Sun Delivers 'Rugged' Netra 1280 Server

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Feb 27, 2003


At a Sun Microsystems product event two weeks ago, Sun President and CEO Scott McNealy said his company was eschewing the gradual rollout approach for four quarterly "megalaunches" of major technology solutions. Sun Thursday released an alternative version of its young 1280 server specialized for telecommunications businesses and whose sturdiness is designed to stand up to natural disasters.

But there are special circumstances. The Santa Clara, Calif. firm Tuesday launched a different version of the 1280 it introduced to the public at the megalaunch, one geared for rough and tumble environments in the telecommunications industry.

Steve Campbell, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Systems Products Group at Sun, said Sun was still adhering to the new quarterly philosophy, but that the outfit did not want the public to get the two 1280 servers confused by releasing them at the same time. The Sun Fire v1280 is for more general computing needs, while the Netra 1280 is tailored for carriers, and is quite hardy for harsh environments to weather natural disasters, such as earthquakes and heavy storms.

So, now that the pomp and circumstance over the Sun Fire v1280 has subsided, Campbell discussed the Netra 1280 server, describing it as the industry's first rack-mountable 12-way machine to come equipped with Network Equipment Building Standard (NEBS) Level 3 Certification and DC power.

Originally developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories in the '70s, NEBS is a measure of quality in the telecommunications second. It is designed to help ensure that equipment purchases are easy to install, operate reliably, and efficiently occupy building space. The idea is that physical configurations and equipment compatibility within an environment will help reduce product installation and maintenance costs.

NEBS-3 means assures optimum equipment functionality and allows vital network equipment such as switches, transport products and power systems to work together. Telecom customers can run large database applications, softswitch installations, intelligent networking, operations management, and billing in the central office with the Netra 1280.

With office space at a premium, Campbell said Sun believes it has an edge with the Netra 1280 because of the new opportunities it creates for server consolidation and upgrades in central offices. For example, server/application consolidation becomes especially important as new wireless applications are deployed.

In the current economic environment, Campbell said, customers are looking for great performance at reasonable costs to conform to their tight budgets.

"It's all about lowering costs... and this latest Netra 1280 offering makes it a reality for our carriers, service provider and network equipment provider (NEP) customers," Campbell told internetnews.com.

The machine might be a bargain of sorts for telcos, as the industry itself needs to prepare for some considerable indecisionprepare for some considerable indecision in the way it spends for infrastructure. After all, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled last week that state public utility commissions can require the regional Bells to continue to lease their copper lines to competitors at steeply discounted rates for at least three more years.

Some industry experts say this may negatively impact how the carriers and service providers spend on equipment. Seeing as how the Netra 1280 is geared for telcos, there may be some uncertainty on the willingness to pick up such a machine.

Jean Bozman, Research VP, IDC Global Enterprise Server Solutions, said the new offering is still an attractive offering despite the slackened IT budgets, partly because of Sun's reputation as a solid supplier of carriers.

Bozman told internetnews.com that most of the servers telcos use are Unix/RISC-based, which is what Sun specalizes in. Bozman said IDC counts Sun as the leading entry-level Unix server (machines priced less than $100,000) supplier in the world, and despite the flagging infrastructure spending, enjoys comfortable business in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in Asia-Pacific markets.

"While this is a sub $100,000 server, it still brings in some midrange capabilities," Bozman said. "It offers great controllability and reliability for tough environments, and with NEBS-3 certification, offers a lot of performance for the price."

The Netra 1280 server features Dynamic Reconfiguration and hot swappable CPU/memory boards in a sturdy form factor, and up to 12 900 MHz UltraSPARC III CPUs, and 96GB of memory to provide room for growth if needed. It is 21 inches in height and features a shallow depth of 22 inches to fit easily most racks.

Campbell, who counted Lucent as a customer employing Netra 1280s, said this is a space-saving advantage over most competitive systems today, which require proprietary racks, none of which are less than 28 inches deep.

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