IBM Releases Cost Cutting Blade Technology

IBM is offering 8 Gb Fibre Channel capabilities in its family of BladeCenter blade servers

IBM is bringing high-speed 8 Gigabit Fibre Channel capabilities to its blade servers, the latest move by the company to outfit its data center offerings with the fastest networking technology.

Big Blue announced this week that the 8Gb Fibre Channel capabilities, offered in conjunction with SAN (storage area network) vendor QLogic, will be featured in all of IBM’s BladeCenter systems and will mean that customers will be able to run the high-speed technology from the blade to the switch and out to the storage devices.

The move will essentially offer users twice the performance of current 4 Gb technology with about half the hardware requirements, said Tom Bradicich, IBM Fellow and vice president of the company’s Systems and Technology Group.

IBM also will be able to reduce costs for HBAs (host bus adaptors) and switch hardware in the data center by almost 68 percent, which officials say will lead to money and space savings.

“There are costs savings, space savings and energy savings,” Bradicich said. “Having the ability to get the job done faster with less hardware is really a green initiative as well.”

A key technology in IBM’s push will be its BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager, self-managing virtualisation software that will enable IT administrators to speed up traffic flow through the network and maintain the performance of such I/O applications as virtualisation, databases and collaboration software.

IBM about two years ago brought 10 Gb Ethernet capabilities into its blade systems, and the company is working with partners and suppliers to increase its high-speed networking capabilities, Bradicich said. One partner, ServerEngines, has built two 10GbE CAN (converged network adapter) cards for BladeCenter and IBM’s industry-standard System x systems.

In addition, Voltaire officials recently announced that their company will build a high-performance switch for BladeCenter that will offer 40 Gb Infiniband connectivity.

The aggressive move to higher-speed networking technology is important as data centers continue to combine various separate networks, including those used for storage, applications and clustering. In addition, enterprises continue to move away from DAS (direct-attached storage) to SANs, which are further away from the servers, he said.

“Accessing the information and processing the information are duties of the servers,” Bradicich said, adding that SANs contain that data. “Increasing the access speed gets the job done faster. … You can’t process data if you can’t get to it.”

He said it was analogous to cooking in a kitchen when the key ingredients are in the garage. Getting fast access to the ingredients makes the cooking go faster.

Having a wide range of high-speed networking technology options will grow in demand as enterprises grow out what Bradicich called hybrid data centres, which use a range of IBM equipment to meet their IT needs. For example, Hoplon Infortainment, a Brazilian company that develops massive multiplayer online games, uses a System z mainframe system to run its DB2 database, Cell processor-based servers to develop high-performance visualisation technology for the games and general-purpose x86 systems for such tasks as billing and accounting.

“That combination of those three … is very powerful,” he said.

Bradicich said the Open Fabric Manager virtualisation software not only is a key part of the 8 Gb Fibre Channel rollout, but of IBM’s overall virtualisation initiative that will touch on all parts of IBM’s data centre offerings.

“Open Fabric Manager … allows you to virtualise networking addresses (SAN and LAN) for each blade or each socket the blade plugs into,” he said. “The problem is [that] if you move a blade around, you have to switch its address. Open Fabric Manager does that for an IT manager automatically. … The Open Fabric Manager is a piece of the bigger virtualization story we’re rolling out, in which virtualisation is in every system: the network — starting with Open Fabric Manager — memory and CPU and storage.”