McData, QLogic Collaborate on Embedded Blade Server Switch

The companies have inked a three-year deal to develop a switch for large enterprises with McData infrastructures.

QLogic Corp. and McData Corp. will combine forces to develop an embedded blade server switch, the companies announced on Monday.

Under the terms of the three-year agreement, the first project for QLogic, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., and McData, of Broomfield, Colo., will be the development of an embedded blade server switch aimed at large enterprises that can be easily integrated into their existing McData fabrics, said Jim Nollsch, a senior product manager at McData.

"Customers want to be able not only to install these blade servers seamlessly into their existing fabrics, but they want to be have the same management capabilities they have had in standalone hosts in the past," he said.

Nollsch said the first iteration of the product will have basic data mode interoperability and limited management and security functionality, while a second iteration, due next year, will have fully integrated McData management functionality and parity with McDatas other management offerings. "We plan to build on that over time," he said.

With alliances like this, enterprises can have greater comfort in deploying blade architectures, said Rick Villars, vice president of storage systems research at IDC, a Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm.

"They wont have to build a completely separate SAN [storage area network] to service the data, and they can have a lot more confidence in linking this into the investment they have made in their SAN infrastructures over the past three or four years," he said.

The alliance makes perfect sense from McDatas perspective, Villars said.

"If you look at where blades are going and where switches are going with them, they have been going into large enterprises, which are more likely to have McData Directors," he said. "We have seen from conversations weve had with those companies that they would like those switches to be compatible with their SAN infrastructures, so McData clearly needed to get a blade server switch product into its portfolio sooner rather than later."

Because QLogic has been building embedded blade server switches for some time, working with QLogic probably was the best way to get to market quickly, Villars said. "It was a straightforward business decision. The key was ensuring compatibility, reliability and integration, and QLogic offered them a good solution to do that quickly."

The agreement with McData isnt QLogics first foray into the blade server market. In May, IBM and QLogic jointly introduced IBM eServer BladeCenter Server Blades, which incorporate QLogic Fibre Down and embedded switching.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about QLogics new switch module for IBM eServer BladeCenter servers.

Even with that background, the alliance with McData is a good move for QLogic, Villars said.

"Despite all the work QLogic has done with embedded switches, the reality is that most customers that will be putting blades in have SANs from McData, Brocade, CNT or Cisco," he said. "From QLogics standpoint, it was going to be a tough battle to go it alone and become interoperable with everyone. Now they are providing their technology and hardware and ensuring that interoperability is there."

The announcement also is a growing recognition that blade servers are an important part of the environment companies must support in the storage area network. According to IDC, the blade server and blade switch market will reach more than $4.3 billion by 2006.

/zimages/3/28571.gifIT managers are increasingly turning to blade servers for their performance and value. Click here to read more.

The alliance also underscores the growing acceptance that vendors will have to work together to achieve the type of performance they need, Villars said. "Its the first visible acknowledgement that there will be a lot more cooperation and sharing of technology," he said.

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