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Blade takes virtualisation to data centre rack

Blade takes virtualisation to data centre rack

Blade Network Technologies, the data centre server-switch company spun off from Nortel two years ago, this week unveiled a line of Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches for rack-level network virtualisation.

The 1U RackSwitch line is designed to perform server virtualisation within the network. It also is intended to save energy through "rack-friendly" cooling, simplify management and provide fabric convergence through support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

The vendor makes blade switches for blade-server systems from IBM, HP and NEC. Blade claims leadership in this particular market, having installed more than four million ports connecting more than 800,000 HP, IBM and NEC server blades, with products deployed across 26 market segments.

RackSwitch switches are a key component of the Blade's strategy to reduce the total cost of ownership of data centre infrastructures by enabling scale-out from the server rack -- a strategy the vendor calls "Rackonomics." Rackonomics is positioned as a method of virtualization and scaling that's an alternative to those offered by such large data centre switch vendors as  Cisco, which are anchored by large core switches -- for example, Cisco's new Nexus 7000.

Blade claims large core switches are more expensive to deploy and operate, and use power inefficiently.

The switches are the RackSwitch G8100 and G8000. The G8100 is a 1U top-of-rack switch equipped with 24 10G-Ethernet ports, and is designed for emerging high-volume 10G-Ethernet applications, clusters that require latency of 300 nanosec or less, or 10G-Ethernet aggregation.

Each RackSwitch has a nonblocking, internal switching fabric. The G8100 delivers "loss-less" I/O to carry FCoE storage traffic across Ethernet networks based on the emerging standards for Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE). CEE is an enhanced version of Ethernet for data centres designed to add flow-control and congestion-notification across multiple lanes of data and storage traffic on a single Ethernet fabric.

Virtualisation on the new switches is enabled by software that allows multiple switches to operate as one large virtual switch, providing network connections for an entire rack of servers. Bandwidth, virtual LANs, security policies and other network parameters can be set once for an entire rack of servers, regardless of the number or type of servers, Blade claims.

The switch software also allows server blades to be added, removed or replaced without address reassignment, which means that client devices will see no change in relevant network addresses as applications move from one physical server to another as in the case of failover, Blade says. Similarly, network and security policies follow as virtual machines are added or moved to meet changes in demand, the vendor says.


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