Dell Adds Fibre Channel Switch to Blade Server

The company will offer up to two Fibre Channel switches from McData in its PowerEdge 1855 blade server chassis.

Dell Inc. is adding Fibre Channel connectivity capabilities to its blade servers.

The Round Rock, Texas, company is announcing next week that it is offering up to two Fibre Channel switches from McData Corp. in the Dell Modular Server Enclosure, the chassis for the PowerEdge 1855 blade servers.

The McData 4314 switches will add to the 1855s interconnect offerings that include Gigabit Ethernet and InfiniBand, said Tim Golden, director of worldwide marketing for Dells PowerEdge servers.

Golden said it was important for Dell to bring the McData switches aboard to complement the Fibre Channel technology it already offered from Brocade Communication Systems Inc. Dell users running Fibre Channel were fairly evenly split between the two vendors.

"Customers tend to be [running] one or the other," Golden said. "Now we can offer both."

The McData Fibre Channel switch, which offers up to 10 internal and four external ports, is available now, starting at $8,999 for a single switch.

The chassis offers customers investment protection, he said. It will be able to handle the change when Fibre Channel migrates to speeds up to 4G bps, and Ethernet as it grows to 10G bps.

The blade system market has taken off since the first dense form factors were introduced four years ago. Dell rolled out its first blade server in 2002, the PowerEdge 1655MC, but didnt follow it up until two years later with the 1855. Dell officials said the lack of standardization was hampering the blade server space, and that customers were looking for systems that were more than just trimmed-down versions of larger systems.

Golden said Dell decided to re-enter the market when it could offer a system that addressed what he called blade systems unfulfilled promises. The 1855, which can hold up to 10 blades in a 7U (12.25-inch) chassis, offers 43 percent better density than the companys 1U (1.75-inch) rack servers. Dells pricing strategy also makes it less costly to deploy blades, he said.

"Blades are positioned to become a volume market," Golden said.

Analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., said the blade server market continued to grow in the first quarter of the year. Shipments increased 68.2 percent over the same quarter the previous year, and revenue growing 106 percent. Overall, blade sales grew to $409 million, which was about 3.4 percent of the overall server market.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., continued to hold the top spot, with 39.2 percent market share. Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., was second with 35.2 percent. Dells share was 9.4 percent, according to IDC.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about IBMs plans to expand its BladeCenter offerings.

"The growth [for Dell] has been phenomenal," Golden said.

Currently, most of Dells blade servers are finding their way into the HPC (high-performance computing) space, though SMBs (small and midsize businesses) also are a growing market segment, he said.

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