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IBM Expands System x/BladeCenter Networking with QLogic Solutions

IBM became the first tier-one system vendor to integrate QLogic's new single chip 8100 Series converged network adapters (CNAs) for native Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) connectivity on its x86-based rack and tower series servers, including the new Intel Xeon 5500 "Nehalem"-powered System x solutions and BladeCenter HS22 blades.

According to QLogic, the 8100 Series CNAs are optimized for blade servers and high-density storage systems, support simultaneous storage and data networking traffic at full 10GbE line speeds, consume only one-third the power of existing CNA chip sets and are the only CNAs on the market to completely eliminate the need for a heat sink. QLogic also announced the 10Gb CEE high-speed Pass-thru Module, which provides 14 non-blocking connections between CNAs installed on IBM BladeCenter servers and external 10GbE or 10Gb CEE switches and devices. The QLogic 8100 CNAs work in tandem with the 10Gb CEE Pass-thru Module.

"Convergence" means many things to many people in the IT industry, but when it comes to current networking trends the term typically refers to the coming together of once segregated Fibre Channel (FC) Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Ethernet-based Local Area Networks (LANs). There was a time when the separation of SANs and LANs made perfect sense to enterprise IT managers. Complex high-performance FC fabrics supported business critical applications and information resources while email and other low-performance productivity applications were relegated to inexpensive, easy-to-manage Ethernet technologies.

But some interesting things have happened along the way. While FC continued its reign at the top of the enterprise network food chain, Ethernet turned out to be a considerably more flexible and robust technology than many FC snobs imagined -- the latest 10 Gbps Ethernet technologies compare rather favorably to common 8 Gbps FC. In addition, LAN environments turned out to be repositories of choice for growing volumes of important, often compliance-sensitive business documents and data. Finally, as companies began to grapple with the notions of reducing IT costs and holistically managing information and network traffic, the once sensible idea of separate SANs and LANs began to lose its luster.

Holistic network management is also a critical part of next-generation enterprise information and data center strategies, such as IBM's Dynamic Infrastructure. Indeed, without network convergence, IT infrastructures are inherently less dynamic in both performance and flexibility than IBM and other vendors have in mind. Converged networks, on the other hand, offer numerous benefits, including up to 50% lower acquisition costs, as low as half the number of nodes to manage, higher overall network utilization and simplified management tools and processes.

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