Advanced network mgmt. features bolster blade servers

Vendors are stepping up the network capabilities of their blade servers to make it easier for corporate users to combine the slices of computing power into server clusters designed to handle critical business applications.

Blade server pioneer RLX Technologies Inc. next week is expected to announce two new blade servers to fill out its line and a host of connectivity and management upgrades.

That news from RLX comes as Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. also enhance their blade offerings. In August, HP added faster Intel Corp. processors to its blades and also introduced a 24-port integrated Gigabit Ethernet switch, and executives say plans are in the works to add support for Layer 3 to Layer 7 switching, and 10G Ethernet connectivity.

This week, IBM announced upgrades to its eServer BladeCenter, including an integrated Layer 2 to Layer 7 Ethernet switch that will let its blades intelligently route and prioritize traffic. In addition, it announced the availability of the Myrinet Cluster Expansion Card by Myricom Inc., which will provide a high-speed interconnect necessary for cluster computing.

RLX says business users can expect to see InfiniBand support for its blade servers in November and a 10G Ethernet stacking port within the Gigabit Ethernet switch.

“You will be able to create a dedicated 10 Gigabit backbone for chassis-to-chassis communication. All that communication stays off your production network. All of it stays off the inside of the chassis management network,” says Paul Barker, vice president of marketing at RLX. “What you get is InfiniBand speed between chassis.”

In addition, RLX next month will upgrade its Control Tower management software to handle more than just RLX blades. Control Tower XT 1.3, expected to be available Oct. 15, will include basic management for non-RLX blades and for 1U server environments. Pricing for Control Tower will start at about US$2,500.

RLX is updating its HPC Cluster Manager to enable users to do drag-and-drop provisioning of cluster resources, at a cost of $50 per managed cluster server.

As for the blade enhancements, RLX next week will introduce the RLX ServerBlade 2600ie, which will come with one or two 2.6-GHz Intel Pentium IV Xeon processors and a 400-MHz front side bus, and the RLX ServerBlade 2800ie, which will include one or two 2.8-GHz Intel Pentium IV Xeon processors and a 400-MHz front side bus. In addition, the RLX ServerBlade 3000ix will be upgraded to run on the 3.06-GHz Intel Pentium IV Xeon processor with a 533-MHz front side bus. Pricing for the servers starts at about US$1,700.

RLX also will roll out a 20-port integrated Ethernet switch for about US$4,000. In comparison, the Nortel Networks Corp. Layer 2 to Layer 7 Switch Module available for IBM blades starts at US$17,000. Pricing for HP’s Gigabit Ethernet switch has not yet been released.

Next month, RLX also plans to introduce expanded Fibre Channel support, including dual 2GB Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters, to let users connect blades directly with storage-area networks.