IBM has launched new interconnect technologies and management tools for its BladeCenter H system it claims increase transfer speeds and efficiency across blade servers and networks.

The company said the new Virtual Fabric Architecture enabled its BladeCenter H, introduced under a year ago, could deliver up to 43 per cent more system bandwidth than HP's BladeSystem.

Big Blue reckoned that new consumer technologies such as Web 2.0, IPTV, and online gaming, and business technologies such as quad-core processing and virtualisation, are driving the need for high-bandwidth interconnect technologies to move data traffic across high capacity networks. It said that the system delivered the increased bandwidth needed by providing businesses up to 10 times the capacity to move data across their networks.

The Virtual Fabric Architecture is the product of collaboration a number of partners whose technologies include:

  • Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch from Blade Network Technologies and NetXen 10G Ethernet Expansion Card. It offers 10Gb Ethernet connectivity directly to a blade server from IBM’s collaboration with Blade Network Technologies and NetXen. The switch provides the wider connectivity while the expansion card connects it to the blade. According to IBM, the solution offers breakthrough 10G Ethernet pricing, an order of magnitude less than other offerings in the industry.

  • Cisco Embedded Fibre Channel Fabric Switch: the new switch allows customers to deploy end-to-end Cisco SAN services, such as VSANs, advanced security, and high availability. The switch is the next phase in a series of collaborations in switching between IBM and Cisco, and expands the switching solution offerings to include Fibre Channel, Ethernet and InfiniBand options, reckoned Big Blue.

  • QLogic Ethernet and Fibre Channel InfiniBand Bridge Modules: in conjunction with the Cisco 4X InfiniBand Switch Module provides gateway functions for one or more InfiniBand-connected group of BladeCenter H systems to external Gb Ethernet or Fibre Channel networks.

  • IBM BladeCenter Address Manager: Allows for the I/O virtualisation of Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections within a system by providing BladeCenter customers the option to assign Ethernet and Fibre Channel port addresses used by their server blades via software as an alternative to the addresses that are burned-in to the hardware during manufacturing. BladeCenter Address Manager also supports a variety of fabrics from IBM ecosystem partners, said IBM.

  • IBM Multi-Switch Interconnect Module (MSIM): Helps double the number of Fibre Channel or Gb Ethernet connections to each blade. MSIM fits into the high speed switch slots in BladeCenter H, supports the entire BladeCenter switch portfolio.

“IBM BladeCenter is the world's most popular blade computing system, with more than 42 percent share of the market according to IDC. Since its introduction in 2002, IBM has installed more than half a million BladeCenter systems for customers and maintained a durable infrastructure platform by delivering new technology advances that remain compatible with IBM’s original design innovation,” said IBM BladeCenter VP Doug Balog. “With today’s announcement it is clear that IBM has uniquely architected all facets of I/O to work as a central nervous system for IBM BladeCenter, delivering the optimal interconnection between blades, chassis, switches and our client's external networks.”

IBM is collaborating with Cisco to provide BladeCenter customers access to Cisco VFrame, a data centre provisioning and orchestration product that the company said enables utility computing, or the ability to commission and decommission shared pools of server and I/O resources on demand. According to Cisco, VFrame system management software creates virtual compute services by programming server switches to map diskless servers to a shared pool of I/O and storage resources. Cisco said that it reduces total cost of ownership by enabling administrators to provision compute services in seconds; to automate tasks based on business policies; and to simplify network and server architectures.

IBM BladeCenter is also supported by the IBM Systems Director portfolio of platform management tools which integrate with Tivoli offerings to provide cross-enterprise service management.

Key tools in the Systems Director family include:

  • IBM Advanced Management Module to manage blades at the system level;

  • IBM Virtualisation Manager to provide a single point of access to manage, virtualise and optimise across physical and virtual systems;

  • PowerExecutive to optimise energy use and application performance.

Systems Director together with Tivoli software solutions provide a service management platform that IBM claimed enables process automation and integration to achieve operational efficiencies and effectiveness.

“Working in collaboration with Broadcom, IBM and NetXen through Blade.org has afforded us a competitive advantage in the networking market, enabling us to be a first mover in 10G Ethernet,” said BLADE Network Technologies president and CEO Vikram Mehta. “The new Nortel 10G switch from BLADE will help IBM BladeCenter customers further simplify their data centre infrastructure, achieve dramatic improvements in performance, and significantly lower space, power, and cooling requirements associated with their server infrastructure.”

The new switch from BLADE – Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch Module (10GbESM) – uses Broadcom’s low power chips designed to empower networking equipment to transmit, manage and prioritise increasing amounts of complex voice, video and data traffic at broadband speeds, claimed the company. The switch provides 20 10Gb Ethernet ports -- 14 ports for connection to each blade in the system and six external ports for connection to the network. The switch can be used with IBM BladeCenter H in conjunction with a new dual port 10G Ethernet expansion card from NetXen that can support offload of TCP/IP, iSCSI and RDMA protocols, improving throughput and reducing host CPU utilisation to boost system performance.

All products are available today, with exception of BladeCenter Address Manager which will be available in the second half of 2007.

  • Nortel 10G Ethernet Switch Module list price: $9,799 (20 ports)

  • NetXen 10G Ethernet Expansion Card: $899 (dual port)

  • Cisco Systems 4Gb Fibre Channel Switch Module: $14,999 (20 ports) and $8999 (10 ports)

  • QLogic Ethernet InfiniBand Bridge Module: $8,149

  • QLogic InfiniBand Fibre Channel Bridge Module : $9,799