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Defining A Combat-Proven Rugged Server

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 April 26th, 2023

The broad and informal definition of a rugged server is a server that is stress-tested and able to perform in extreme and harsh environments. Formally, these systems are defined by the standards and qualifications that they meet. Though we often emphasize the extensive capabilities for customization through hot-swap components, form factors, as well as unique potentials for data storage and edge computing, the core elements required for our rugged servers is testing and meeting hardware specs (i.e., MIL-STD 810), all while adhering to quality-controlled process specs (i.e., ISO9001:2015). On our info page we have up-to-date documentation of some of the most common military standards (abbreviated to MIL-STD) we design to. These PDFs cover mission-ready standards used across several services.  

Because of the advances made in testing and simulation, rugged servers are built to withstand environmental hazards and externalized risks like excessive vibration, electromagnetic interference or EMI, temperature shock, or in specialized cases, things like atmospheric pressure. Below we will detail the process and protection involved in testing and labelling a CPNA server rugged, as well as other standards that we engineer our servers to, based on individual needs.



Designing to 55 Years of Updated Military-Standards (MIL-STD)  

Military Standards, the central guideline for our hardware assembly and testing process, are not only used for DoD-intended equipment. It spans commercial, transportation, oil, aerospace, and all sorts of industries that must use equipment in a harsh environment. The quality of these standards is a direct result of the thorough and stringent testing methods used to verify a hardware’s readiness for various extreme environments. All rugged servers built by CPNA are custom-built and designed at minimum for altitude, temperature, humidity, blowing sand and dust, transport vibration, and various shocks from vibration to bench handling. MIL-STDs take part in each stage of production, beginning with prototyping. 

Our first stage involves working with engineers and assessing server requisites through conversation and a technical resource document form. Once we’ve collected the standards and configuration you require, we begin the process of rapid prototyping. Though the turnover time can vary due to changing environments or requiring a custom solution, we are confident in our engineers to collaborate and rapidly produce a prototype. After this collaboration is the design and troubleshooting process, where we will assemble your rugged system in-house with components that meet vibration, EMI, and temperature specs detailed in our data sheets. 

When looking for rugged servers, it is often the case that the workstation and components are designed to standards without being tested afterward. Testing is an essential part of the process at CPNA, as we test our servers on-site during two phases. The design phase, as well as before the server is shipped out. Each system is subjected to what is known as a “burn-in”. Burn-ins are when you stress test a machine well past the performance and temperature stressors it would face. The goal here is to go above and beyond in our simulation to ensure against hardware or component failure and provide our clients with the highest level of reliable operation. 

Alternative Standards and Country Specific Requirements 

As an international company, we are familiar with and able to meet international standards and ratings. Take for example, our rugged tactical embedded, fanless computers, which are field-programmable as well as being able to supply highly specialized functionality on a single-board computer. As these systems have no fans, a major concern would be foreign objects and moisture intrusion. This is where alternative standards such as the ingress protection standard might be applied to a CPNA system. It uses a remarkably simple notation of IP and two numbers ranging from 0-6. The first number is its protection from intrusion, with 0 being none and 6 being total protection from even micro particles like dust. The second number is the protection from moisture and condensation, once again a 0 indicating no protection, and a 6 being able to protect against “strong jets of water” with very high levels of protection against intrusion. For example, if a rugged server received an IP22, that system would be lightly protected against intrusion, covering against >12mm such as fingers, while also being protected from direct vertical sprays of water. An IP44 rating would mean that the system is able to protect against much smaller objects. Comparatively, this incrementing of 2, accounts for a magnitude of twelve times more object intrusion protection. While an IP2X would protect against solid objects over 12mm, an IP4X system protects against objects over 1mm such as a nail or collection of wires. With moisture, the second number of the IP format, imagine the vertical point directly above the system. We go from a rating of 2 which is only able to protect 15 degrees either way from the vertical, to a full 360 degrees of water splashed from any direction. It is still important to keep in mind that this would be water splashing rather than a stream with any pressure, but the coverage was again multiplied to twelve times that of a two rating. Standards can also be combined, such as MIL-STD-167, which covers mechanical vibrations of shipboard equipment. The testing methods involved test a rugged system to be resistant to mechanical vibration shock, moisture, and ingress. 

In the same way that we customize components of a complete system like power supplies, and I/O configuration, the level of ruggedization is an equally crucial element of a rugged server. Meeting and exceeding the needs of the user, as well as the needs of the environment, work in tandem to maximize operating life and performance.

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