Dell is set to connect its blade servers to Cisco's switching technology. This will enable to the company to offer a feature that's already available from the two leaders in the blade server market, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

The Cisco Catalyst Blade Switch 3030 for Dell's PowerEdge 1855 blade has an embedded device manager that the company claimed was made initial configuration of the switch easier and provided support for Cisco Works management software. A maximum of four Cisco blade switches can fit within the Dell PowerEdge blade enclosure enabling users to cut down on their cabling needs.

Dell didn't provide a specific shipping date for the combined Cisco/Dell product, saying it should become available within the coming weeks.

In June of last year, Dell announced it would start selling McData's 4314 Fibre Channel switch for its PowerEdge 1855 blade. The switch enables the blade to connect to storage hardware and integrate with storage fabrics.

The PowerEdge 1855 blade is Dell's second generation of blades and shipped in November 2004. Dell is keen to grow its share of the blade market and positions its blades as general-purpose servers, while IBM and HP continue to promote the hardware as high-performance servers requiring a raft of services, software and support.

It's been a busy few weeks in the blade market with two significant news announcements.

IBM made a major blade move last week around a new chassis, the BladeCenter H. The company also announced three new blades: its first blade based on the Cell chip IBM is developing with Sony and Toshiba; a new blade based on IBM's dual-core PowerPC 970MP processor; and a low-power blade using Intel's dual-core Xeon chip. At the same time, IBM committed itself to releasing an InfiniBand switch designed for BladeCenter with Cisco later this year.

At the start of this week, Cisco rival Nortel Networks announced it was spinning off its non-core blade server switch business into a new company backed by private equity firm Garnett & Helfrich Capital. The new outfit is called Blade Network Technologies.

Dell has now joined the Cisco Solution Technology Integrator program for the enterprise, the company also announced Thursday. Membership enables Dell to resell Cisco storage switches and server fabric switches based on InfiniBand as well as the Cisco Catalyst Blade Switch 3030 for Dell blades.

Pricing for the Cisco Catalyst Blade Switch 3030 for Dell blades starts from US$4,799. Included in the cost are three years of both Dell service and support and Cisco software upgrades for the switch.