Heterogeneous servers and storage can be combined into a pool of resources that can grow and shrink in response to application demands with TopSpin's switch software.

Its new VFrame software is the industry's first open solution for utilty computing, the company claimed.

Currently, Topspin's switches connect servers into clusters using InfiniBand, a high-speed I/O switching fabric. The switches include gateways that let those servers link to Ethernet LANs and SANs via Fibre Channel so servers need only connect to the Topspin switch, rather than support multiple cables for network, storage and server-to-server communication.

An InfiniBand switch thus becomes the director in a utility computing environment, said Stu Aaron, VP of marketing and product management. Today, InfiniBand is used primarily in high-performance computing clusters, although analysts say it is making its way into corporate data centers in niche deployments such as database clusters.

VFrame lets a switch respond to policies and rules in a variety of management tools and then provision servers - and the appropriate storage and network connectivity - on the fly and based on application needs. The software suite includes APIs that hook into management tools that tell the switch what policies to look for and enforce.

The system works with management tools from Dell, HP, IBM and Sun, as well as VMware, Platform Computing, Oracle, Opsware and Qlusters.

VFrame is a next step for Topspin, which has been focusing on making its switches a part of utility computing and virtual server environments. The software, available now at a starting price of $10,000, comes after Topspin's March introduction of a remote boot service that lets diskless servers be provisioned with applications, operating system, storage and I/O resources on the fly and over a network.

"VFrame is Topspin's next piece of the puzzle as they move further and further up the food chain from being just an InfiniBand switch company to a company that's allowing the managing and the provisioning of physical resources," says Vernon Turner, group vice president of global enterprise server solutions at IDC.

Turner says other InfiniBand switch makers, such as InfiniCon and Voltaire offer management capabilities but don't integrate with third-party management and provisioning tools the way Topspin's VFrame promises to. The key for Topspin, he says, is to continue integrating rules, such as security policies, into the switch.