Brocade, IBM to Bundle ‘SilkWorm’

Brocade Communications Systems and IBM have embarked on the next leg of their six-year partnership, agreeing to
bundle new Brocade storage area network (SAN) switch modules with the IBM eServer BladeCenter to facilitate server consolidation.

Code-named “Blazer” by Brocade, the Enterprise and Entry SAN Switch modules are the latest additions to the San Jose, Calif.-based concern’s product line
of intelligent switches, which runs from the low-end SilkWorm 3250 and 3280 and extends to the SilkWorm 24000 for larger enterprises.

Switches help route data more efficiently across hardware devices such as SAN appliances and servers. An alternative to large, monolithic servers, blade servers have their own processors, memory, operating systems, applications, and HBAs .

Like SANs, they give enterprises the flexibility to scale up or down simply by sliding blades in and out of a chassis, easing the way toward
consolidation. With their small form factors, they also conserve space and power.

Combining BladeCenter with intelligent switches gives customers a viable solution for server and storage consolidation. The combo could give IBM, with more than 25,000 SAN deployments, an advantage against rivals such as HP , Sun Microsystems , and Dell . Consolidation is often a pressing need in financial services and telecommunications segments.

According to Brocade officials, the product and partnership were sparked by customer demand, as users flooded both companies with requests to add an
intelligent switch to Big Blue’s blade server system.

The result, according to Brocade Product Marketing Director Raj Das, is the 16-port fabric switch designed to integrate Brocade’s SAN features into

“The server blades go into the front of the 14U BladeCenter chassis, and the switch goes in the rear side of the chassis, so effectively you can have 14
servers with no single point of failure and dual switches all inside 14U,” says Das. The switch draws all power and cooling from the BladeCenter chassis, reducing the number of cables.

The product comes in an entry-level module for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that have modest connectivity and consolidation needs, while
the enterprise-grade module handles heavy workloads of storage and servers.

Noting that the entry-level and enterprise-grade switch are the same module, DAS says the low-end switch allows users to take one BladeCenter chassis,
load it up with 14 servers, plug in two switch modules and hook them up to a storage frame. Customers can upgrade through a software license key as
their business grows, ostensibly transforming the module into the enterprise-class switch.

Das told the SilkWorm fabric line and the new switch module are unique because of an adherence to a single code base across every product in the line, alleviating the burden of ripping and replacing switches in upgrade situations.

That scenario is designed to save both time and the cost of buying new hardware.

Brocade Enterprise and Entry SAN Switch modules for the BladeCenter will be available from IBM in June.

Story courtesy of

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Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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