Dell flicks McData switch up a notch

To help its customers reduce both costs and cable sprawl, Dell Inc. has introduced a set of new connectivity features to its PowerEdge 1855 blade servers. According to Bryan Rusche, server brand manager for Dell Canada, customer demand was the main motivator behind adding the new features, which include the McData 4314 Fibre Channel switch.

“A lot of customers were looking for flexibility in the Fibre Channel networking gear,” said Rusche. “They had a preference to use McData within their SAN (storage area network) fabric to connect to external storage, so we gave customers the choice of integrating that into the enclosure.”

In the past, he added, customers who wanted a McData switch had to attach it externally to the blade enclosure.

The McData switch has a total of 14 ports with 10 of the ports connecting to the server blades. There are 4 external ports for connection to the SAN fabric. The switches can be installed in the chassis where one switch or a second switch can be added into the chassis to give a redundant connection. All of the ports, Rusche said, are Short Wave Small Form Factor Pluggable (SFP) media and are all hot pluggable. As well, he added, the McData 4314 has a separate port that connects to an Ethernet network.

The PowerEdge 1855 blade server, introduced last November, serves to consolidate networking gear, power supply and cooling requirements typically located elsewhere in the data centre.

The addition of these new features helps both Dell and customers, according to one analyst.

“It’s expanding the connectivity, expanding the features, and that is good when you are looking at a server,” said Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst with Evans Research Corp. in Toronto. She added that it’s good for Dell because the company has been able to increase its presence in the market with these expanded features.

In addition, the PowerEdge 1855 will support three other connectivity options. These include an Ethernet connection to the corporate LAN, either through an Ethernet Pass-Through module or the PowerConnect 5316 switch.

As well, along with the McData 4314 there is a Fibre Channel connection that includes the Brocade Silkworm 3014 Fibre Channel switch and a Fibre Channel Pass-Through model. The last connectivity option, Rusche explained, is the InfiniBand Pass-Through module.

Warren said these additions would help keep Dell competitive. “They were necessary from the standpoint that Dell wants to continually increase its presence, continually increase its features and expand its products in order to maintain its competitive edge.

“Going with McData is a very strong move [as] McData has a strong brand recognition in the industry,” said Warren.

As well, Warren said the new features would be important to managing information.

“Having back-up information is critical for businesses. Big buzz words lately have been Sarbanes-Oxley and PIPEDA and one of the things organizations need with their servers is the ability to access information and data that exist. Server to storage has to be seamless…[and] Fibre Channel switches do that,” she said.

Pricing for a single McData 4314 switch starts at $8,639 and includes four SFP optical transceivers. Warren said Dell had priced it very aggresssively for its customers.

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Related links:

Dell fills out blade connectivity, more to come

Dell unveils big plans for server blades

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