IBM flashes 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,...

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 exploit Linux and high-volume hardware platforms in the carrier world. IBM, along with Intel, Hewlett-Packard and some other companies, believes 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 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, said Mike Maas, vice president of IBM Communications Industry. Over the life of the product, using the BladeCenter architecture can cut operational costs by 40% to 50% compared with most servers being used in carriers which, in many cases, are Sun Microsystems Solaris servers, he claimed.

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 is not needed, he said.

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 which run the AIX operating system.

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

IBM will also 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.

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

The program is in its early stages and the carrier-grade Linux is still in development, but Maas believed that tested configurations may be available by the end of the year.

Also at Supercomm, IBM will go public with Cost Optimization 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 operations outsourced to IBM. They can help carriers transform their customer relationship, supply chain, enterprise, operations and network management, according to IBM. The company has been providing such services for about two years, Maas said.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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