IBM Readies Rugged Blade Server for Telcos

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted May 30, 2003


IBM revealed plans to next week unveil a new rough and rugged blade server for the telecommunications industry. According to Big Blue, the server is also sturdy enough to deal with harshest of environments, including military operations.

IBM revealed its plans to next week unveil a new, rough and rugged blade server for the telecommunications industry that is also sturdy enough to deal with harshest of environments, such as military operations.

The Armonk, N.Y. firm will demonstrate the eServer BladeCenter T at SuperComm 2003 in Atlanta next Tuesday. Blade servers are prized in the industry for their capability to pack resepctable computing power into thin, pizza-box-width machines without the mess of cables and other traditional interconnects.

Several blade servers are then slid into a chassis, which is decidedly smaller than the classic refrigerator-sized mainframe. HP, Dell, and Sun Microsystems are among the many vendors that offer such hardware, while RLX Technologies and Egenera are smaller purveyors of the craft.

Tony Evans, vice president, Telecommunications, IBM Systems Group, said the eServer BladeCenter T system is geared for deployment in demanding environments, but for it to be taken seriously, the server must meet certain gold standards of durability. Thus, the model T has been certified by both Network Equipment Building System 3 (NEBS 3) and European Telecommunications Standard Industry (ETSI).

Evans said these specifications test to make sure the server will continue to function despite extreme hot or cold temperatures and unstable environments that might otherwise spell disaster for less-rugged machines. They also stand the greatest chance of making it through lightning strikes, airborne contaminants, fires, and electrostatic discharge.

Why is it geared for the telecommunications industry? Basically, telco outfits require that servers be placed in several locations with some proximity to the area they're serving. Positioned in a data center on a mountain, a desert, or in an area prone to harsh winds or precipitation, the NEBS-3 server has the best chance of maintaining applications that require almost constant uptime.

With NEBS 3 certification, the BladeCenter T will help network equipment providers reduce the time and costs associated with creating applications for mobile network infrastructures and softswitches for voice over IP (VoIP), as well as other storage, networking and computing components. The model T also has specialized telecommunications features that do not appear in other blade server systems, such as a Telcom Alarm Panel, which provides shorter chassis depth. This allows the servers to fit in 600 millimeter racks.

Like the other BladeCenter offerings, T is powered by Intel processors. IBM said these chips, coupled with enterprise-grade Linux, are ideal for future telecommunications applications. IBM has also received endorsement from Nortel Networks, which has designed a switch specifically for the BladeCenter chassis.

IBM's move is not without precedence. In February, Sun Microsystems delivered its first NEBS-3-certified server: the Sun Fire Netra 1280.

The IBM eServer BladeCenter T systems are planned for release next year, coupled with IBM Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE) framework, which is designed to give wireline and wireless telecommunications service providers the flexibility to introduce new voice, text and Internet services. Evans also promised performance scalability and density enhancements to BladeCenter before the year is through, but wouldn't reveal exactly what they would be.

Pricing for BladeCenter T is not yet available.

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