Dell simplifies blade server management with virtualization

FlexAddress like a life insurance policy against downtime, says Dell

Dell is releasing an I/O virtualization tool for its blade servers, making it easier for IT managers to install new blades and swap out servers.

Without I/O virtualization, IT shops have to manually assign Media Access Control (MAC) addresses and World Wide Name (WWN) identifiers each time they put in a new blade server. Dell's FlexAddress, announced Tuesday, abstracts the MAC and WWN addresses from the blade hardware, instead tying the identifiers to slots within Dell's PowerEdge M-Series blade chassis.

"FlexAddress is like a life insurance policy against downtime," says Rick Becker, Dell's vice president of solutions.

Rivals IBM and HP already have I/O virtualization tools for their own blade servers. HP released Virtual Connect in February 2007, and IBM announced its BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager in November 2007.

Dell is competing most directly with HP, because both vendors rely heavily on the x86 architecture, says Charles King of the Pund-IT analyst firm

The significant aspect of Dell's FlexAddress is that it will "work with most any I/O switch, including Brocade and Cisco," King says. "With the HP I/O solution, both the Ethernet and Fibre Channel connectivity is done with a proprietary HP switch module."

Despite its proprietary switch, HP does claim Virtual Connect is capable of supporting "any industry standard" switch.

FlexAddress starts at US$499. The product comes in the form of an SD card for the PowerEdge M1000e Chassis Management Controller.

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