IBM Ties 10-Gbit Ethernet, InfiniBand, Virtualization In Blades


Key to improving the BladeCenter H architecture performance, as well as that of the BladeCenter HT telecom version, is a new 10-Gbps Ethernet switch from Blade Network Technologies, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based developer of switches for blade servers that was spun out from Nortel Networks nearly a year ago.

The Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch is the first 10-Gbps Ethernet switch designed specifically for blade servers, said Vikram Mehta, president and CEO of Blade Network Technologies. The company in June introduced a 10-Gbps Ethernet switch to connect to a blade chassis, but the new switch brings the full 10-Gbps Ethernet bandwidth direct to the individual blade servers, Mehta said.

The Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch has twice the performance and nine times the throughput of other 10-Gbps switches, including Cisco's Catalyst 6509, Mehta said. It's also lower in terms of cost, with a price of about $500 per port, or $9,799 for a 20-port switch, compared with about $36,000 for an 8-port Catalyst switch, he said.

"This product will be the spark for the 10-Gbit topology, especially for customers looking to adopt blade servers," Mehta said. "It's for customers who need high performance, like financial companies, and for service providers in areas like IPTV, video-on-demand and online gaming."

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IBM also is making it easier to connect Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand together with new bridge modules from QLogic, said Ishan Sehgal, program director for the BladeCenter line. The bridge modules sit inside the BladeCenter H chassis to convert InfiniBand connectivity within the chassis to Fibre Channel or Gbit Ethernet for the external connection.

"We offer choice to the customer," Sehgal said. "InfiniBand has a place in super-low latency applications. And we see 10-Gbit Ethernet becoming the alternative to that, with its affordable and ubiquitous technology."

Mike Martin, director of sales in the Green Bay, Wis., office of solution provider Logicalis, said the performance of the new 10-Gbit Ethernet switch and the InfiniBand modules, along with the low price of the switch, will make it easier to deliver innovative solutions, especially in virtualized environments.

"When you talk about virtualization to individual blades, you can differentiate them according to individual applications," Martin said. "When you combine 10-Gbit Ethernet with virtualization like VMware, this becomes a critical technology. And when you can bridge it to InfiniBand, it becomes even more critical."

Martin added that he's a big believer in the importance of InfiniBand. "We're trying to bring it into our storage strategies and looking at how clients can use it to get the throughput they need," he said.

Also new from IBM is an embedded BladeCenter H Fibre Channel fabric switch from Cisco Systems to go along with similar switches from QLogic, McData and Brocade Communications Systems, which Sehgal said is aimed at customers who deploy end-to-end Cisco intelligent SAN services.

IBM also unveiled the IBM Multi-Switch Interconnect Module, which doubles the number of Fibre Channel or Gbit Ethernet connections to each blade server to eight. "We didn't just increase the bandwidth, but also the number of simultaneous connections," Sehgal said.

Also new is the IBM BladeCenter Address Manager, a utility that virtualizes Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections within a system via software that assigns Ethernet and Fibre Channel port addresses to the blades. The addresses are sent to non-volatile memory to let customer pre-populate a blade with specific LAN and SAN technology for fast repurposing of servers, decreasing the time needed to provision new servers, Sehgal said.

IBM sells its blade server products via direct and indirect channels, with well over 50 percent of the products going through solution providers, Sehgal said.