do "little" more than allow direct access to your network or compromise your DNS, now allows far, far more attack vectors.

        And more unpatched attack vectors (less face it we can't rely on the vendors or ISP's to do it) is bad news.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: For everyone wearing tin hats

        Well this is what was possible in 2012:

        Just think what can be run on a fully fledged server that will most probably also be part of the dark web, so invisible to AV et al...

  8. jake Silver badge

    What is being modulated & demodulated, exactly?

    Remember back when "broadband" meant frequency division multiplexing, not "as many bits per second as I can personally get"? Kids these days ...

    Or should I say "marketards need to be taken out behind the barn & horsewhipped until they actually have half a clue as to what they are talking about"?

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: What is being modulated & demodulated, exactly?

      Though I always think of FDM as an analogue voice multiplexing technique, xDSL does genuinely use FDM. The available bandwidth of the copper pair is divided up into channels by frequency and data is modulated to occupy as many of these channels as can reliably exist on a given pair.

      The higher frequency channels have the highest attenuation and as line distance increases more and more channels become unusable. The 'upto' figure beloved of ISPs refers to a situation where line length is short enough that all the channels available in a given channel plan are available.

      So, er, yes. There really is modulation and demodulation going on and that process is to move data in and out of FDM channels. I doubt though that measuring the level of a sine wave at 84.08khz will be much helping in troubleshooting your home Internet connection.

      1. Paul J Turner

        Re: What is being modulated & demodulated, exactly?

        84.08 KHz. Wow, it's been over 40 years since I measured an '84 Delta' pilot back in Nottingham D. :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What is being modulated & demodulated, exactly?

          "40 years since I measured an '84 Delta' pilot back in Nottingham"

          ...wandering the gently whistling yellow and grey racks with just a high-Z headset and a trolley full of measuring sets for company. So much more peaceful than the racket going on upstairs...

  9. JanCeuleers

    Contrary to industry trend

    CPE provided by telecoms service providers (often referred to as home gateways) are felt to already be too complex and too difficult to deploy upgrades to. So the industry trend is to virtualise these by pulling functionality into the service provider cloud, rather than to put more grunt into the CPE so as to also put more functionality and complexity into them.

    1. petur

      Re: Contrary to industry trend

      Indeed... my current undertaking to have working IPv6 involves having a perfectly capable DOCSIS 3.0 modem replaced by another DOCSIS 3.0 one, because they only have it configured/deployed on the later one.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me get this straight.

    The current thinking is that instead of running applications on our own local servers on our own premises, we should run them "in the cloud".

    The new thinking is basically to move the cloud servers onto our own premises to get over all the problems that have been created by running things "in the cloud".

    This industry keeps swinging one way then the other. It's the same argument over and over again. Only the buzzwords change: Mainframe vs PC, Centralised vs Distributed, Thin-client vs Thick-client, Local vs Cloud.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Well spotted, but...

      ...if this can go some way to correcting the thinking of running everything 'in the cloud' (I like calling it having intangible information assets) without having local access to information (tangible information assets) when the networks of every colour eventually go tits-up, then I'm moderately for the thinking behind it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The ONLY WAY that i would find this acceptable is if """ I AS THE OWNER HAVE FULL UNFETTERED CONTROL """

    Including the Ability to install 3rd Party FIRMWARE

    I want full control over any kit that use's MY Electricity., MY Band Width MY Space MY INFORMATION


    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


      If you rely on the firewall in the device provided by your ISP/Cable Company then IMHO you are just asking to get hacked.

      You should run your own firewall, one that you can trust INSIDE your network.

      The idea proposed in this article is IMHO total lunacy.

      Putting a server in your modem is hust what the spooks want. The spy on your network with HMG approval.

      Having it 50% in the the ISP's cloud is also a bad idea. Guess who's bandwith + upload/download quota this is going to come out of? It won't be a freebie from the ISP and that's for sure.

      The use of the cloud is also how the spooks will get theit hands on everything that goes on in your network hence the need for at least one more firewall so that what happens inside it is not going to get leeched out into the big bad world.

  12. theblackhand

    The only real question that matters is....


