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Blogs by Trenton Systems

What are Mil-Spec Servers?

Note: Trenton Systems is not a compliance testing facility. We manufacture rugged servers and workstations that conform to military and industrial standards, such as MIL-STD-810 and DO-160, and we can ensure that our systems comply with these standards using our in-house testing equipment, or by sending our systems to a third-party compliance testing laboratory for validation, but our facility does not offer compliance testing services for products manufactured outside of Trenton Systems. For a list of laboratories that can assist you with your testing needs, please read this blog post, which lists the best compliance testing laboratories in the world.

Mil-Spec Servers are utilized heavily across the branches of the military. These rugged servers answer the call of duty across various mission-critical applications and projects of all sizes.

Yet, few know what makes a rugged server a Mil-Spec server. 

In this blog, I will answer the top 3 questions surrounding Mil-Spec servers and provide examples of real use cases to help you better understand these qualifications.

Let's begin.

Top 3 Questions on Mil-Spec Servers

In our world of rugged computers, there are a lot of questions about what a high-performance computer can do for a specific application. A lot of times the keywords or phrases used to describe a system are close enough for a rugged computer manufacturer to understand, but technically incorrect. So, to help clear the muddy waters, we'll answer the following inquiries:

  1. Are Rugged Servers and Mil-Spec Servers synonyms?
  2. What are the qualifications of Mil-Spec Servers?
  3. Mil-Spec vs. MIL-STD

Are Rugged Servers and Mil-Spec Servers the same?

Yes...and no.

The best way to answer this question is to say that Rugged Servers may or may not be Mil-Spec Servers, but Mil-Spec Servers are Rugged Servers.

Say what?

I know, it's a mouthful but I'll share some actual use cases we at Trenton Systems see quite often.

Aviation & Aerospace Use Case

 A contact comes in with a request for the following rugged computer in the Aviation & Aerospace industry:

  • 2U high, short-depth rugged computer system
  • Dual Intel® Xeon® CPUs or as much processing power the rugged server can handle
  • It has to be rugged enough to withstand extreme temperatures and altitude fluctuations

A recommendation I'd make is one of our newer rugged servers, the MBS2000 Blade Server. It can hold up to 4 SBCs in a 2U high, 19" deep rugged chassis. Not only for the low MTTR (mean time to replace) but it also exceeds the contact's performance requirements while meeting all others.

Government & Defense Use Case

A second contact requests that they need a Mil-Spec Server for a U.S. Air Force program with the following specs:

  • 2U high, short-depth Mil-Spec Server that can fit into small spaces
  • Processing power is important but a Single CPU, Intel® Core i3 preferred
  • Certified shock & vibe to MIL-STD-810G

I'd make the same exact recommendation again.

The reason I am able to do so is because the MBS2000 Blade Server is a rugged server that has been stress-tested in-house by Trenton Systems engineers as well as certified to MIL-STD-810G standards, therefore making it a Mil-Spec Server.

With these two use cases, you get a better understanding as to why the two keywords tend to be used synonymously.

Mil-Spec Server Qualifications

To further dig into 'what makes a rugged server a Mil-Spec server?', we have to look at the qualifications a rugged computer goes through to be approved for military use.

Note: Not all military projects/programs require a certified rugged computer (aka. Mil-Spec Computer) and there are other non-defense or government organizations that use Mil-Spec servers.

The Mil-Spec is a document that describes the specs & requirements for military-use equipment. The MIL-STD-961 is the standard that covers the format for defense specifications.

The entire standardization of the processes and procedures is controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense. They are in charge of ensuring the proper usefulness of military equipment.

What's the difference between Mil-Spec and MIL-STD?

The difference between Mil-Spec and a MIL-STD is in the name. A Mil-Spec Server means that a rugged computer has passed Military Specifications. The MIL-STD is a Military Standard, or a specific certification the Mil-Spec Server has passed.

You have to be careful here because some will state that a rugged computer has been tested to pass a Military Standard, but not actually certified by it.

To be given a MIL-STD certification, a fully configured Mil-Spec Server is sent to a 3rd party testing facility and stress-tested to specific standards a rugged computer manufacturer pays for.

So, when we say a rugged computer is certified to MIL-STD-810G, that means it was sent to a 3rd party testing house and underwent rigorous stress-tests to pass according to the Military Standard 810G.

Another good question to ask of a computer manufacturer that lists Mil-Spec Servers is: What standard has your Mil-Spec Server been certified to?

This way, you can answer if it's really a Mil-Spec Server or a Rugged Server.

What's the right choice for me?

Your application will dictate what works better for you. A lot of rugged computers are Mil-Spec servers, but the computer manufacturer simply did not have a need for the certification due to a lack of interest in it. If you happen to see a rugged computer that will server your specifics program, contact the rugged computer manufacturer and ask if it has passed any Military Standards. If the answer is no, ask if they would be willing to certify them on your behalf to fully meet your specs and requirements.

More often than not, a rugged server will be able to pass the certifications set forth by the U.S. Department of Defense if built truly rugged.

If you have any further questions regarding this topic, feel free to leave a comment below and we'll be more than happy to answer your questions.

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