Global Dispatches

An international IT news digest

'Zinc Whiskers' Vex Aussie Data Centers

SYDNEY -- Two government agencies -- the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian War Memorial museum -- have recently warned of a bizarre metallic syndrome called "zinc whiskers" that knocked out their data centers' power.

Zinc whiskers are filaments of zinc, only microns in diameter, that grow on the underside of aging, galvanized floor tiles. When sucked into data center cooling systems, the whiskers can cause short circuits in computer power supplies and sensitive circuitry.

War Memorial IT manager Daryl Winterbottom said his data center experienced repeated power outages that were eventually traced to zinc whiskers. "You can shine a torch on the underside of an old floor tile and see the whiskers vibrating," he said. The War Memorial's problem was resolved with the installation of zinc-free tiles.

IT consultant Garry Karklins also rids data centers of the scourge. "What you have are pure zinc stalactites that sit undisturbed under floor tiles, and once they ... circulate, you have a game of Russian roulette," he said.

-- Michael Crawford, Computerworld Today (Australia)

IBM Wins $1B Deal for Lloyds Network

LONDON -- IBM last week said it has won a seven-year, $972 million contract to move London-based bank Lloyds TSB Group PLC from its existing voice network to a fiber-optic voice/data setup. The deal will put 2,000 Lloyds branches and 4,200 automated teller machines on a dedicated fiber network using Digital Subscriber Line and Multiprotocol Label Switching technologies. IBM said Lloyds' branches will gain eight times their current network bandwidth at a quarter of the price.

It's one of the largest voice-over-IP projects in Europe, with almost 70,000 VoIP phones due to be installed. IBM said the initiative will take advantage of the wealth of unused fiber in the U.K. The switch will occur over 20 months and is partly designed to demonstrate how large banks and retailers can benefit from moving to converged fiber-optic networks, said an IBM spokesman.

-- Scarlet Pruitt, IDG News Service

Siemens Sets Wireless Data Speed Record

DUSSELDORF, Germany -- Siemens AG claimed last week that it has set the world speed record for wireless data transfer. Siemens said its Munich research lab achieved a wireless transmission rate of 1Gbit/sec. by combining an "intelligent antenna system" with Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology.

The combination of multiple antennas and OFDM makes very efficient use of the radio spectrum while minimizing interference. Siemens used a system of three transmitting and four receiving antennas to simultaneously send different flows of data over the same radio channel and frequency band. The company predicted that the fourth-generation wireless technology will be needed for high-bandwidth applications beginning in 2015.

-- John Blau, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

  • BT Group PLC announced this month that it will take control of Albacom SpA, one of Italy's first alternative telecommunications operators, by buying out its three partners for about $153 million. BT will acquire the 74% of Milan-based Albacom that it doesn't already own so it can offer expanded European coverage to corporate customers.

    -- Laura Rohde, IDG News Service
  • IBM on Dec. 3 announced a four-year, $34.3 million deal to overhaul systems at 14 hospitals, 107 clinics and 300 local doctors' offices in Spain's Extremadura region.

    -- Scarlet Pruitt, IDG News Service
  • Grande Island Resort in Subic Bay in the Philippines said it has rolled out a $107,000 voice-over-IP system from Cisco Systems Inc. The new technology is expected to lower the resort's interoffice long-distance costs by as much as 80%, said IT manager Julius Buen.

    -- Lawrence Casiraya, Computerworld Philippines

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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