Computing on the Edge – NEBS Overview

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This blog series is a review of the specifications and design methodology required to create compute platforms that can be deployed into Edge Telecom Environments.

NEBS™, or the Network Equipment-Build System, was initially developed by Bell Labs in the 1970s, for North American markets, with the intent of creating a common set of performance and safety specifications for their equipment vendors. Today, these specs have been widely adopted throughout the telecom industry and drive the designs of telecom-focused equipment.

Not legal requirements, these are North American industry adopted specifications that are, in many cases, required by telecom customers as a minimum threshold for deployment into their critical communications networks. NEBS specifications are often the foundation of equipment Request for Proposals (RFPs) that telecoms issue at the start of their procurement cycles. Poor performance in these NEBS sections, regardless of the quoted price, will often disqualify an equipment vendor from further participation in a particular opportunity.

Telcordia (previously Bellcore) was the historic creator and maintainer of the NEBS Specifications. Ericsson purchased Telcordia in 2012 and now manages the NEBS documentation tree. Continued development of the specifications is jointly conducted by Ericsson’s Telcordia-NIS (Network Infrastructure Solutions) division, TSPs (Telecommunications Service Providers), Equipment Manufacturers and Testing Organizations.

For NEBS Certification, there are three primary GRs (Generic Requirements) specifications, which are:

    1. GR-63-Core, Physical Protection. At a high-level covers temperature/humidity operational/storage ranges, fire resistance and spread and vibration/earthquake survivability.
    2. GR-1089-Core, Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Electrical Safety. Primarily covers safety and immunity concerns involving electrostatic discharge (ESD), EMC and requirements for power and grounding.
    3. GR-3108-Core is of interest, as this contains requirements for the deployment of electronic equipment in outdoor environments.
Figure 1 - Dell MDC415 OSP
Figure 1 – Dell MDC415 OSP

The GR-3108-Core specification should not be confused with GR-487-Core, “Generic Requirements for Electronic Equipment Cabinets”. GR-3108-Core deals with the electronic equipment that is deployed in outdoor environments, also called Outside Plants (OSPs) and GR-487-Core addresses the requirements of the actual outdoor enclosure. For this series, only GR-3108-Core will be covered.

Tying all these together is a Special Report, SR-3580, which defines the scope of the NEBS Levels. These NEBS Levels range from one to three, increasing levels of tolerance and testing requirements for each level, with Level 3 being the most demanding. For our purpose in Telecom, NEBS Level 3 is the typical requirement. Perhaps over-blunt, but NEBS Level 1 and 2 gives assurance that the vendors’ electronic equipment will not burn down a facility or be a human…

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