Network Support for the iDataPlex

Arthur Cole

What good is a spiffy new server if it doesn't have the network support to help push it to its limits?


That was clearly the thinking behind the lightening-fast response of the networking community to the new iDataPlex server introduced this week by IBM. With the ability to cram twice as many servers into a single rack, the need for higher densities and greater throughput in the networking infrastructure has become even more crucial.


QLogic was quick to offer up its 9024FC Infiniband switch, a 24-port device that provides non-blocking Full Bisectional Bandwidth (FBB) throughput designed for high-performance cluster and grid architectures. The switch also includes a new set of fabric management tools that allow for speedy installation and boot-up of Infiniband fabrics to further enhance the server resource pooling features of the iDataPlex.


Start-up Blade Network Technologies, which only just recently unveiled its RackSwitch multi-vendor virtual switch technology, has already come out with a version designed specifically for the iDataPlex that caters to Web 2.0 operations. The RackSwitch G8100 is a 1U unit with 24 10 GbE ports, while the G8000 offers four 10 GbE ports alongside 48 1 GbE ports. The company says it holds latency down to 300 nanoseconds.


Also on board is Force 10 Networks, which is supporting the iDataPlex across its entire line of Ethernet switches in the Reliable Networking portfolio. The company already has a strong hand in Web 2.0 circles, backing up earlier IBM solutions like the Cluster 1350 and Blue Gene lines with products like the E-Series core switch, so it only makes sense to extend that support as the online services market gains momentum.


Of course, more servers produce a greater need for advanced management capabilities, so firms like Avocent Corp. are jumping on the bandwagon as well. The company is offering a new version of its MergePoint 5300 service processor manager to oversee embedded service processors in the iDataPlex. The system supports numerous industry management standards, such as the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI), the Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware/Command Line Protocol (SMASH/CLP), the Web Services for Management (WS-MAN) system, and the Common Information Model (CIM).


New server designs are the primary engines driving the IT industry forward. But as datacenter architectures become more organic, servers alone cannot produce the data environments needed to stay ahead of the game. More and more, it's the network infrastructure that makes or breaks the datacenter.

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