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Brocade Slides Blade into IBM's Rack.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc has scored an OEM deal with IBM Corp that will see Big Blue package a bladed Brocade SAN switch with its BladeCenter blade server chassis.

The deal will open a new route to market for Brocade, selling into what is a small but growing market for blade server racks. How big this market is depends on how it is measured.

Brocade quoted an IDC forecast of 75% CAGR for the sector, with 185,000 units shipped in 2003 rising to more than three million by 2008. Other estimates however put total blade server sales last year at around 100,000, with IBM accounting for around half of those sales.

IBM's number one blade server market share is the reason why Brocade chose to first develop a blade switch for IBM's chassis, and not for Hewlett Packard Co or Dell Corp chassis. Currently there are no standards governing blades and chassis, and blades built for one makers' chassis will not fit another.

Yesterday Brocade would not comment on when it will ship a SAN blade for any other OEMs. Earlier this year however Brocade chief executive Greg Reyes referred to joint blade developments with multiple OEMs.

IBM refused to say whether it will also OEM SAN gear from Brocade rival's McData Corp, or Cisco Systems Inc, but left the possibility open.

A bladed version of a SAN switch is principally a conventional SAN switch taken out of its box, and stripped of a power supply and fan. Cooling and power are taken from the rack in which the chassis that holds the blade is mounted.

Blade servers generate less heat and consume less power and floorspace than conventional servers, and reduce cabling by sharing a common chassis backplane. Customers want the same benefits from bladed SAN switches and until now IBM has offered only bladed switches made by QLogic Corp.

However, a huge number of customers are already running Brocade SANs. These can only be connected to QLogic blades when the network on both sides has been switched back to the relatively dumb interoperability mode, something that customers do not always want to do.

The blade being OEMed by IBM is codenamed Blazer within Brocade, and is based on Brocade's recently launched 16-port SAN switch.

Pitching the virtues of blade computing in general, Brocade said that 84 individual servers can be replaced with just one 42 inch BladeCenter rack that occupies only one floor tile. Linking those 84 individual servers to a SAN would require 200 cables and 256 optical adaptors - the latter priced at around two hundred dollars each - compared to just 56 adaptors and 32 cables with a blade rack.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 11, 2004
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