Telcos Dial Up Sun Netra 6000 for Scalability and Reliability
by Aaron Lazenby, August 2010
If your business relies on enterprise computing systems to serve customers, downtime is something you can ill afford. But some industries have service liabilities with consequences far beyond frustrated customers and failed transactions. “In the communications industry, there are stiff penalties whenever systems go down,” says Mark Butler, product management director for Oracle’s Sun Netra servers. “Easily, minutes of downtime can cost millions of dollars.”
The Sun Netra series was designed with these liabilities in mind. The Sun Netra family of products offers more choices in processors, form factors, and operating systems than any other carrier-grade offering. The release of the Sun Netra 6000 modular system adds compliance with industry operational standards that further extend the dependability of the series.
Historically, the communications industry operated on an array of proprietary equipment. One result of these disparate systems and configurations was a lack of consistency in how hardware was set up and how much stress the hardware could sustain without failure. As the industry moved away from proprietary configurations, the Sun Netra series saw increased adoption among telecommunications executives who embraced the reliability of a standards-based computing architecture. Indeed, the Sun Netra 6000 is Network Equipment Building Specification (NEBS) certified, establishing durability and reliability protections against fire, earthquakes, airborne contaminants, and other threats.
“These companies can only afford to have their computing systems down for a few minutes per year,” says Butler. “That downtime can translate into huge penalties or executives being hauled in front of the U.S. Congress to explain why the phone network went down. That’s quite a different situation than in other industries.”
But environmental dangers are not the only cause of system downtime in the telecommunications industry. While the proliferation of wireless devices, the adoption of smartphones, and the success of high-speed wireless data networks have created amazing new services for customers, they have also produced mountains of data. Content data is streaming through networks; customer service data must be managed and stored; billing data must be imported from enterprise resource planning systems. And communications companies are adding new customers and services every day.
The ability to add server blades as demand requires makes the Sun Netra 6000 system an excellent defense against such information onslaught. And because these blades are hot-swappable and hot-pluggable, server capacity can be added without taking the system down. “They can handle a certain number of subscribers per blade, and when they need more capacity, they just add another blade,” says Butler of Oracle’s telecommunications customers. “It’s easier to stock a bunch of extra blades than it is to bring in whole new computer systems.”
The effort IT staff goes through to ensure high reliability is not insignificant, making the telecommunications carriers averse to regular wholesale overhaul of hardware systems. A significant change in hardware can introduce unwelcome hardships for executives, IT managers, and customers. Unless there is a transformational technology development the carriers must embrace, existing systems are extended as much as possible. To respond to this need, Sun extended the product lifespan of the Sun Netra series beyond normal commercial duration, reducing the total cost of ownership of a Sun Netra-based system.
This all translates into significant benefits to the communications companies—benefits earned through experience. “Sun has gained a lot of expertise, operating for years in the industry,” says Butler. “The Sun Netra 6000 system reflects the lessons we’ve learned.”