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IBM Bolsters 4-Gbit/s Blades

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has unveiled gear that enables its blade servers to link directly to a 4-Gbit/s switch inside the same chassis.

IBM is offering a 4-Gbit/s HBA from QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) for use with IBM's BladeCenter servers. The adapter will link the servers directly to a choice of two distinct 4-Gbit/s switches in IBM's BladeCenter chassis, one from McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) and one from Qlogic. In turn, the switches support 4-Gbit/s uplinks to a SAN -- in IBM's case, its TotalStorage DS4800 array.

The key here is the HBA, which lets the BladeCenter servers interact with the SAN directly, via the switch module inside the chassis, instead of going to external servers.

IBM's new embedded switches both come in 10- and 20-port models. Both are based on the same Qlogic hardware. But the switches differ in their software capabilities. McData, for instance, offers extra security via its SANtegrity package.

What will drive customers to pick one over the other? They'll choose according to the hardware they already have installed, says Tim Dougherty, IBM's director of BladeCenter strategy. For users that don't have McData or Qlogic gear already installed, he acknowledges that Qlogic's switch is being sold as a cheaper, no-frills solution starting at $9,000. McData's starts at $11,000. The Qlogic HBA costs $800.

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