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IBM challenges HP to virtual I/O blade duel

Open Fabric Manager enters arena

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IBM is releasing an I/O virtualization tool for its BladeCenters to compete against HP's Virtual Connect technology.

IBM's Open Fabric Manager, which is set to ship mid-December, helps tame the albatross of moving workloads across blade servers by abstracting the interaction of virtual and physical servers with storage boxes. It maps storage area network connections to the blade chassis instead of individual blades — letting admins skip the fun and joy of provisioning and reconfiguring their systems when moving workloads or replacing blades.

The software allows I/O virtualization across 100 BladeCenter chassis from a single console. That matches HP's numbers in Virtual Connect, which was expanded beyond one chassis earlier this month.

But IBM fancies it has jumped its competition by using technology compatible with switches from multiple vendors such as Brocade, Cisco, Emulex, NextXen and QLogic. IBM says HP's offering requires a proprietary switch to get things going.

The more vendor neutral approach is shared by start-ups such as NextIO.

An advanced version of Open Fabric Manager will also be available that adds a failover function to the software. Workloads can be transfered from one blade to another in case of hardware failure.

IBM is vending Open Fabric Manager for $1,500 per chassis, or $2000 for the advanced version. HP's Virtual Connect starts at about $4,500 (pricing PDF warning).

HP and IBM remain the dominant players in the blade server market, eating up the vast majority of sales. ®

Update

HP has countered with a statement claiming Virtual Connect can attach to any industry standard Ethernet or NPIV enabled fibre channel switch. You can also see how HP says its offering stacks against Open Fabric manager here. (Scroll down to the chart on the bottom of the page.) ®

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