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Modular LOM Coming To a Server Near You

In the server market, where the use of industry standard components makes it difficult to design products that stand-out, new networking technologies offer the promise of differentiation. Higher performance 10GbE, convergence and virtualization are examples of important networking technologies that are still in the early stages of market adoption. Built on the DCB industry standard foundation, new 10 gigabit converged network adapters and switches are pouring into the market from traditional Ethernet giants and pioneering Fibre Channel or InfiniBand vendors. But to really achieve network convergence today, data center managers would need their 10 gigabit vendors to provide adapters and switches to immediately displace the combined capabilities of current best-in-class Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand products.

Given that implementing higher performance 10GbE networks will take some times server vendors should modify their strategy of permanently soldering Ethernet chips onto server motherboards. Their newest blade servers incorporate modular network daughter cards (NDCs) that, when options are available,  will for the first time free server administrators to choose the type of LOM they want installed in the factory, or upgraded in the future.

For example, the Dell PowerEdge M710HD blade server is the first blade server shipping with modular LOM. There are no Ethernet chips soldered onto an M710HD blade server.  Instead, the 1GbE Ethernet ports that come with every server are mounted onto an NDC with a pair of Broadcom 5709 C-NIC chips. According the Dell spec sheet, "the M710HD is the first Dell M-Series server with a flexible network daughter card (NDC) designed to allow for future integrated connectivity options." Sixty-six percent of IT professionals surveyed by IT Brand Pulse said the average number of 1GbE ports per server is 4 ports or less. That means that a 4-port NDC is all the ports needed for two-thirds of servers deployed.  When NDC options are available in the future, the flexibility to tailor LOM for specific applications will have a wide-ranging benefit to server administrators.

Servers are typically refreshed every 3 years. Within the next 3 years, 10GbE adoption will accelerate, new network virtualization services will emerge, and multi-protocol support for LAN/SAN convergence will be more robust than it is today. Modular LOM architecture will allow server administrators to take advantage of these new technologies by simply upgrading their NDC. If you're a server administrator looking for ways to future-proof your next server roll-out, new modular LOM technology is something you might want to investigate.

 Note: Broadcom is a customer of IT Brand Pulse.