IBM on Building Infrastructure for Virtualization and FCoE

Servers are at the epicenter of the seismic changes in the datacenter caused by virtualization.  At VMworld, Dave Vellante and I sat down with Bob Zuber, WW Product Marketing Manager at IBM to discuss the trends that he is seeing and how IBM stays competitive with their server architectures.

Phase 2 of Virtualization

The first phase of virtualization was all about getting greater efficiency from servers.  A typical scenario a few years ago would take a group of servers that were running at 10-15% efficiency and consolidate them using server virtualization to a much smaller number of servers running at 80-90+% efficiency.  Phase 2 of virtualization requires creating more automation and efficiency of workloads. Virtualization deployments are moving beyond the file and print applications that were low hanging fruit in phase 1 to large enterprise class applications such as SAP in phase 2.  IT managers want to take advantage of the flexibility and mobility features in VMware such as HA, DRS and vMotion for all applications.  Virtualization puts high demand on server processors and memory. This drives IBM to create newer generation of servers with best-of-breed components.  To create the required highly scalable, high performance, reliable systems, IBM works with partners such as Intel and QLogic.

Migration Path to Convergence

The transition from 1Gb to 10Gb Ethernet provides the opportunity to migrate to a single converged network environment.  For existing FC customers, new IBM servers can be equipped with Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) from QLogic, allowing applications to migrate from FC to FCoE using VMware vMotion.  This allows for faster deployment and cost savings with a single network.  From a supplier standpoint, to meet the ever-demanding customer requirements for better price, power and space, a single converged network must be deployed.   For customers, the IBM solutions provisions FCoE inside an integrated rack solution that can plug seamlessly into existing SAN (FC) and LAN (Ethernet) environments.  Customers get the advantage of a lower cost solution without any significant changes to the way that their environments are managed.  FCoE will mature to more complex solutions over the few quarters, providing a gentle path for FC customers to move towards convergence with Ethernet.

Infrastructure Becomes Cloud-Like, not Cloudy

IT organizations today have challenge of competing with a variety of cloud offerings.  There is increased pressure to not only get greater utility from existing assets, but to also provide accurate metrics (charge back or at least show back) to business units.  The more automation and standardization (such as what is provided through a converged infrastructure) that can be used in-house, the easier it is for CIOs to support the business and to be able to provide comparisons of internal versus external resources.  While server virtualization puts a layer of abstraction between the OS and hardware, compute and bandwidth resources are still a critical requirement for companies.  The latest IBM servers built with the latest generation components keep IT staffs on the path of delivering efficient, cost-effective, flexible and mobile solutions that match the design requirements of cloud computing.

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