High Availability Computing Solutions
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Case Study - Leading ASP benefits from Sun Microsystems and I-Bus power/performance.

The move towards the supply of fully integrated high availability server platforms is an increasingly significant factor across a range of industries.

As the market demands greater purchasing efficiencies and long term cost benefits from suppliers, many are experiencing a fundamental shift in business direction towards the provision of fully integrated high availability server platforms and the consequent establishment of new strategic industry partnerships.

Whatever the final application, be it e-mail servers, e-commerce front ends, web servers, client server platforms, virtual private networks, CT platforms etc. - it all starts with a computer. A typical supply chain might involve the industrial-grade platform from Supplier A being sold to Supplier B to integrate a systems board and then may go to Supplier C for loading of application-specific software before being sold to the end user. For these generally critical and costly systems, an alternative single source of supply will present clear financial and efficiency benefits.

In this respect, I-Bus and Sun Microsystems have recently joined forces to develop a new generation of fully integrated, scalable high availability server platforms that can meet price-performance targets across the OEM market. These complete end-to-end solutions incorporate hardware and software components that have been pre-tested, tuned for the Sun environment, and proven in real-world environments. This offers major advantages not only in terms of system performance, flexibility and revision control, but also in terms of ongoing cost savings.

A classic case of this integrated approach is exemplified by WhiteCross Systems, a leading Application Service Provider (ASP) providing large-scale data analysis to companies faced with the complicated task of analysing vast amounts of data related to customers and their behaviour. At the core of WhiteCross' service portfolio is the WhiteCross Data Exploration Server (WX/DES), and a key part of the WX/DES is the Communication Processor (WX/CP). The WX/CP is comprised of Sun's UltraSPARC based SPARCengine Ultra AXi platform. This offers a choice of I/O and Network interfaces and uses the Solaris software platform.

I-Bus was initially recommended by a Sun contact, to supply the base rack mounted chassis for the WX/CP (for in-house integration of prototype quantities). As a British manufacturer with a flexible approach, I-Bus was able to meet specific design modifications to the front and rear panels of their core product - TR4 industrial grade chassis - to fully fit WhiteCross' application.

As part of their total solutions approach, I-Bus also proposed a competitive integration service, which after a thorough quotation exercise, WhiteCross accepted for the long term on an almost fully out-sourced basis. This policy was based on a number of positives that I-Bus could provide as a single source of supply:

  • Competitive component procurement -on a par with direct purchasing simply due to their buying power
  • Competitive integration charges
  • An Approved Value Added Integrator status with Sun Microsystems, the chosen platform
  • The ability to respond at short notice to requests for "specials"
  • The smooth transition of a continually developing product from the drawing board to the marketplace
  • A full test capability from simple functional test through to complete standards certification of compliance to Safety and EMC Directives
  • An ISO9001:2000 approved production process
  • Continuity of supply
  • An excellent support, warranty and returns service throughout the world

The WX/CP configuration supplied to WhiteCross is:

  • I-Bus TR4 26" deep chassis with front and rear panel customisation
  • Sun SPARCengine Ultra AXi 440Mhz
  • Caddy mounted removable 9Gb SCSI System Disk · Floppy and CD-Rom drives
  • Modified internal data disk housing for up to five 18/36Gb SCSI drives
  • Sun PCI Graphics card
  • IntraServer Quad Fast Ethernet PCI Adaptor
  • WX/DES System Interface PCI Adaptor
  • Three PCI expansion slots vacant for expansion/options

As a single source for fully integrated, tailored systems, I-Bus fits neatly into Whitecross' preferred method of managing production and configuration exercises and has removed many of the procurement and logistical headaches that are the every day burden of managing sub-contract manufacture. As the market for high availability platforms matures, the ability to provide a complete integration service such as that provided by I-Bus will be an increasingly important factor in choosing flexible solutions for the long term.


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