IBM shows off blades for carriers

IBM shows off blades for carriers

IBM will use the Supercomm trade show in Atlanta next week to announce three moves intended to help service providers cut costs, boost revenue and transform their businesses.

The company will unveil a blade server platform for carriers, a program for certifying carrier operations software and a services offering to help carriers make strategic changes. The initiatives tie in to IBM's efforts to leverage Linux and high-volume hardware platforms in the carrier world. IBM, along with Intel, HP and some other vendors, says standardisation can drive down costs in what has been an industry running mostly on proprietary systems.

At Supercomm, IBM will show off a prototype of the eServer BladeCenter T, a blade server system that is based on its enterprise eServer BladeCenter line but complies with NEBS (Network Equipment Building Systems) and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) standards for carrier-class resiliency.

The blade chassis takes up less space, is easier to maintain and requires fewer cables than do rack-mounted servers, vice-president of IBM Communications Industry, Mike Maas, said. Over the life of the product, using the BladeCenter architecture can cut operational costs by 40 per cent to 50 per cent compared with most servers being used in carriers, which in many cases are Sun Solaris servers, he said.

The BladeCenter T is designed primarily to run in carriers' central offices. Blades from the enterprise BladeCenter systems and the BladeCenter T are interchangeable, allowing carriers to reuse parts in some cases where the carrier-class resiliency isn't needed, he said. Pricing has not been set. The emphasis is on Intel-based Linux blades, but Intel-based versions will be available for Microsoft Windows NT and there will be IBM PowerPC-based systems that run the AIX operating system.

BladeCenter T will be available late this year or early next year, Maas said. Pricing has not yet been set.

IBM also will unveil its Open Integrated Platform for Telecom, a program in which it will test third-party software for carrier operations on a platform that consists of Intel-based IBM servers, carrier-grade Linux and IBM middleware. The testing, which will take place at an IBM lab in Oregon, will save carriers time in introducing new services.

This traditionally took years because they needed to do the testing themselves, Maas said.

"An application provider can know that everything below their application is tested, robust and will work," he said.

In turn, a carrier can know that the combination of servers, middleware and operations software will work together. That could include software for videoconferencing, directory services and signalling.

The program is in its early stages and the carrier-grade Linux is still in development, but Maas said that tested configurations might be available by year's end.

IBM will also go public with Cost Optimisation and Strategic Transformation (COST), a services offering in which the company helps carriers transform their businesses to cut costs and take advantage of new revenue opportunities.

COST services can include both IBM consulting and technologies for changing the carrier's own processes and ongoing operations outsourced to IBM.

They can help carriers transform their customer relationship, supply chain, enterprise, operations and network management, IBM said.

The company has been providing such services for about two years, Maas said.

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