IBM Helps Take Truck Stops Wireless with Linux

Aiming to become a key player in the deployment and integration of Wi-Fi wireless local area networks (WLANs), IBM Monday sealed an agreement with Columbia Advanced Wireless (CAW) and Rocksteady Networks which rig more than 1,000 truck stops across the U.S. with 802.11 hotspots.

IBM Global Services will deploy the networks using IBM eServer xSeries servers running Linux, with Rocksteady supplying its NSA Network Sharing application, which authenticates and then dynamically manages the Internet session based on a driver’s credentials. It also offers additional capabilities, including dynamic bandwidth shaping and metering, which allocates and prioritizes bandwidth usage in real time on a user-by-user basis.

CAW, which specializes in equipping truck stops with Wi-Fi, says that more than 25 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million truck drivers (as of 2000), carry laptops, allowing them to locate and negotiate loads, do their banking, stay in touch with business partners, employers and family, and to track weather and road conditions.

“Trucking enterprises can help maximize the return on their IT investment by utilizing an on demand operating environment through this secure, reliable and scalable end-to-end mobility solution,” said Rich Michos, vice president, Linux Servers, IBM. “Accessing backend applications and data running Rocksteady Network software on Linux and IBM Intel-based servers, the new solution will help streamline the efficiency of the trucking industry’s business processes enabling truckers to do more business from the road.”

For IBM, the deal complements its relationship with Cometa Networks, a venture backed by IBM, Intel and AT&T Wireless with the aim of rolling out a ubiquitous nationwide network of public WLANs. On March 11, Cometa announced a test bed deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots in 10 McDonald’s restaurants in Manhattan, with IBM Global Services deploying and integrating the networks. By year’s end, McDonald’s plans to extend the deployment to several hundred restaurants in three major U.S. markets.

However, IBM is not exclusively tied to Cometa.

“There’s no specific algorithm,” said Rod Adkins, general manager of Pervasive Computing at IBM. “In some cases it makes sense to do it through Cometa. Cometa is a channel in terms of these different Wi-Fi deployment opportunities.”

IBM’s Wi-Fi engagements have been growing. It has worked with Toronto police to build a Wi-Fi public infrastructure that allows police in cruisers to roam between public WLANs and traditional private packet networks. The WLANs give them the capabilities of exchanging rich media — for instance allowing officers to pull a mug shot from headquarters, but they can still seamlessly roam with the private packet networks that give them more limited text capabilities.

The company is also working with public agencies in Washington, D.C., to build public WLANs that help agencies like EMS, police departments and fire departments connect with each other.

“They can now communicate and share information between the agencies,” Adkins said.