IBM releases OpenFlow-enabled switch

The hardware available for IT managers interested in the fledgling software-defined network movement has expanded with the release of a new switch from IBM Corp.

As part of a host of data centre-related products the company released last week, the networking division snuck in a few new releases which were overlooked by many media outlets.

One of the releases is the OpenFlow-enabled RackSwitch G8264, an update of a 64-port, 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch IBM put out a year ago.

Although a small move, Timothy Shaughnessy, marketing manager for system networking at IBM said the company is making a big bet on OpenFlow.

“This is just the first step,” he said. “You’re going to see more from IBM on OpenFlow. We’re very involved with the Open Network Foundation, which is working with the standard and the applications.”

Part of the broad Open Networking movement, OpenFlow allows a flow controller to be server-based rather than on a switch. As a result, network managers can treat OpenFlow-enabled switches from different vendors as one switch.

“The beauty of this is it gives more flexibility and control to the network,” said Shaughnessy, “so you could actually adjust the way the traffic flows go through your network dynamically based on what’s going on with your applications.”

A number of equipment makers, including Juniper Networks, NEC and Hewlett-Packard, have committed to OpenFlow.

Not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research, said in a recent interview that he worries if innovation in switching will suffer. Historically, he said, innovation suffers when products become commoditized. Still, the movement is gaining support.

Other network-related products announced by IBM [NYSE: IBM] include

–the RackSwitch G8316, a 40-port, 40 Gigabit Ethernet aggregation switch that can be used with the G8264s to flatten networks. As a result data doesn’t have to travel back to a core switch, Shaughnessy said. It lists at US$35,999.

–the backbone speed of the SAN768B-2 eight-slot and 384B-2 four-slot cloud storage area networks has been doubled to 16 Gigabits per second through new line cards. The new versions of these chassis allow customers to buy a minimum 24 ports and pay for more as they need.

The suggested list price of the SAN768B-2 is US$197,399, while the SAN384B-2 is US$106,239

–The SAN48B-5 is a 1U-sized 48-port 16Gbps fabric switch for private cloud storage environments that support highly virtualized data centres. It lists at US$21,435.

–The latest version of IBM Networking OS (which used to be called Blade OS) now has the fourth generation of VMready, a technololgy which IBM acquired a year ago with the purchase of Blade Networking.

Based on the IEEE 802.1Qbg Edge Virtual Bridging standard, VMready makes network more aware of virtual machines, Shaughnessy said, so as VMs are shifted from one physical server to another the security policies, quality of service and other policies assigned to it move as well.

IBM Networking OS comes with the company’s blade and RackSwitch products.

–System Networking Element Manager, a merger of Blade Networks’ Blade Harmony manager and elements of IBM’s Tivoli network management software, manages IBM Networking OS and Blade OS environments that have more than 20 switches.

It lets IT managers backup, restore and clone configurations. New capabilities include the ability to create custom dashboards.

–iFlow Director, which load balances and directs traffic to security appliances or wireless Internet mobile gateways. It can support up to six BladeCentre chassis totallying 84 server blades.

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