Tandem Computers Inc is hoping to capture the raft of new telecommunications carriers likely to burst onto the scene following next year’s deregulation, by offering them a one-stop shop or ‘telco-in-a-box’, for all their billing, customer care and network management software and associated hardware requirements. The Compaq Computer Corp subsidiary already sees more than 40% of its revenues from telecoms, and believes its ‘Convergence Enterprise Architecture’ will enable it to offer best of breed systems to start-up telcos, and significantly reduce their cost of entry. Tandem has partnered with software vendors covering the whole spectrum of telecom system software from mediation, which is extracting the data from the switches and passing it on in the required format, to network management, billing software and customer care systems. The company will essentially provide consultancy, to establish the types of systems needed now and for future growth, and then select the appropriate packages. Interestingly, given the strength of Unix in the telecommunications market, the main thrust of Tandem’s new initiative will be towards Windows NT, where Tandem has already set out its stall as an enthusiastic Microsoft Corp partner. However, it is also offering a modular ‘surround’ option for carriers with existing systems, based on NT server modules, which will be available on Tandem’s NonStop Himalaya S-series servers as well as its Unix-based Integrity servers. Heidi Lemker, Tandem Global Telecom’s marketing director, business support systems, says some of the most creative applications are now being written in NT. Until now, she says, billing systems have been hideously expensive, and she believes this has inhibited some very good new telecoms technologies from coming to market. Tandem’s new framework and the NT-based products should significantly lower entry costs, she says. The new telecoms offerings will be ‘hardware independent’ as long as the hardware is Tandem’s it seems. However, the largest NT system currently available, a 16- way, four processor node cluster as demonstrated by Tandem and Microsoft earlier this year (CI No 3,161) only handles two terrabytes of data, where Tandem’s largest telco customer has a 17Tb database. For this reason, customers can start off on an NT- based system, and migrate to Tandem’s Non-Stop Kernel system as their requirements grow. Meantime, in spite of its enthusiasm for NT, Tandem recognizes that Unix is still a critical operating system for telcos and in November, it will announce a major Unix clustering initiative coupling four-processor Unix nodes into a large, clustered system. It’s recently been working with Santa Cruz Operation Inc to demonstrate how an OEM version of its ServerNet interconnect called Eclipse can be utilized by clusters of Compaq servers running SCO UnixWare; the two were supposed to formalize their relationship by the end of the year but we’ve heard nothing recently. The thinking was Tandem could put SCOUs operating system up on a line of Intel-based Eclipse boxes calved from its S1000 NT family.