The IBM blade system family is continuing to spread its wings beyond application servers with the integration of Brocade fibre channel storage area network (San) switches.
Big Blue's eServer JS20 BladeCenter will plug-in a version of the Brocade SilkWorm 3850 switch repackaged with additional software.
This follows the availability of Cisco's Intelligent Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module for networking. Both plug into the chassis backplane.
Tikiri Wandaragula, IBM EMEA Server Group senior consultant, told vnunet.com: "The idea of the BladeCenter was always to bring the server side and networking together.
"It is architected for servers at the front and shared devices at the back. This is beyond the [blade] concept of a server on a card."
The Entry SAN Switch Module, aimed at smaller companies, connects two switches. The Enterprise SAN Switch Module can connect fabrics of up to 239 switches.
One of the biggest attractions of blades is ease of installation through avoiding cabling and power supply connections.
"Why 28 power supplies and 40-plus cables?" asked Wandaragula, adding that there were also power savings once about eight server blades were installed.
Each of the 16-port blade modules can connect between any of 14 server blades and external storage devices, and uses a custom ASIC chip to support advanced switch capabilities.
These include Brocade inter-switch link trunking, advanced performance monitoring, advanced security and hot-code activation.
"This is a natural development of the growth in blade servers," Hamish Macarthur, managing director of storage consultancy Macarthur Stroud, told vnunet.com. "It is very positive for both IBM and Brocade, and cabling is a big issue."
But Macarthur said that a further development whereby switch chips were incorporated on blades was imminent. QLogic, for instance, had already announced a switch chip.
The Brocade switches will be available in early June. US pricing starts at $14,999.
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