IBM Bumps Up Blade Center Power

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Sep 12, 2003


IBM earlier this week gave its blade servers a boost by offering integrated Layer 2-7 Ethernet switching from Nortel Networks in its BladeCenter product. IBM this week gave its blade servers a boost by offering integrated Layer 2-7 Ethernet switching from Nortel Networks in its BladeCenter product.

The Armonk, N.Y., company is offering customers a significant boost from its previous BladeCenter devices, which it said relied on Level 2 switching to get data packets to the appropriate receivers. The Nortel Networks Layer 2-7 GbE (define) Switch includes routing, application health checking, network and application load balancing, and embedded security.

Layer 2-7 Ethernet switching, however, not only pipes data to the correct parties, but looks inside the data packet and sees who it is coming from, said Tim Dougherty, director of IBM eServer BladeCenter products. This, he said, enables the system to prioritize who the most important senders or receivers of information are, and apply the proper load balancing to make sure the network runs efficiently.

Dougherty said the inclusion of these features cut customer costs by as much as 65 percent in some cases, because they do not need to buy additional software to provide the capabilities that the new switching does.

This higher level of intelligence in switching also makes it easier for the network to defend against an intruder attack because it is more aware than basic Level 2 switching, which may generate the same problem repeatedly. Level 2-7 switching, Dougherty told internetnews.com, gives administrators indications that someone is trying to attack the system.

"The whole idea is to make data transfer as simple as possible in an environment with more sophisticated technology," Dougherty said. "It's all about helping the customer reduce infrastructure and giving them capabilities in the a smaller form factor that were previously only available on mainframes or other external boxes."

The new BladeCenter is also a boon to IBM's on-demand strategy, Dougherty said, as it lets customers adapt to unpredictable workloads and business demands that change on the fly.

Dougherty said IBM is the first vendor to bring this to bear in a market where Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and several niche players, such as Egenera and RLX Technologies, compete.

In IDC's latest worldwide server report, IBM had 30.4 percent of the market as measured by sales in the recent quarter, with HP remaining atop the worldwide market in total server shipments at 30.8 percent. HP also held the market share lead by sales and shipments for fast growing server segments, such as blades, with HP ProLiant BL blade servers leading in worldwide revenue and shipments for the x86 server blades market, with a 31 percent of unit shipments and 32.9 percent of revenue for the quarter.

With Level 2-7 switching, IBM hopes to swing the balance in its favor.

IBM at this time also unveiled the Myrinet Cluster Expansion Card and the BladeCenter Optical Pass-thru Module, which offer a high-availability interconnect for High Performance Technical Computing and other cluster-computing applications. These options integrate directly into BladeCenter.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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