IBM is offering 8 Gb Fibre Channel capabilities in its family of BladeCenter blade servers, the latest move by Big Blue to outfit its data center hardware with high-speed networking capabilities. With 8 Gb Fibre Channel and IBM's self-managing virtualization software, customers will be able to get twice the performance with about half the hardware requirements. The 8 Gb Fibre Channel technology dovetails with IBM's other networking efforts around 10 Gb Ethernet and 40 Gb Infiniband.
IBM is bringing high-speed 8 Gigabit Fibre Channel capabilities to
its blade servers, the latest move by the company to outfit its data
center offerings with the fastest networking technology.
Big Blue announced March 12 that the 8Gb Fibre Channel capabilities,
offered in conjunction with SAN (storage area network) vendor QLogic,
will be featured in all of IBM's BladeCenter systems and will mean that
customers will be able to run the high-speed technology from the blade
to the switch and out to the storage devices.
The move will essentially offer users twice the performance of
current 4 Gb technology with about half the hardware requirements, said
Tom Bradicich, IBM Fellow and vice president of the company's Systems
and Technology Group.
IBM also will be able to reduce costs for HBAs (host bus adaptors)
and switch hardware in the data center by almost 68 percent, which
officials say will lead to money and space savings.
"There are costs savings, space savings and energy savings,"
Bradicich said. "Having the ability to get the job done faster with
less hardware is really a green initiative as well."
A key technology in IBM's push will be its BladeCenter Open Fabric
Manager, self-managing virtualization software that will enable IT
administrators to speed up traffic flow through the network and
maintain the performance of such I/O applications as virtualization,
databases and collaboration software.
IBM about two years ago brought 10 Gb Ethernet
into its blade systems, and the company is working with partners and
suppliers to increase its high-speed networking capabilities, Bradicich
said. One partner, ServerEngines, has built two 10GbE CAN (converged
network adapter) cards for BladeCenter and IBM's industry-standard
System x systems.
In addition, Voltaire officials recently announced that their
company will build a high-performance switch for BladeCenter that will
offer 40 Gb Infiniband connectivity.
The aggressive move to higher-speed networking technology is
important as data centers continue to combine various separate
networks, including those used for storage, applications and
clustering. In addition, enterprises continue to move away from DAS
(direct-attached storage) to SANs, which are further away from the
servers, he said.
"Accessing the information and processing the information are duties
of the servers," Bradicich said, adding that SANs contain that data.
"Increasing the access speed gets the job done faster. ... You can't
process data if you can't get to it."
He said it was analogous to cooking in a kitchen when the key
ingredients are in the garage. Getting fast access to the ingredients
makes the cooking go faster.
Having a wide range of high-speed networking technology options will
grow in demand as enterprises grow out what Bradicich called hybrid
data centers, which use a range of IBM equipment to meet their IT
needs. For example, Hoplon Infortainment, a Brazilian company that
develops massive multiplayer online games, uses a System z mainframe
system to run its DB2 database, Cell processor-based servers to develop
high-performance visualization technology for the games and
general-purpose x86 systems for such tasks as billing and accounting.
"That combination of those three ... is very powerful," he said.
Bradicich said the Open Fabric Manager virtualization software not
only is a key part of the 8 Gb Fibre Channel rollout, but of IBM's
overall virtualization initiative that will touch on all parts of IBM's
data center offerings.
"Open Fabric Manager ... allows you to virtualize networking
addresses (SAN and LAN) for each blade or each socket the blade plugs
into," he said. "The problem is [that] if you move a blade around, you
have to switch its address. Open Fabric Manager does that for an
IT manager automatically. ... The Open Fabric Manager is a piece
of the bigger virtualization story we're rolling out, in which
virtualization is in every system: the network -- starting with Open
Fabric Manager -- memory and CPU and storage."