BladeCenter Gets Flexible

IBM to add layers 2 to 7 ethernet switching.

IBM is making connecting its BladeCenter servers more flexible with a series of networking-related enhancements. The Armonk, N.Y., company later this month will augment the networking capabilities in its blade server products by integrating Layers 2 to 7 Ethernet switching into the systems.

The GbE Switches, designed by Nortel Networks Ltd., will be integrated into the BladeCenter chassis, giving businesses access to high-level networking and load balancing capabilities without having to bring separate appliances into the data center, according to IBM officials.

IBM later this month will also start shipping a cluster expansion card from Myricom Inc., of Arcadia, Calif., and its own BladeCenter Optical Pass-thru Module to increase connectivity for high-performance technical computing environments. In addition, IBM will offer an Ethernet expansion card to enable customers to get up to four Gigabit Ethernet ports per BladeCenter system, as opposed to the two they currently receive.

Connecting the Blades

IBMs networking enhancements to its BladeCenter technology include:

  • Layers 2 to 7 Ethernet switch integrated into the chassis
  • Myricoms Myrinet Expansion Card for tying into Myrinet clusters
  • BladeCenter Optical Pass-thru Module hooks into storage area networks or Myrinet clusters
  • Ethernet expansion card expands from two ports to four
The enhancements are part of IBMs push to bring storage, server and networking offerings onto the same on-demand platform. By integrating these features into the BladeCenter chassis, IBM is enabling businesses to clear more space on their data center floors and cut costs while improving the performance of their blades, officials said. A key is that the integrated switch will more intelligently route traffic to the appropriate server.

Layer 2 Ethernet switching, which currently is available integrated in BladeCenter servers, gives users a basic Ethernet switch, officials said.

BladeCenter user Richard Wohlstadter, systems administrator with the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University, said integrating the switch into the chassis will help businesses that have a lot of network traffic. "If we had a lot of network traffic running in and out of them ... you could load balance between different ports with Layer 3," said Wohlstadter, in St. Louis. He added that for smaller enterprises that dont want to spend money for separate appliances, the integration could be a good cost saver.

Also for blade server users, Appro International Inc. this week will introduce its HyperBlade Mini-Cluster. The four-node cluster will let users start small in building their cluster environment but give them room to grow up to 80 nodes, said officials, in Milpitas, Calif.