HP fires back at IBM over I/O virtualization

Rivals’ dispute centers on compatibility with third-party vendors

The blade server teams at HP and IBM are fighting it out over I/O virtualization. IBM unveiled an I/O virtualization tool called Open Fabric Manager Monday, claiming it one-ups HP's Virtual Connect because IBM uses open technology that's compatible with switches from multiple vendors.

HP fired back, saying Virtual Connect can support "any industry standard" switch, and claiming IBM's technology falls short of the features offered by HP.

"IBM states that Open Fabric Manager supports Ethernet and Fibre Channel technologies from vendors like Blade Network Technologies, Brocade, Cisco, Emulex and QLogic, while HP Virtual Connect can only be used with a proprietary HP switch," HP writes in a statement issued this week. "The fact is, HP Virtual Connect can attach to any industry-standard Ethernet or NPIV enabled Fibre Channel switch, greatly simplifying networking."

I/O virtualization automates the process of assigning I/O addresses, making it easier to move workloads from one blade server to another. IBM lets users manage up to 1,400 blade servers -- 100 chassis consisting of 14 servers each. HP's latest release, the Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager, announced Nov. 12, supports up to 1,600 servers, and HP claims it provides easier management than its rival.

"[IBM's] Open Fabric manager copies configurations from one enclosure to another, but it does not offer what most customers would define as central management of up to 100 enclosures," HP says.

Virtual Connect is simpler to use than Open Fabric Manager, writes analyst Joe Clabby in a report for Pund-IT Research. But IBM's technology has many advantages over HP's, Clabby writes.

Despite what HP claims, Clabby says IBM has embraced third-party network vendor switches rather than building its own proprietary device, as HP has done. This means HP's Virtual Connect integration with third-party technology "is not as feature/function rich as the IBM offerings," Clabby writes.

IBM has also done better than HP by offering automated failover capabilities, single sign-on, and a lower-cost product, he says.

"The only disadvantage I could find for IBM is that it has taken them a few years longer than HP to get their solution to market," Clabby states.

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