    If Intel can provide a solution that is price competitive with ARM/MIPS based solutions, they may succeed. History has shown that they show all of these wonderful features, charge a premium and service providers choose a cheaper option.

    There will be hundreds of millions of these devices deployed and the US$5+ difference in cost between running a Intel x86 and a ARM/MIPS CPU that provides all of the required functionality soon mounts up.

  13. razorfishsl

    What could possibly go wrong!!!

  14. intrigid

    "Or consider firewall-as-a-service. Today, an ISP offering extra security probably routes customer traffic through an actual firewall."


  15. Uncle Ron


    Cable System ISP's in the US are essentially unregulated monopolies in the areas they "service." Read: Cable TV monopolies. Over 70% of Americans have -one- choice for high-speed internet service: Their local cable monopoly. AT&T is almost entirely DSL, Satellites will never have the capacity or speed, Fiber footprint from any player (Google, Verizon, AT&T is tiny--and will be for at least a decade.)

    IMHO, the cable monopolies have no business laying any more new, proprietary services on top of their cable monopoly, it's not fair, and it is not good business. Erecting artificial barriers, and barricading new, innovative, faster, more advanced, more competitive offerings by either the monopolies themselves, or by "legislators and regulators" is just stupid. Plus, it tends to concentrate new business start ups, in totally unrelated fields, to re-locate, if at all possible, to get faster, cheaper internet service in one of the few competitive areas. There is evidence this is already happening here.

    The cable monopolies were granted their franchise gravy train monopolies in return for digging the trenches and laying the cable to deliver TV channels--not for providing internet service, selling local advertising, owning TV networks, owning movie studios, owning sports networks, providing security or cloud services on top of their monopolies. Again, it's not fair and it's not good business. You can make an excellent case that the total pool of profits and investment returns to the financial community would be substantially higher, consumer and business prices would be lower and the rate an pace of technology advance would be higher, if the systems were broken back up into trenches and cable, and -every- other value-add service, content company, and the rest were separate and competing entities. More competition, better offerings, lower prices, faster improvements in technology. Better, faster, quicker.

    We need to wake up in America and get on the ball. We're being screwed by a corrupt, ignorant, incompetent system for decades. What do you think?

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    VMs? But why?

    This would be great for Intel. But I don't see the use for it.

    But, why, oh why, would I want a firewall to be in a VM (instead of running directly from the firmware?) Why would WAN optimization need a VM? (The one satellite provider that I looked into, the WAN optimization runs on the box already, no VM needed.)

    Why would my fridge and whatever.. well... a) Why would I want them to connect to the internet anyway? But... b) If I do, why would they have to queue anything on the cable or DSL modem, instead of just pushing the info out directly?

    And finally, I'm not really convinced any of this needs any more CPU power than the MIPS already provides. I know the 200mhz (or even 125mhz) MIPS of years ago wouldn't cut it, but the newer devices are not using that slow a MIPS.

    Anyway *shrug*, as a practical matter, the cable modems seem pretty stable... as for DSL, the VDSL2 modems CenturyLink provide are apparently bug city, with the best bet for any sort of stability being to use bridge mode and hope the modem firmware doesn't screw that up too... and although aftermarket ADSL2 modems are common, I haven't found *any* aftermarket VDSL2 modems 8-(

  17. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    A device to run an ISP controlled firewall client-side?

    Why not save the cost, bandwidth, and hassle by simply having the firewall ISP-side?

    I'm not talking about forced ISP filtering/blocking, - and for those that don't just want a safe default setting, full client access to control those rules must be provided.

    The further up the chain you firewall the better. Most of us here could easily DOS a home DSL connection from some of the servers we run. Stop the packets before sending them to the client, and everyone wins.

  18. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

    "...DOCSIS (Cable)....DSL (Phone)..."

    Not fiber optic ONTs (optical network terminals)?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British ISPs?

    Even if the idea had merit on its own, the minute you suggest it would be ISP supplied and run it becomes a non-starter. ISP supplied routers are invariably a joke as it is, doubly so if they're locked down - and these after all are the very same ISPs who thought phorm was such a great idea.

    My ISP is probably best known for losing 700GB of customer emails, but these days offers the more modest 'service' of supplying your company-unique email address straight to the spammers while robotically repeating "not down to us guv'nor".

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