Will Blades Cut Path for 10-Gig?

IBM says blades will bring 10-GigE to the masses - but where are those masses?

January 15, 2007

2 Min Read
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12:01 AM -- There has been plenty of talk about 10-Gbit/s Ethernet recently, but not much action, as vendors slowly add flesh to the bones of their 10-Gbit/s strategies. (See InfiniBand Vendors Embrace 10-GigE, Jim McCluney, CEO, Emulex, Anue Systems Intros Emulator, and Fujitsu Intros New 10-Gbit/s Ethernet Chip.)

For the most part, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet has been limited to high-performance computing applications, and we are far from seeing widespread adoption of the technology. (See Is It Time for 10-Gig?)

Could blades change all this? IBM thinks so. Big Blue is touting blade technology as the catalyst for some big transformations in the data center.

Today, the vendor is set to unveil a slew of new modules that fit into its BladeCenter chassis. These include a Cisco Fibre Channel SAN switch; gateway modules from QLogic for converting internal InfiniBand traffic to external Fibre Channel and Ethernet links; and a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switch from Nortel spinoff Blade Network Technologies.

IBM is making some big claims about the Blade Network Technologies switch. "We believe that this is going to drive the adoption of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet," says Ishan Seghal, program director of IBM's BladeCenter division, adding that it will help firms further consolidate their infrastructures.Big talk, but he may have a point. There is comparatively little wiring used in blade architectures, thanks to the fact that the servers connect to the switches via the mid-plane on the chassis. In contrast, traditional switches typically require a multitude of optical cables, particularly where 10-Gbit/s Ethernet is involved.

The other driver for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet is probably sitting in his bedroom sullenly staring at a screen. The recent rise of multiplayer online gaming, as well as IPTV and video-on-demand, makes 10-Gbit/s Ethernet an increasingly viable option for applications that need plenty of bandwidth, according to Seghal.

"There are trials happening in IPTV, massive multiplayer online gaming, high-performance computing labs, and the financial services market, both here and in Europe," he says.

Sadly, though, IBM was unable to point me in the direction of any customers willing to talk about how blade switches had catapulted them into a 10-Gbit/s world, although Seghal insists they are out there.

This demands a skeptical response. There is evidence of momentum behind blade technology. Whether blades can turn 10-Gbit/s Ethernet into a mainstream reality is the question.James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Blade Network Technologies Inc.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT)

  • QLogic Corp.

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