What Does NEBS Level 3 Testing Look Like?

July 12th, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Jared Jacobs of Dell OEM.  

The Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) requirements were devised as a means to help make sure that certain important services are always available. There is such a reliance on telecommunication and network services that any disruption could cause major problems. The NEBS testing standard was created at Bell Laboratories and while it is currently maintained by Telcordia Technologies it remains one of the toughest performance and reliability tests in the telecommunications or any other industry.

There are three different levels of testing, and products that are held up to Level 3 testing are considered reliable enough that they are used all across the world for everything from commercial to defense applications. This is because the goal of NEBS is to make sure the electronic equipment will work during a test and keep on working after the test is done. It can’t be fully certified if it can’t keep going.
Given the large variety of equipment from different manufacturers and the constant exposure to various risks, the NEBS has to focus on some specific points. This includes equipment compatibility, simple installations, and protection from power problems. Equipment must also prevent interference from other nearby devices, reduce the risk of fire, and still work properly in a wide range up environmental situations, up to and including earthquakes.

NEBS Level 3 testing simulates a wide range of potential calamities, from lightning strikes to intense earthquakes. The product must not only survive the event, but it must go on working just as it did before. It isn’t always easy to design for these tests, and it requires that the designer considers all of these facets at the very beginning of the process. However, the level of reliability can be greatly increased when these tests are at the heart of any new design.

The Variety of Tests

The list of tests performed for NEBS Level 3 is extensive, but it’s enough to get started by understanding some of the tests that could make your break your certification.

Fire Tests – Tests will be performed on your system and on the materials and components to see how fires spread and how heat is released from the product. Note that these tests will destroy your equipment, which is why you are required to send multiple products. This test is usually performed first for that very reason. There’s no point in trying to pass all the other tests if it can’t get past the one that will destroy it anyway.

Electromagnetic Emissions and Immunity – Checks must be made for radiated electrical and magnetic fields as well as any emissions from AC and DC power signals. The tests will look at the differences when cabinet doors or panels are opened and removed in an attempt to account for various situations. The equipment must be able to pass tests for emissions and immunity over a broad range of frequencies – from 10kHz up to 10GHz.

Lightning and Earthquake Resilience – If there is a first or second level lightning surge, the equipment must not start on fire or, well, explode. It’s probably good to get this test over with as early as possible, too. Along the same lines, the product must be able handle an earthquake that measure up to 8.2 on the scale.

Corrosion and Contaminants – There will be a range of tests on the materials to make sure it can stand up to a range of airborne and surface contaminants. It must be tested indoors and out, and be able to handle most of the common pollutants in the atmosphere.
While these are the major tests that must be performed, there are a wide range of others, including the ability to operate under severe temperatures and even handling the standard level of office vibrations.

Passing the Tests

The complete NEBS Level 3 program can be very costly, and it will take a lot of time to complete, so it’s important to make sure you equipment is ready to pass the tests on the first try. You can avoid delays and minimize your costs by designing your products to meet these requirements from the ground up. This means that companies need to hold their own suppliers up to many of the same requirements, because everything must work together to meet the NEBS standards.

Designing components and equipment with the NEBS in mind can be difficult, and you should never expect any sort of leniency in your tests. When you do it right, though, the products you manufacture will be certified at the highest levels of safety, reliability, and performance.

Learn more about how a NEBS-tested server can help your business.

Jared Jacobs has professional and personal interests in everything technology. As an employee of Dell, he has to stay up to date on the latest trends and breakthroughs in large enterprise solutions and consumer electronics buying trends. In his spare time he is tinkering with sound systems and other awesome gadgets he can get his hands on. He’s also a big Rockets and Texans fan.

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