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IBM peddles FCoE switches from Brocade and, yes, Cisco

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IBM this week threw its support behind Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) switches, saying that it would be reselling one of the FCoE converged data center switches from new server rival Cisco Systems as well as putting another switch in the field from Brocade Communications.

The launch of the Converged Switch B32 from IBM rounds out the company's promise back in April to get a line of rebadged Brocade Ethernet routers and switches in the field. The B32 is really a toe in the water inasmuch as it is a 32-port rack-mounted switch for supports FCoE as well as the very similar Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) and standard Ethernet protocols, which take the benefits of InfiniBand lossless networking and bring them Ethernet while at the same time letting the Fibre Channel storage protocol run atop this beefed-up Ethernet.

IBM has already announced rebranded versions of Brocade's NetIron CES Ethernet switches (which it resells as the C Series), its NetIron MLX Ethernet routers (which it sells as the M Series), the FastIron high-capacity fixed-port Ethernet switches (the G Series in the IBM catalog), and the FastIron SuperX modular Ethernet switches (the S Series at IBM).

IBM says that the B32 FCoE switch supports eight 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel ports and 24 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and because everything is green these days, with two power supplies and cooling fan units and running full out, it operates at only 350 watts. While the FCoE and CEE standards have not been completely merged, the switch supports the T11 FCoE spec (which allows for FC frames to be encapsulated inside Ethernet packets and translates Virtual LAN addresses to Ethernet MAC addresses and vice versa) and the CEE features, including data center bridging exchange, priority based flow control, and enhanced transmission selection.

The B32 switch supports SFP and SFP+ optical transceivers that use SWL and LWL optical links for Fibre Channel and optical or twinax copper cables for CEE links.

IBM is supporting the B32 switch on its current Power Systems Power-based servers as well as their predecessors in the AS/400, System i, RS/6000, and System p lines; in its System x x64-based servers and xSeries and Netfinity predecessors; on selected Unix boxes from Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems; and on other x86 and x64 servers running Linux or Windows. The switches can link to IBM's TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller and a slew of disk arrays with Blue labels, including the DS4000, DS6000, and DS8000 arrays and their predecessors, the Enterprise Storage Server, the FastT family of arrays for x64 boxes, and everything but absolutely ancient tape drives and tape libraries.

The Converged Switch B32 sells for $56,400, with SFP 10 Gigabit cables costing $910 and SFP 8 Gb/sec FC links costing $290. It is available from starting on July 17.

While Cisco has no doubt annoyed IBM by entering the server racket with its "California" Unified Computing System - which combined CEE storage and networking with Cisco's own blade servers with integrated system management and virtualized switching and servers - Big Blue still has to deal with the fact that for many of its customers, Cisco is the networking vendor of choice. And to that end, IBM announced this week that it will be reselling Cisco's Nexus 5000 series switches.

To be precise, IBM is reselling the 28-port Nexus 5010 switch, which supports the CEE and FCoE protocols and has 20 fixed 10 Gigabit Ethernet CEE ports and eight 4 Gb/sec Fibre Channel ports. IBM is also reselling the Nexus 5020 switch, which is a 56-port machine with 40 fixed 10 Gigabit Ethernet CEE ports for networking and 16 4Gb/sec Fibre Channel ports.

These both will be available from IBM starting September 11. IBM is charging $25,250 for the Nexus 5010 and $50,500 for the Nexus 5020. ®

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