HP pushes standard telecoms platforms

Hewlett-Packard aims to drive telecommunications networks toward standard hardware and a hardened version of Linux.

Hewlett-Packard aims to drive telecommunications networks toward standard hardware and a hardened version of Linux.

Carriers wanting to lower their costs and get access to a broader range of future services could migrate from proprietary service and management platforms to ones based on Intel processors and a standard development environment, said Sebastiano Tevarotto, vice-president and general manager of HP's Network & Service Provider Business Unit.

HP's merger with Compaq created a strong line-up of systems for service providers, including the combination of HP's OpenView IT systems management software and Compaq's TeMIP (Telecommunications Management Information Platform) network management system.

Tevarotto claimed that integration of the two systems would be completed next month, allowing service providers to deploy a unified management system for their IT systems and communications networks.

HP also makes OpenCall hardware and software platforms, which include SS7 (Signalling System 7) servers and platforms on which network infrastructure vendors create software for services such as SMS (short message service).

These offerings complement platforms from Compaq for the delivery of services on telecommunications networks, and Compaq's NonStop servers, a high-end line acquired through its purchase of Tandem.

Among Compaq's most widely used telecoms products is an HLR (home location register) server that keeps track of a customer's identity and contracted services.

The company is participating in industry efforts to develop a version of Linux that is stable enough for use in carrier networks, and is working with Intel to drive the industry toward standard hardware.

Carriers today create their own services on top of systems and software from equipment vendors, who in turn often build their own software into computing platforms from vendors such as HP and Compaq.

When standard Intel-based hardware and the open source Linux operating system form the foundation for these systems, costs will go down, Tevarotto said. In addition, equipment vendors and carriers may be able to draw upon a larger number of suppliers for software to integrate into platforms and services.

Tevarotto cautioned, however, that the evolution toward standard software and hardware would not happen overnight. HP today sells carrier platforms on the HP-UX Unix and NSK (NonStop Kernel) systems. Carriers are likely to stick with those operating systems for a long time on platforms that need the highest degree of reliability, such as HLR servers.

However, Linux will be adopted at the edge of the network on systems that have a lower requirement for reliability, Tevarotto said. HP plans to give customers the option of using Linux or sticking to the more traditional environments.

Tough times for carriers and telecommunications equipment makers are helping drive system vendors away from proprietary, in-house development, said Tom Kucharvy, president and research director at Summit Strategies in Boston.

"This was starting to be the case even before 2000, but then with the collapse in the industry, the companies just couldn't afford that type of expense anymore," Kucharvy said.

"One of the reasons [they] were developing their own before was that they didn't feel the standard platforms had the types of reliability and scalability to address their needs. That's changing," he added.

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