IBM has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Blade Network Technologies.

The company has already been providing IBM with data centre blade server switches for the past three years. The products include a 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch for IBM Bladecenter, a top-of-rack switch for iDataPlex, and network virtualisation products to automate the data centre for dynamic virtual machines.

Blade currently delivers its embedded Ethernet switches for IBM Bladecenter under the "BNT" name and its top-of-rack RackSwitch data centre switches for IBM's iDataPlex and IBM System Cluster 1350.

Licensing IBM patents will accelerate Blade's development of products in unified computing, I/O virtualisation, data centre network provisioning and cloud networking, said Blade. The move may be in preparation for new products to compete with Cisco's projected foray into the blade server market.

Blade is the third-placed vendor in 10Gbps fixed, managed Ethernet ports shipped in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to Dell'Oro Group. Cisco and HP ProCurve are first and second respectively.

Blade's switch portfolio for IBM Bladecentre includes the BNT six-port 10G Ethernet Switch Module; BNT 1/10Gb Uplink Ethernet Switch Module; BNT Layer 2/7 Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module; BNT Layer 2/3 Copper Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module; and BNT Layer 2/3 Fiber Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module.