IBM to Enhance Networking in Blades

Big Blue to integrate Layer 2-7 Ethernet switching into the systems.

IBM later this month will be enhancing the networking capabilities in its blade server products by integrating Layer 2-7 Ethernet switching into the systems.

The switches, designed by Nortel Networks Inc., will be integrated into the BladeCenter chassis, giving businesses access to high-level networking and load-balancing capabilities without having to bring in separate appliances into the data center, according to Jeff Benck, vice president of IBMs eServer BladeCenter.

"This is another step in allowing us to collapse the [data center] infrastructure," Benck said.

The Armonk, N.Y., company also will start shipping a cluster expansion card from Myricom Inc. and its own BladeCenter Optical Pass-thru Module to increase connectivity for high-performance technical computing environments. In addition, IBM will be offering an Ethernet expansion card to enable customers to get up to 4Gigabit Ethernet ports per BladeCenter system, as opposed to the two they currently receive.

The moves, which will be announced Tuesday, are part of IBMs push to bring storage, server and networking offerings onto the same on-demand platform, Benck said. The new offerings will start shipping at the end of the month.

By integrating Nortels Layer 2-7 Gbe Switch onto the BladeCenter chassis—where the systems already get shared cooling and power capabilities—IBM is enabling businesses to clear more space on their data center floors while also improving the performance of their blades and giving them greater flexibility, he said. Currently enterprises must buy the switches as a separate appliance. IBM estimates that integrating the switch into the chassis will reduce the cost of ownership by 65 percent.

A key is that the integrated switch will more intelligently route traffic to the appropriate blade server within the rack.

"Its the difference between delivering the mail … by the outside address on the envelope—which is pretty efficient [and] looking inside the envelope and seeing who in the family it should go to," Benck said. "It would be much better because you could deliver it directly to the right person."

Layer 2 Ethernet switching, which currently is available integrated in BladeCenter, gives users a basic Ethernet switch, he said. "With 2-7, you can move up into the IP stack."

The Myrinet Cluster Expansion Card, from Myricom, enables customers to hook BladeCenter servers in clusters connected by Myrinet technology. The Optical Pass-thru Module, when used with the Fibre Channel Expansion card enables another connection to IBM TotalStorage suite of products.

It also can be used with connectivity with Myrinet clusters.