The nascent blade server market just got a boost with the announcement of QLogic Corp.s new switch module for IBM eServer BladeCenter servers.
The Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based companys new switch now contains three times the port density of other switch modules, according to the company, providing enough ports to support the connection of external disk and tape, and simplifying complex switch configuration tasks.
Port density is important because it allows the unit to take up less space, which in turn provides more room to add more blades or other systems, said Rich Villars, vice president of storage systems at research firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass. And as more people adopt the blade server approach, port density will become even more critical, he said.
QLogics announcement also simplifies some switch configuration tasks. "With some of the initial deployments, it was inferred that you had to connect to a Director," Villars explained. "This gives you the ability to more quickly set up the environment as self-contained with storage connected to it without padding layers of switching and management into those layers."
Blade servers—modular electronic circuit boards containing microprocessors and memory that are typically used for file sharing, Web page serving and caching, SSL encrypting of Web communications and transcoding of Web page content for smaller displays—are growing in use throughout a variety of industries, according to IDC.
A recent report by IDC, the "Worldwide Fibre Channel Switch 2004-2008 Forecast," notes that blade server-embedded switches will grow from 24.7 million in 2004 to nearly 340 million in 2008. The report predicts that 2006 will be the peak year for Fibre Channel switch growth as sales of low-cost eight-to-12-port switches and blade server-embedded switches hit their stride.
The market for blade server-embedded Fibre Channel switches is relatively small, with only two major players. In addition to QLogic, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif. offers a similar product.