IBM Adds Brocade Fibre Channel Switch To BladeCenter

According to IBM, the new switch will make it the only vendor with a fully integrated Brocade Fibre Channel switch in a blade server system.

IBM Tuesday unveiled two blade switches similar to Brocade's current Fibre Channel switch line, including an entry-level model that supports connections to up to two additional switches in the fabric, and an enterprise-class model that can connect to up to 256 additional switches, said Robert Sauerwalt, global product manager for IBM's blade architectures.

The blade storage switches join similar products from other vendors that extend IBM's BladeCenter capabilities. Those products include a Layer-7 IP switch from Nortel Networks, a Layer-2 IP switch from Cisco Systems, and an interconnect from Myricom for Linux-based high-performance compute clusters, Sauerwalt said.

The Brocade blades are another tool that could help customers cut costs and drive ease of management, he said. "If customers have a Brocade storage fabric, now they have a BladeCenter solution," Sauerwalt said. "The alternates in the past were to rip out and replace the Brocade fabric, or have a mixed-vendor fabric, or offer no Fibre Channel fabric at all."

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About 50 percent of IBM's BladeCenter business goes through the channel, Sauerwalt said.

Prices for the new storage blades start at $14,500. They are expected to ship next month.

David Browning, executive vice president of Advanced Systems Group, a Tustin, Calif.-based solution provider, called the addition of the Brocade switches to the IBM architecture exciting for the channel. "The whole BladeCenter concept is pretty powerful, with Intel and PowerPC blades running Windows, AIX and Linux in a chassis," he said.

By adding a Brocade blade, the BladeCenter moves from being a collection of servers to a solid enterprise-class product, Browning said. "It fits in an overall server consolidation move," he said.

Browning said Advanced Systems Group, which is one of IBM's Total Storage Solution Centers, plans to demo the new Brocade blade at a customer event it is holding later this month.