Networking Solutions

Blade Switches

IBM System Networking Solutions

The Business Case for Blade Switches

According to the IDC white paper “Making the Business Case for Blade Switches,” blade servers have been widely adopted in data centers because they cost less to deploy and less to operate (due to savings in power and cooling) than rack-optimized servers. Blade servers are also more easily scaled than fixed-capacity monolithic servers to meet workload growth and are easier to service with their field-replaceable blades. Embedding switches into blade servers expands and enhances these benefits, providing further infrastructure integration, simplified management, greater scalability, improved power and cooling efficiency, and increased application availability. Additionally, blade server switches allow organizations to realize the full inherent benefits of blade servers. As enterprises begin to migrate to next-generation data centers, blade server switches are evolving to meet the new demands with advanced functions such as application aware networking, low latency line-rate switching at 10 Gigabit (10GbE) speeds, advanced quality of service (QoS), and support for iSCSI storage connectivity and virtualization.

In its simplest form, a Layer 2 blade server switch replaces the need for a standalone Layer 2 access switch in the data center. However, enterprises need the more advanced capabilities of an embedded blade server switch (Layer 3 switching, for example) to keep up with advanced workloads on the blade servers. Layer 3 switching reduces overall traffic on the data center network, conserves valuable bandwidth, and reduces the possibility of a security breach.

Enterprises can reap additional benefits by embedding application/content-aware (intelligent) networking into the blade chassis. With an embedded Layer 2.7 switch, enterprises can allocate server capacity dynamically to handle changing application workloads and accommodate planned and unplanned server outages without disrupting application availability. Intelligent networking also provides the functionality, availability, reliability, and security needed to support new converged voice and data applications. As enterprises bring mission-critical converged applications into the data center, the ability to distinguish among various types of user access devices will become increasingly critical, allowing data to be delivered in a device-appropriate format.

Bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive applications, in particular, benefit from the reduced latency inherent in an integrated blade server switch. Further, because blade server backplanes have been designed up front to handle 10Gb speeds, blade server switches are positioned to lead 10GbE adoption in the data center.

By deploying 10GbE, enterprises will be able to benefit from new applications and capabilities, such as IT consolidation, multimedia, high-performance computing, VoIP, and IPTV/video on demand. Furthermore, integrated 10GbE blade server switches help alleviate the cabling, power, space, and cooling challenges faced by most enterprise data centers.

Blade servers provide an effective platform for virtualization. The blade server switch allows enterprises to bring network intelligence back into a virtual server deployment so that they no longer have to sacrifice Layer 3 functionality by virtualizing their server architecture within the blades.

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