IBM Expands Blade Virtualization Tools

IBM offers a new management tool that expands I/O virtualization across 100 BladeCenter chassis.

In the companys ongoing effort to expand its blade business, IBM is introducing new management software that adds I/O virtualization to its BladeCenter portfolio.

Open Fabric Manager, which IBM announced Nov. 19, will allow IT administrators to monitor and control I/O virtualization across 100 BladeCenter chassis, containing 1,400 individual blades, from a single console. The new tool supports a number of different I/O fabrics for network and storage, including Fibre Channel, InfiniBand, Ethernet, iSCSI and SAS (serial-attached SCSI).

The software automates the interaction between the blades, storage and the network. Once the connections, such as the MAC (media access control) address, are established, the management software then controls the interaction between the chassis and the network. If one blade is removed and another blade is plugged into the chassis to replace it, the software automatically makes the connection to the SAN (storage area network) or the LAN.

For customers, this type of automation tool cuts down on the time it would take for the IT department to coordinate new connections if an individual or group of blades needed to be added to a network or removed, said Stuart McRae, the business line manager for IBM BladeCenter.


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"For most customers, the pain points with blades is managing the power and managing the complexity," said McRae. "The more they consolidate workloads, the more they need to remove these layers of complexity. When you had one application with one server, it didnt take that much to replace. Now, with multiple workloads on a blade server, customers need an extra layer of automation in that environment."

IBM also has an advantage since the Open Fabric Manager will work with technology from almost any third-party network vendor such as Cisco, QLogic and Emulex. This means that customers will not have to replace their current switches with new ones in order to run the software, McRae said.

In addition to the standard version of Open Fabric Manager, IBM will sell an advanced version that adds a failover function, which will move workloads from one blade to another in the data center in case of a problem.

The IBM announcement follows a similar management offering that Hewlett-Packard unveiled for its line of BladeSystem C-class architecture at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco earlier in November. The HP Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager also allows administrators to create virtual interconnect fabrics that can manage 100 blade chassis through a single console.

The fact that IBM, which is based in Armonk, N.Y., and HP are each trying to expand the capabilities of their respective blade architecture should come as no surprise. According to IDC, the two vendors dominate the small but competitive blade landscape, with HP controlling 47.2 percent of the market and IBM owning 32.3 percent. The two IT giants have also been accusing each other of spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) with each new announcement.

That was on display again the week of Nov. 19 as IBM claimed that its management tools are much more affordable and work with third-party network vendors. For its part, HP did not announce a specific price range with its software when it was released at the Oracle conference.

The IBM Open Fabric Manager costs $1,499 per chassis, or $1,999 per chassis for the more advanced version with the failover capability. The software will hit the market in December, according to IBM.


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