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HP wants to give the poor, huddled masses of telecommunications companies in developing countries a chance to buy its very best gear. So, the vendor today rolled out the NonStop NS3000AC server - a more moderately priced, always on system.

The new box stands as HP's very first NonStop server targeted at small- to mid-sized customers in "emerging markets" such as Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. To craft an affordable box for this crowd, HP has basically stripped out a lot of the components needed to meet NEBS compliance - a telco standard that ensures hardware can withstand harsh conditions such as earthquakes or extreme temperatures. The end result is a server that starts around $350,000 instead of $500,000 as with typical NonStop telco gear.

"These new servers are designed for smaller operations that are coming under increasing competitive pressure to up their availability," said Bob Kossler, a director of product management at HP.

The NonStop line, which made its way to HP via Tandem and Compaq, has long proved popular with telcos, financial institutions and others that demand resilient servers. As Kossler noted, HP now believes that smaller telcos are willing to pay for such performance as well, since their customers have started to expect always available wireless service, for example. Heck, maybe some massive US telcos will shell out for the new systems, so that our cell phones can work all the time too.

As the name indicates, the NS3000AC is an AC powered box. The base model system ships with 1.6GHz (6MB of cache) single core versions of Intel's "Montecito" flavor of Itanium. Customers will find one chip per 2U blade module, with a minimum configuration of two blade modules. They can then expand with up to four of the blade modules (8U) per 42U rack. You can compare the configurations and other telco systems here.

Customers can outfit the server with between 4GB and 8GB of memory and connect up to 9TB of disk.

Along with the hardware, HP bundles the NonStop operating system, some telco middleware and a SQL/MX database. The company reckons that the software trappings should make life easier on smaller customers as well.

"We provide the entire infrastructure immediately, and you just think about what applications to run on it" Kossler said. "It's pretty much plug and play."

Isn't it always? ®

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