IBM Flashes McData Switchblade

Here's another marriage of SANs and blade servers. Cisco could be next

March 24, 2005

3 Min Read
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IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has grasped another rung in its climb up the virtual data center ladder, using SAN connectivity to gain purchase.

At the Blade Server Summit conference in Santa Clara, Calif. today, IBM announced a Fibre Channel fabric switch module from McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), augmented with bundled software from VMware Inc. for its eSeries BladeCenter server (see IBM Announces VMware/McData Bundle).

The news highlights growing interest in making storage networks part of virtualized data center resources collapsed into blade servers. It also throws into relief a complicated mesh of partnerships underlying the trend.

IBM's new modules use previously announced hardware from QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC), combined with software from McData and firmware from both Qlogic and McData (see McData Hops on QLogic Blades). The blades will allow BladeCenter chassis to link to all kinds of McData Fibre Channel switches, including directors like the i10K (see Anybody Want a High-Speed Director?).

IBM may be the first supplier to offer a McData switch blade, but it won't be the last. Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) also should have a McData switch blade for their respective blade servers "in the near future," according to Jonathan Buckley, VP of software, internetworking, and blade switch business at McData.For now, though, IBM leads the race to put the most brands of SAN switch into its blade server. IBM also offers a switch blade from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and a separate FC fabric blade OEM'd from Qlogic (see QLogic Unveils IBM Blade Switch).

IBM's efforts to drive sales of its blade servers with storage aren't unchallenged. HP, which IDC and others say owns a second-place portion of the $1 billion-plus blade server market, has announced a deal with Brocade to furnish a 4-Gbit/s SAN switch for its BladeSystem server (see Brocade & HP: Blade Brothers and HP, Brocade Boost SAN Integration).

All this points to a growing trend toward the marriage of SANs and blades. "These kinds of modules make it easy to attach blade servers to SAN fabrics... They're selling well, and they'll get more popular," says senior analyst Greg Shulz of the Evaluator Group.

At the center of this trend is Qlogic, which is ubiquitous in storage solutions and has aggressively pursued every blade server vendor in the market. Speculation runs that Qlogic will likely underly future blade offerings from Dell, HP, and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW).

IBM has pulled ahead in the storage blade race, however, at least for now. And with another notch to its SAN switch OEM belt, there's speculation IBM might also be first to offer a SAN blade based on the MDS 9000 from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). IBM already has BladeCenter modules based on Cisco's Ethernet switches (see Cisco Goes On-Demand With IBM ). Indeed, part of this week's announcement is that IBM is augmenting the copper-based switch blade from Cisco with one that supports fiber.Neither company has announced anything, and when asked if such a partnership is in the works, Tim Dougherty, IBM's director of eServer BladeCenter series, says only, "That's not something we're announcing now... It's not impossible."

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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