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IBM's BladeCenter Attracts $100 Million Venture Fund, 10 Gbps Switch, New Partners

IBM is trying to turn its BladeCenter architecture into an industry standard like it did with the personal computer.

Pushing to make its BladeCenter architecture a standard blade-server configuration for the industry, IBM on Monday unveiled several product enhancements, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch, and a host of new partners. A third-party venture capital fund also disclosed that it plans to spend $100 million on companies building products and systems to work with BladeCenter.

"What we are seeing unfold is something that is not dissimilar to what happened early in the PC era, which is the potential for a de facto standard to emerge around blade servers," says Tim Dougherty, IBM's director of BladeCenter strategies.

IBM has announced that 17 new companies have joined its Blade.org organization. The companies include Bull, Lenovo, Symbol Technologies, and Wal-Mart, which have pledged to create products and services to support IBM's BladeCenter blade-server platform. Since it was created in February, the Blade.org group has grown to 75 members.

In addition, San Francisco-based venture capital firm Walden International announced it plans to invest up to $100 million in projects of BladeCenter ecosystem partners over the next five years. More than half of the money will go to the Asian market. "I am a big believer in the future of the data center built on blades," said Lip-Bu Tan, founder and chairman of Walden, in a statement. "Blades are solving fundamental problems in the data center, such as power and cooling issues, space restrictions, and provide an excellent platform for virtualization."

Dougherty says the growth of Blade.org membership and Walden's $100 million commitment "provides a very strong statement about the attractiveness of this platform."

The latest product to come out of Blade.org is a 10 Gbps Ethernet switch from Blade Network Technologies, a spin-off of Nortel. The 10 Gbps switch will be particularly attractive for applications that have high-bandwidth requirements, such as VoIP telephony, IP television, and other emerging applications, Dougherty says.

The 10 Gbps switch has three 10 Gbps uplink ports offering an aggregated throughput of 90 Gbps. The 10 Gbps switch is priced at $4,999.

IBM also announced that it has implemented the Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware and will embed it in its BladeCenter Advanced Management Module in the second half of this year. SMASH is a cross-platform management protocol that lets customers create a management standard for blade servers. SMASH is also supported by other blade-server vendors, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems.

The module manages blades at the chassis level, automating management functions previously completed manually, and will integrate on the BladeCenter platform with IBM's Director and Tivoli management tools.

IBM also plans to introduce a software development kit for BladeCenter to let third-party vendors more easily develop new products to meet BladeCenter specifications.

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