IBM claims better I/O address tool

Moving workloads from one blade server to another could be easier with an I/O virtualization tool developed by IBM.

The company said its BladeCentre Open Fabric Manager automates the process of assigning I/O addresses. It’s better than HP’s Virtual Connect, IBM claims, because it uses open technology compatible with switches from multiple vendors.

The application will ship in the middle of this month. I/O address virtualization solves a problem faced by blade administrators, that they are faced with constant provisioning and reconfiguration of systems to adjust for changing workloads, writes analyst Joe Clabby in a piece for Pund-IT Research analyzing IBM’s offering.

Administrators must assign MAC addresses and World Wide Name identifiers, and after basic hardware setup they have to assign LAN and SAN connection addresses. Then they have to repeat this process for every server they install.

“Instead of physically mapping each blade to external networks every time a new or replacement server is needed, IBM’s BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager automatically maps new or reconfigured servers,” Clabby writes. “Blade managers can cut configuration time down from days to minutes.” It also saves customers the trouble of assigning new addresses when one blade fails and a workload must be moved to another server, says Stuart McRae, IBM’s BladeCenter business line manager.

HP’s product is simpler, as it can be run by lesser-skilled systems administrators as long as they know how to monitor and control a blade systems environment, Clabby writes. But Virtual Connect costs more than IBM’s take on I/O virtualization.

HP bundles I/O address management with hardware, with the Ethernet hardware costing $5,600 (all prices U.S.) and Fibre Channel hardware costing $8,000, according to Clabby. IBM’s Ethernet switch costs $999 and its Fibre Channel $5,000. To get I/O virtualization through Open Fabric Manager, IBM customers pay $1,499 to $1,999 for each chassis consisting of 14 blades.

McRae argues that IBM has one-upped HP by supporting technology from multiple vendors, like Blade Network Technologies, Brocade, Cisco, Emulex, NetXen and QLogic, which will result in “huge cost savings,” he said.