IBM Expands Blade Systems

Feature switch options and virtualization technology.

IBM is expanding the features of its BladeCenter systems, offering two new switch options and letting users try virtualization technology from VMware Inc.

The moves, announced last week at the Server Blade Summit, in Santa Clara, Calif., are the latest by IBM to grow the capabilities of its blade systems through partnerships.

By bundling evaluation copies of VMwares technology, users will be able to test virtualization environments on the BladeCenter for six months, according to officials with IBM, of Armonk, N.Y.

The evaluation copies will include VMwares ESX Server, Virtual SMP—which enables a single virtual machine to span multiple processors—and VirtualCenter with VMotion. VirtualCenter is VMwares server management software; VMotion is for workload management.

Brian Byun, vice president of alliances for VMware, in Palo Alto, Calif., said his company works with most OEMs in their blade strategies, but IBM is the first to offer evaluation copies to all its blade customers.

"Over the past couple of years, we have found customers who have been combining [virtual machine technology with blades] are finding great synergies," Byun said.

Dean Health System Inc. began experimenting with virtual machines on BladeCenter systems in October 2003. The result has been a server environment that is more efficient, manageable and cost-effective, officials said.

"The rapid deployment of servers and the ability to allow us to do a lot more both with our production and development environments have helped out a lot," said Carlo Bonura, technical system analyst at Dean Health, in Madison, Wis.

Dean Health runs ESX virtual servers on two BladeCenters in its production environment and one in development, Bonura said. Combining virtualization and blades will play a role this year as the company enters the next phase of its server consolidation project.

In addition, IBM is adding a SAN (storage area network) switch module co-developed by McData Corp. and QLogic Corp., the first product from a partnership between the two companies that was announced last November.

The embedded SAN switch, due in May, will ease BladeCenter users connectivity into McData environments.

Next month, IBM will also offer the option of a new embedded Ethernet switch from Cisco Systems Inc. The Fiber Intelligent Switch Module will provide ports to users who want fiber Ethernet connectivity in their BladeCenter chassis.

Blade Bundles

IBM is growing the integrated offerings in its BladeCenter platform, including:

  • SAN switch module from McData and QLogic
  • Ethernet switch from Cisco due next month
  • Bundled evaluation copies of VMwares virtual infrastructure