If you are new to blade servers, you may find there are quite a few options to consider in regards to managing your Ethernet traffic. Some vendors promote the traditional integrated switching, while others promote extending the fabric to a Top of Rack (ToR) device. Each method has its own benefits, so let me explain what those are. Before I get started, although I work for Dell, this blog post is designed to be an un-biased review of the network options available for many blade server vendors.
I’ve gotten a lot of response from my first post, “REVEALED: IBM’s Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I” and more information is coming out quickly so I decided to post a part 2. IBM officially announced the switch on October 20, 2009, so here’s some additional information:
- The Nexus 4001I Switch for the IBM BladeCenter is part # 46M6071 and has a list price of $12,999 (U.S.) each
- In order for the Nexus 4001I switch for the IBM BladeCenter to connect to an upstream FCoE switch, an additional software purchase is required. This item will be part # strong>49Y9983, “Software Upgrade License for Cisco Nexus 4001I.” This license upgrade allows for the Nexus 4001I to handle FCoE traffic. It has a U.S. list price of $3,899
- The Cisco Nexus 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter will be compatible with the following blade server expansion cards
- 2/4 Port Ethernet Expansion Card, part # 44W4479
- NetXen 10Gb Ethernet Expansion Card, part # 39Y9271
- Broadcom 2-port 10Gb Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 44W4466
- Broadcom 4-port 10Gb Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 44W4465
- Broadcom 10 Gb Gen 2 2-port Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 46M6168
- Broadcom 10 Gb Gen 2 4-port Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 46M6164
- QLogic 2-port 10Gb Converged Network Adapter, part # 42C1830
- (UPDATED 10/22/09) The newly announced Emulex Virtual Adapter WILL NOT work with the Nexus 4001I IN VIRTUAL NIC (vNIC) mode. It will work in pNIC mode according to IBM.
The Cisco Nexus 4001I switch for the IBM BladeCenter is a new approach to getting converged network traffic. As I posted a few weeks ago in my post, “How IBM’s BladeCenter works with Cisco Nexus 5000” before the Nexus 4001I was announced, in order to get your blade servers to communicate with a Cisco Nexus 5000, you had to use a CNA,and a 10Gb Pass-Thru Module as shown on the left. The pass-thru module used in that solution requires for a direct connection to be made from the pass-thru module to the Cisco Nexus 5000 for every blade server that requires connectivity. This means for 14 blade servers, 14 connections are required to the Cisco Nexus 5000. This solution definitely works – it just eats up 14 Nexus 5000 ports. At $4,999 list (U.S.), plus the cost of the GBICs, the “pass-thru” scenario may be a good solution for budget conscious environments.
In comparison, with the IBM Nexus 4001I switch, we now can have as few as 1 uplink to the Cisco Nexus 5000 from the Nexus 4001I switch. This allows you to have more open ports on the Cisco Nexus 5000 for connections to other IBM Bladecenters with Nexus 4001I switches, or to allow connectivity from your rack based servers with CNAs.
Bottom line: the Cisco Nexus 4001I switch will reduce your port requirements on your Cisco Nexus 5000 or Nexus 7000 switch by allowing up to 14 servers to uplink via 1 port on the Nexus 4001I.
For more details on the IBM Nexus 4001I switch, I encourage you to go to the newly released IBM Redbook for the Nexus 4001I Switch.