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IBM Introduces 16-Gbps SAN Hardware

In a move that is intended to demonstrate that IBM has integrated Blade Network Technologies, a manufacturer of Ethernet switches for the blade enclosure and top of rack markets that IBM acquired in September 2010, the company announced a series of 16-Gbps storage area network (SAN) hardware products, as well as enhancements to its existing line of network management software to enable network administrators to manage the new hardware and integrate with the company’s existing line of Tivoli network management software. While IBM is not the first to announce 16-Gbps network storage hardware--computer network equipment maker Brocade was the first to announce a line of 16-Gbps Fibre Channel switches in May 2011--IBM contends that it will be the first manufacturer to ship 16-Gbps hardware to users.

The products will enable organizations to more easily implement private cloud initiatives such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which have varying performance and I/O requirements, while being able to leverage existing infrastructure investments and not have to perform a rip-and-replace upgrade, says Vanessa Alvarez, an analyst in infrastructure and operations for Forrester Research. "IBM's SAN switch for private cloud allows for this flexibility by scaling as needed, supporting the varying workloads, such as VDI, which require the flexibility of performance and ultimately give enterprises the capabilities needed to run a private cloud environment."

The new hardware comes in two categories: "director" products, which are chassis-based Fibre Channel fabric backbones that help organizations more easily set up private clouds, and SAN switches that can connect enterprise servers to that cloud, says Doug Armbrust, director and business line executive for IBM System Networking. The backbones come in two models: the SAN768B-2, which supports up to 384 ports at 16 Gbps, and the SAN 384B-2, which supports up to 192 ports. The SAN switch comes in one model, the SAN48B-5, which provides 24 to 48 ports for connecting servers. With the products, IBM is demonstrating to its customers with large Fibre Channel installed bases that there is a path forward, he says.

Network Advisor, with version 11.1, is now integrated with other IBM network management products, such as Tivoli and IBM Systems Director, which makes it easier to perform virtualization management across the enterprise. The software can manage up to 24 fabrics and from 2,560 to 9,000 ports. "The Network Advisor is perhaps one of the more important announcements here, because to have a successful private cloud deployment, you must have the right management capabilities in place to ensure efficient use of switches and ultimately resources," says Alvarez. "Having a holistic view of your infrastructure environment to see what is going on in every area [server, storage and networking] is critical."

The products are available now. IBM System Storage SAN768B-2 is priced at $197,399, SAN384B-2 is priced at $106,239, and the SAN48B-5 switch is priced at $21,435. IBM NA11.1 Enterprise Edition IBM Network Advisor V11.1 is priced at $49,500, while existing users can upgrade for $32,670.

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