IBM is teaming with a creator of deep packet inspection appliances to create a solution for carriers hoping to offer managed services that will run on Big Blue’s BladeCenter servers.

The solution will be available for sale “in the next couple of quarters,” said Bill Scull, vice-president of marketing at CloudShield Technologies of Sunnyvale, Calif., at a price to be determined.

However, he added that it is being beta tested by British Telecom.

The idea of the solution came from a carrier – Scull wouldn’t say who, but noted that British Telecom was the only provider mentioned in the press release announcing the upcoming product – that wanted to offer managed communications services to organizations.

CloudShield’s DS 2000 appliance competes against similar packet inspection products from Cisco Systems, Sandvine and others.

While routers and switches look at the outside of packets traveling over the network, deep packet inspection looks inside, he said.

This can be useful if a provider wants to keep tabs on such things as quality of service, in addition to knowing if threatening or suspicious content is going over the line.

“Deep packet inspection lets you balance competing demands for network bandwidth,” he said.

For providers, a solution that can run on a blade allows them to offer a range of services and applications — say, multiple brands of firewalls — to customers, letting them pick and chose what they want, while at the same time being able to assure security through DPI.

“By bringing DPI to BladeCentre, two things happen, he said. “You engender an expanded set of applications that work on the BladeCentre and can do security and service control … and act as a traffic cop.

“The slickest thing is that the software doesn’t have to be modified in any way but can run in a carrier-class setting.”

One of the advantages of using IBM’s blade system is that it has an open specification, letting providers build solutions. Scull said CloudShield’s open application interfaces are also ready for developers to work with.

In its news release, CloudShield quoted British Telecom CTO Murray Cooke describing the solution as having “carrier-class architecture, functionality, performance and reliability” to allow it to be deployed with speeds up to 10Gbps.

Telus is among the users of CloudShield’s DPI technology. A company spokesman said it couldn’t comment on the CloudShield-IBM announcement.