Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

On the Edge of a Blade

Blade computing looks like the future of data networks, and storage networking vendors want in. After all, the concept underlying blade servers creating a pool of server processing – dovetails with the storage pools created by SANs.

But putting the two concepts together in the real world is tricky – a double-edged blade, if you will. While blade servers have the potential to save enormously on data center costs, it doesn't follow that putting every item in the SAN on a blade will save money. Indeed, without the right design, interconnecting SANs and blade servers could end up costing customers and vendors alike more than the solution is worth.

So what works, and what doesn't? To get the skinny on how blade servers and SANs can make a winning team, we took an unscientific poll of industry sources. Here is a sampling of the feedback we got on how the leading SAN components are making the blade scene:

  • Fibre Channel switches: These are extremely blade-able; at least one vendor, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), puts the potential market for Fibre Channel switch blades at over $150 million by 2006 (see Brocade Outlines Market Plans).

    While Brocade is OEMing a switch for an IBM blade (see Brocade Outlines Market Plans), and word has it Brocade could supply Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) as well, first mover status goes to QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC), which has OEM'd its Fibre Channel switch not only to IBM but to Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and, if scuttlebutt is right, should win with HP as well. (Apparently, HP is determined to hedge its bets by enlisting more than one switch module approach.)

    The advantage of adding SAN access to remote blade servers is to get any kind of storage off the server proper. To do this effectively, servers need to boot up from the SAN, via special links in the server operating system. Qlogic claims to have this "boot from SAN" capability today, but marketing VP Frank Berry says the vendor is working with Linux and Microsoft OSs to ensure it is sufficiently "rock solid" to inspire blade server customers to eliminate all local disk storage.

  • 1