Now that rising energy costs have fostered a mad dash to consolidate all those new blade servers into centralized architectures, the pressure is growing to ensure that network connectivity doesn't suffer in the process. For most enterprises, however, that will require some significant upgrades.
For those looking to leverage their IP networks in the process, it looks like nothing less than 10 Gb Ethernet will get the job done. A new study by Blade.org, backed by Chelsio Communications, NetApp and Blade Technologies, concludes that support for large-scale business applications at current wire speeds will require 10 GbE. A blade architecture with embedded 10 GbE holds enough headroom to support the multiple protocols, workloads and integrated data management capabilities to provide network servers at the level that users have grown accustomed to, the group reports. It also helps to tie the blades to a storage system that supports advanced data management functions, such as boot from SAN and non-disruptive data protection.
The group's tests featured Blade Technologies' switching infrastructure, Chelsio's 10 GbE NICs and NetApp storage and data management, running on an IBM BladeCenter network with HS21 dual- and quad-core blades. The group claims that a 10 GbE environment delivers twice the throughput as 4 Gb Fibre Channel and will also outperform 8 Gb FC and Infiniband.
Anticipated demand for advanced networking is the main reason why vendors are jumping straight into 10 GbE technologies at a time when most firms, particularly SMBs that are most likely to rely on their existing IP networks, are barely at the 1 GbE level. SuperMicro just released a new universal I/O and PCIe network adapter based on the Intel 82598 10 GbE controller. The cards are intended for standard UIO motherboards and PCIe x8 slots.
Fibre Channel over Ethernet is also shaping up to be a valuable resource for blade consolidation. QLogic recently demoed a 10 GbFC system in conjunction with NetApp and Nuova Systems using the same software stacks as the company's standard FC HBAs. That will allow the company to develop a set of converged network adapters that will appear as both a Fibre Channel HBA and an Ethernet NIC, reducing the amount of hardware that will have to be swapped out during the upgrade.
Ultimately, consolidating your blades will produce a leaner, more efficient datacenter. And even though upgrading network capabilities will cost in the short run, at least there are solutions available that will keep data flowing as smoothly as they do now.