IBM Enhances Blade Center

Last month, IBM unveiled two blade switches similar to Brocade's current Fibre Channel 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 blade architectures at IBM, Armonk, N.Y.

The switches join similar products from other vendors that extend IBM's BladeCenter capabilities and are aimed at easing management chores and costs for customers. 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 clusters, Sauerwalt said.

About 50 percent of IBM's BladeCenter business goes through the channel, he said. The new blades are expected to begin shipping next month, and pricing will start at $14,500.

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.

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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."