IBM Introduces Virtual Fabric Architecture for BladeCenter

Breakthrough connectivity speeds help enable advanced technologies such as Web 2.0, IPTV, online gaming

Armonk, N.Y., Jan. 15, 2007 -- IBM (introduced Virtual Fabric Architecture, new interconnect technologies and management tools for the BladeCenter H system, to help increase speed and efficiency of data transfer across blade servers and networks. IBM Virtual Fabric Architecture has enabled IBM BladeCenter to deliver up to a 43 percent system bandwidth advantage over HP BladeSystem for customers.

The explosion of new consumer technologies such as Web 2.0, IPTV, and online gaming, and business technologies such as quad-core processing and virtualization, are driving the need for high bandwidth interconnect technologies to move data traffic across high-capacity networks. Introduced less than a year ago, IBM BladeCenter H is a high-performance system that delivers the increased bandwidth needed by providing businesses up to 10 times the capacity to move data across their networks.

To help unleash the power in the BladeCenter H design to further support such cutting edge technologies and applications, IBM is working with partners to introduce its Virtual Fabric Architecture with technologies including:

  • Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch from BLADE Network Technologies and NetXen 10G Ethernet Expansion Card: A complete solution with 10G Ethernet connectivity directly to a blade server from IBM’s collaboration with BLADE Network Technologies and NetXen. The Nortel 10G Ethernet switch provides the highest levels of connectivity and ensures optimal throughput between each BladeCenter server in a system and to the network core.

  • Cisco Embedded Fibre Channel Fabric Switch: The new Cisco embedded switch will allow customers to deploy end-to-end Cisco intelligent SAN services, such as VSANs, advanced security, and high availability. The new Fibre Channel switch is the next phase in a series of switching solution offerings to include Fibre Channel, Ethernet, and InfiniBand options.

  • QLogic Ethernet and Fibre Channel InfiniBand Bridge Modules: An industry first in conjunction with the Cisco 4X InfiniBand Switch Module provides gateway functions for one or more InfiniBand-connected group of BladeCenter H systems to external Gb Ethernet or Fibre Channel networks.

  • IBM BladeCenter Address Manager: Allows for the I/O virtualization of Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections within a system by providing BladeCenter customers the option to assign Ethernet and Fibre Channel port addresses used by their server blades via software as an alternative to the addresses that are burned-in to the hardware during manufacturing. BladeCenter Address Manager also supports a variety of fabrics from IBM ecosystem partners.

  • IBM Multi-Switch Interconnect Module (MSIM): Designed by IBM to help double the number of Fibre Channel or Gb Ethernet connections to each blade. MSIM fits into the high speed switch slots in BladeCenter H, supports the entire BladeCenter switch portfolio.

  • IBM offers a wide range of networking and storage switches, and has shipped more than 2 million one-Gigabit Ethernet ports to date. It has extending its lead by delivering more I/O solutions including the industry’s first integrated 10-Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to a blade.

Greater Portfolio Integration for IT Management

IBM is collaborating with Cisco to provide BladeCenter customers access to Cisco VFrame, a data-center provisioning and orchestration product that enables utility computing, or the ability to rapidly commission and decommission shared pools of server and I/O resources on demand. VFrame system management software creates virtual “compute services” by programming server switches to map diskless servers to a shared pool of I/O and storage resources. VFrame reduces total cost of ownership by enabling administrators to provision compute services in seconds, not days or weeks; automate tasks based on business policies; and simplify network and server architectures.

IBM BladeCenter is also supported by the IBM Systems Director portfolio of platform-management tools that integrate with Tivoli offerings to provide complete cross-enterprise service management. Key tools in the Systems Director family include: IBM Advanced Management Module to manage blades at the system level; IBM Virtualization Manager to provide a single point of access to manage, virtualize, and optimize across physical and virtual systems; and PowerExecutive to optimize energy use and application performance. Systems Director together with Tivoli software solutions provide a service management platform that enables process automation and integration to achieve the operational efficiencies and effectiveness that customers demand for their IT environments. Collaboration Drives Leadership in 10G Ethernet has fostered a collaborative community of over 80 members focused on accelerating the development solutions based on the blade server platform pioneered by IBM and Intel. The introduction of the industry’s first 10G Ethernet Switch from BLADE Network Technologies for IBM BladeCenter was the result of collaborative efforts among partners: Broadcom, BLADE Network Technologies, IBM, and NetXen.

The new switch from BLADE -- Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch Module (10GbESM) -- uses Broadcom’s low power chips designed to empower networking equipment to transmit, manage, and prioritize increasing amounts of complex voice, video, and data traffic at broadband speeds. Nortel 10G provides 20 10G Ethernet ports -- 14 ports for connection to each blade in the system and six external ports for connection to the network. The switch can be used with IBM BladeCenter H in conjunction with a new dual port 10G Ethernet expansion card from NetXen that can support offload of TCP/IP, iSCSI, and RDMA protocols, significantly improving throughput and reducing host CPU utilization to enable system performance to scale dramatically.

Pricing and Availability

All products are available today, with the exception of BladeCenter Address Manager which will be available in the second half of 2007.

Product prices vary:

  • Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch Module list price: $9799 (20 ports)

  • NetXen 10G Ethernet Expansion Card: $899 (dual port)

  • Cisco Systems 4Gb Fibre Channel Switch Module: $14,999 (20 ports) and $8,999 (10 ports)

  • QLogic Ethernet InfiniBand Bridge Module: $8,149

  • QLogic InfiniBand Fibre Channel Bridge Module : $9,799

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