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IBM BladeCenter H gets tenfold bandwidth increase

IBM introduces new networking capabilities for its BladeCenter H system, including 10 GigE connections to the blade.

IBM introduced new networking capabilities for its high-performance blade server system today, including 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) connectivity to the blade, courtesy of a collaboration with Blade Network Technologies and NetXen Inc..

The collaboration includes a Nortel 10 GigE switch from Blade Networking and a 10 GigE expansion card from NetXen, a move that IBM said multiplies network speed to the blade tenfold. The 20-port switch costs almost $10,000; the dual-port expansion card is about $900.

Dubbed the Virtual Fabric Architecture, other new features available on the BladeCenter H include:

  • A Cisco Systems Inc. Fibre Channel switch. A 10-port switch costs about $9,000; the 20-port version is about $15,000.
  • QLogic Corp. bridge modules that allow users to connect InfiniBand-networked chasses to external Ethernet or Fibre Channel networks from within the BladeCenter H chassis. The InfiniBand-to-Ethernet module costs about $8,150; the InfiniBand-to-Fibre-Channel version is about $9,800.
  • An IBM-designed module that doubles the number of Fibre Channel or Ethernet connections to each blade from four to eight. Pricing was unavailable.
  • BladeCenter Address Manager, due out in the second half of this year, allows users to assign virtual network addresses to blades, making it unnecessary to reconfigure them if they are moved or replaced. Price was unavailable.

Joe Clabby, president of Yarmouth, Maine-based Clabby Analytics, said the technology is one thing, but it's the collaboration with other companies that has helped keep BladeCenter ahead of the competition.

According to a November report from IDC, IBM maintained the top spot for server blade revenues, with 42.3% market share, followed by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) with 35% share.

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"It's the ecosystem around it," Clabby said. "I think when IBM created and made the specs available right away, it really fueled the growth around that product line." counts over 70 members, and according to IBM, figured heavily in the new networking technologies on BladeCenter H.

BladeCenter H, introduced last February, is a 9U chassis (slightly bigger than the regular BladeCenter's 7U chassis) that can hold either 14 two-socket or seven four-socket blade servers and boasts better networking capacity for high-performance users requiring high I/O performance. IBM said the technology can handle growing businesses, like Internet television and online gaming.

"In high-performance computing, you have created either a scale-up or scale-out architecture where you need multiple processors connected in a highly efficient way," said Ishan Sehgal, IBM BladeCenter program director. "We are now using industry-standard servers connected in such a way that they are doing the workload previously done by mainframes or much more expensive orientations."

Clabby put it simply: More bandwidth equals better data transfer.

"That is the key to sharing data. You have to have the big pipes around these machines to make these distributed environments really hum, and the bigger the pipes, the better off you are."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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