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Volume 20, Number 29 -- August 22, 2011

IBM Cuts BNT Switch Tags, Adds Fibre Channel SAN Switches

Published: August 22, 2011

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

As a long-time IBM customer, you are probably not used to the fact that there is an IBM System Networking division that sells data center and storage switches. And as a really long time IBM customer, as many AS/400 shops certainly are, you are probably wondering why the hell Big Blue sold off its networking business to Cisco Systems in 1999 and basically gave the company a decade of high margins.

No matter. IBM has acquired and partnered to build up its own portfolio of switching products, and the company is eager to dislodge the incumbents whose switches are on Big Blue server turf. Last week, in announcement letter 311-114, IBM cut the price tag on the Blade Network Technologies RackSwitch G8052R (product number 1455-48E) top-of-rack switch. IBM announced three different RackSwitches back in April, and this 48-port model is one of them. This particular model has 48 Gigabit Ethernet ports and four 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, which can be used for uplinks or to link to servers. It used to cost $10,999, but now IBM has cut the tag on this box by 18.5 percent to $8,999.

IBM has not cut the tags on the "real" 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches announced in April--the 24-port G124ER and the 48-port G8264R, which also has four 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports for additional 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to servers using splitter cables or to be used as uplinks to end-of-row or core switches.

Now here's the strange bit. IBM had already cut the price on the RackSwitch G58052R and G8052F when acquired through its online store in announcement letter 311-101, saying it would give customers who bought them online the switches for $5,500, a 38.5 percent price cut over what IBM said was the $8,949 list price on these two units out there on the Intertubes. The old discount deal from IBM that came out in July is still the better deal, obviously.

Go figure. I just report what IT vendors do and don't do--I don't take responsibility for it.

IBM last week also announced two SAN backbone switches supporting 16Gb/sec connectivity out to storage as well as a new SAN switch for linking. These three devices are very serious storage switches aimed at very high-end customers that are building large-scale clusters and clouds. The System Storage SAN768B-2 is a modular chassis switch with 384 ports running at that very high speed, while the SAN384B-2 has 192 ports; they also sport 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports for metro-level connectivity between data centers. (Prior modular Fibre Channel blades ran at 8 Gb/sec and thus the product names and port counts made sense.) The SAN48B-5 is a 1U rack-mounted, fixed port Fibre Channel switch that has 48 ports running at the 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel speed. These three switches are backwards compatible with earlier and slower Fibre Channel devices, all the way back to 2 Gb/sec devices from the dawn of time.


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