Startup Flashes Virtual Rack Switches

Blade Network Technologies puts its faith in rack-level virtualization

April 24, 2008

3 Min Read
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Startup Blade Network Technologies claims to have developed a fresh take on server virtualization with the launch of its RackSwitch hardware, and the company is already eyeing storage opportunities.

The RackSwitch devices are 1U 1- and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches that virtualize the I/O for an entire rack of multivendor servers, creating "one large pool of server capacity." The RackSwitch provides and manages network connectivity for server blades from multiple vendors, while removing the power and cooling requirements formerly associated with disparate rackmounted servers and switch blades.

Although it is not possible to slot blades from different vendors directly into the same rack, blades such as IBM's BladeCenter and HP's BladeSystem C-class can be slotted into separate chassis , which can be housed in the same rack.

If you do virtualization at the rack level, it makes the data center design a lot easier to deal with,” says Dan Tuchler, Blade’s VP of product management and strategy.

Blade Network Technologies is not the only vendor touting this type of technology, although the virtualization capabilities of rival HP's Virtual Connect offering are limited to its own BladeSystem C-class blade servers.The "RackSwitch" family of hardware consists of two 1U switches. The G8100 is the vendor’s first and contains 24 10 Gbit/s Ethernet ports, all of which can be used for FCOE (in a pre-standard version). The G8000 contains 48 gigabit Ethernet ports and four 10 Gbit/s uplinks.

The switches run Blade's VMReady software, which in turn works with VMware's VMotion to control virtual blade servers.

“When a virtual machine is moving, we interface with VMware and we move the security policies, the VLANs, and other network policies along with the virtual machine,” Tuchler says.

Pricing for the G8100 starts at $11,950, with the G8000’s list price starting at $5,495. Both switches, which include the VMReady software, will be available in June.

At least one analyst thinks Blade's approach is good news for users, particularly when it comes to managing virtualized servers. ”When you get into a large environment, management overhead dwarfs everything else,” says Joe Skorupa, research VP at Gartner. “When you get into a large data center, you could have dozens or hundreds of blades -- you don’t want to manually reconfigure them as virtual servers move around.”On the downside, Blade Network Technologies was unable to provide any customer references for its virtual switch solution, although Tuchler says that a number of OEMs and users have been testing it.

The first of these OEMs was revealed yesterday afternoon, with IBM announcing that the RackSwitch hardware will be built into its iDataPlex offering, a custom-built rack system which will be available in June.

Tuchler also told Byte and Switch that the RackSwitch technology could be used to virtualize blade-based iSCSI storage. "If it has an Ethernet interface, then we could virtualize it today."

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  • Blade Network Technologies Inc.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Gartner Inc.

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • VMware Inc.0

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