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IBM BladeCenter gains combined Ethernet/Fibre Channel card

If you need more I/O than your IBM BladeCenter H servers have room for, relief is in sight with QLogic's new combination Fibre Channel/Ethernet card.

Blades servers have little space for expansion cards -- a real problem in highly utilized quad-core servers running applications like virtualization. But now, IBM is giving its BladeCenter H customers some relief with the advent of a combined Ethernet and Fibre Channel card from QLogic Corp.

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The new QLogic Ethernet and 4 Gbit Fibre Channel expansion card (CFFh) comes in a new horizontal form factor and provides two 1 Gbit Ethernet and two 4 Gbit Fibre Channel ports.

The horizontal card can then in turn be combined with vertical I/O cards (CFFv) for additional I/O connectivity to the blade.

"IBM customers were asking QLogic for more connectivity and more flexibility with their multi-core and/or virtualized servers," a QLogic spokesperson said. "By combining the Ethernet and Fibre Channel connectivity into a single card, customers are able to support an unprecedented six ports of Ethernet and two ports of Fibre Channel on a single server blade."

Using the combined card does require users to purchase a Multi-Switch Interconnect Module (MSIM) from IBM if they want to continue using their legacy, standard I/O modules. This is because the new BladeCenter chassis route the horizontal card signals to the high speed I/O module bays, while the non-combined vertical card signals are routed to standard I/O module bays.

In the past, limited expansion space forced users to choose an I/O technology at the initial deployment stage. But with this combined expansion card, users can have flexible I/O networks comprised of Ethernet, Fibre Channel or both, said Doug Balog, vice president and business line executive for IBM BladeCenter.

The horizontal combined card is not compatible with blades from other vendors.

Integrated networks

"The QLogic announcement is pretty interesting, especially the "hybrid" -- combined Fibre Channel/Ethernet support -- design," said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Inc. "This provides some insight into the increasing movement of businesses toward integrating their server and network infrastructures. With barriers between IP- and Fibre Channel-specific resources and workloads breaking down, companies are looking for, and buying, new methods of leveraging those resources."

The new QLogic Ethernet and 4 Gbit Fibre Channel expansion card is a component of IBM's virtual fabric architecture announced earlier this year, which features various interconnect technologies and management tools from companies like Cisco Systems Inc. and NetXen Inc.

Cisco, for instance, offers two cards for the IBM BladeCenter -- one Fibre Channel, one Ethernet -- but not a combination like QLogic.

Technologies, such as Web 2.0, quad-core processing and virtualization are driving the need for high bandwidth interconnects technologies to move data traffic across high capacity networks.

The QLogic CFFe Ethernet/Fibre combined expansion card for IBM BladeCenter is shipping and has a U.S. Web price of $999.

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

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