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IBM, Cisco Strengthen Storage Networking Ties

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IBM and networking giant Cisco Tuesday extended their relationship to bring open storage networking products to enterprise customers.Under the terms of the agreement, which were not made public, Armonk, N.Y.’s IBM and its partners will have the ability to offer customers Cisco’s MDS 9000 Family products, beginning with the Cisco MDS 9509 Multilayer Director, Cisco MDS 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch and associated modules. IBM expects to finish interoperability qualification of these products and offer them to customers by the end of the first quarter in 2003.

From a bird’s eye view, this agreement leverages the more than three-year-old strategic alliance between IBM and San Jose’s Cisco, and allows Big Blue to deliver the freshest open storage networking products available from Cisco to customers looking to reduce cost and increase quality of service for computing environments with heavy data storage and distribution requirements.

Roland Hagan, vice president of marketing for midmarket and midrange products, IBM Systems Group, said his outfit is the first vendor to offer Cisco’s new multiprotocol SAN switches.

“This agreement will enable us to expand to a new customer set including telecommunication customers and customers interested in converging fibre channel and IP storage area networks,” Hagan said.

Cisco burst onto the SAN switching market last August with the Cisco MDS 9000 family, a line of SAN switches for storage networks of all sizes and architectures. The company’s intent, as outlined by CEO John Chambers last month, is to deliver intelligent network services, such as multiprotocol/multitransport integration, Virtual SANs (VSANs), security, advanced traffic management, diagnostics and unified SAN management. Brocade Communications Systems and McData are leaders in the SAN switching space.Cisco, who moved to spruce up its SAN networking line when it acquired Andiamoin August, said the products are designed to help customers increase data availability and better manage their storage resources. According to market research firm Gartner Group, the market for SAN switches is expected to grow from some $1.2 billion in 2002 to $4.3 billion in 2006.

The Cisco MDS 9000 suite enjoys close ties and interoperability with products in the IBM Systems Group, including the TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server (aka Shark), the IBM TotalStorage FAStT family of midrange disks, the IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Tape System and Enterprise Tape Library, as well as the IBM TotalStorage UltraScalable Tape Library and Ultrium Scalable Tape Library.

Sometime rivals IBM and Cisco buried some hatchets when they inked a $2 billion global technology, networking and services strategic pact in August 1999 and haven’t looked back. The alliance is designed to leverage the Cisco’s equipment IBM’s services strengths, respectively. Cisco customers, for example, use IBM’s Global Services to support all their Cisco support needs including network consulting and design, procurement, implementation and maintenance.

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