IBM Bumps Up Blade Center Power

IBM Tuesday 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
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, allows 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 the new switching provides.


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 over and over
again. 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 HP, 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 world
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 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.

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