Blade Network Moves Switch to HP

Blade Network now uplinks HP and IBM blade servers at 10 Gbit/s. Who's buying?

June 2, 2007

3 Min Read
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Blade Network Technologies has supplied Hewlett-Packard with a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switch blade for HP's BladeSystem servers.

This makes HP the second blade server vendor, after IBM, to offer a 10-Gbit/s switch for its blade server. Blade Network Technologies also supplies IBM. (See IBM Flashes 10-Gig Switch Blade.)

The switch blade connects all servers in the BladeSystem directly to a core router or switch. Dubbed the HP 1:10Gb Ethernet BL-c switch, it's available now for $5,000 -- though Blade can't make any customers available to comment, since it OEMs through IBM and HP.

Blade Network Technologies, which spun out of Nortel in February 2006, does not offer 10-Gbit/s NICs for blade servers. Instead, it typically partners with Netxen, whose NICs link the server modules to the blade server chassis. Blade Network's switch blade links the entire blade server to the outside world. (See G&H Creates Blade Company, Blade Commits To IBM, and IBM Flashes 10-Gig Switch Blade.)

This design eliminates the need for an extra patch panel or switch layer to connect the blade server to a core router or switch. Blade Network Technologies says it furthers network consolidation, particularly for customers using blade servers for clustering.What customers are those? "Right now, we see a lot of interest in the financial industry, telcos, and HPC," says Blade spokesman Tim Shaughnessy.

At least one analyst thinks Blade Network Technologies has a first-mover advantage in offering 10-Gbit/s modules for blade servers. "It's an important announcement," says analyst Cindy Borovic of IDC. "We definitely see 10 Gbit/s starting to make its way into the data center... If you're looking for 10 Gig, customers will look to blade chassis."

IDC predicts worldwide revenues for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches, which were slightly more than $1.2 billion in 2006, will top $5 billion in 2011.

Blade Network's Shaughnessy says reduced silicon costs are bringing down the pricing of switch blades, pushing more products to market. Indeed, there is competition on the horizon. On May 1, Neterion announced a partnership with Teak Technologies that is similar to the one between Blade and NetXen. Teak will supply the blade server switch module to Neterion's NICs, though no date for delivery has been set.

Cisco is also working on 10-Gbit/s switch modules for blade servers, though delivery dates aren't clear. Still, "10 Gig is on the verge," says a spokeswoman.So far, blade server vendors Dell and Sun have not offered 10-Gbit/s switch blades for their blade servers, even though they offer them for rackmount and tower model servers. And this will likely change. Dell recently previewed its next-generation blade servers, and a spokesman acknowledges that these will likely include 10-Gbit/s NICs and switch blades. Products could appear as early as the second half of 2007.

Sun does not presently offer 10-Gbit/s switch blades, but the vendor is making an announcement in the next few weeks with bearing on blade servers.

Meanwhile, Blade Network Technologies, now with 150 employees, says business is going well. For now, it's enjoying profitability. As 10 Gbit/s unfolds in enterprise data centers, it may have more company.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Blade Network Technologies Inc.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • IDC

  • Neterion Inc.

  • Teak Technologies Inc.

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