Cisco, IBM Strengthen Tech Ties

Beginning next month, Cisco’s switch modules will be integrated with IBM’s servers to improve the performance
of corporate data centers, the companies announced yesterday. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Offerings will also be tailored to meet the needs of education, financial services, and banking, with other industries to follow. Marist College will
be among the first to upgrade its network with the new hardware and software.

“We knew we needed to interface with existing infrastructure,” Jeff Benck, vice president of IBM’s BladeCenter line, told “This [partnership] allows us to address management of servers, storage, and networking in a single platform.”

Pierre-Paul Allard, Cisco’s vice president of enterprise marketing, says the companies have been working on the integration project for about a year.
Throughout, engineers kept customers’ goals — such as server consolidation, virtualization, and common interfaces — in mind.

The most significant part of yesterday’s pact is the planned integration of Cisco’s Intelligent Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module
(IGESM) with IBM’s BladeCenter servers.

The IGESM directs network traffic and offers security, quality of service (QoS) and management features. Blade servers, composed of thin circuit boards that fit into a chassis, feature the ability to add more blades to boost computing power on a network.

Other product integrations include:

  • Cisco’s Content Switching Module and IBM’s Enterprise Workload Manager will exchange network load and health information through a new Server Application State Protocol (SASP), enabling better data center performance based on real-time data
  • IBM’s Tivoli Provisioning Manager, a key part of IBM’s utility computing environment, will support the Cisco Catalyst 6500 switch, firewall, and SSL services modules, as well as the IGESM and the MDS 9000 SAN line

  • IBM’s Tivoli SAN Manager will support integrated management of virtualization services on the Cisco MDS SAN switch platform

The offerings will be sold by both companies. In addition, IBM’s services arm will launch a suite of service and support offerings, including readiness assessment, design, and integration.

James Governor, an analyst with the IT research firm Red Monk, believes the partnership is well timed.

“Data centers in enterprises and telcos will be completely virtualized — that is, servers, storage, and networks will all be plugged into the same
racks and pooled so that resources can be managed through a single framework,” says Governor. “IBM is going to provide the storage and servers, but doesn’t sell network gear. Step forward Cisco.”

Governor adds that the companies are likely to benefit from the move toward Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) , which puts voice and data on a single network and increases the importance of data centers.

Yesterday’s announcement is not the first time Cisco and IBM have collaborated. In February, the San Jose, Calif., and Armonk, N.Y.-based IT giants unveiled joint offerings to safeguard enterprise networks against viruses, worms, and

And back in July, they deepened a longstanding storage alliance.

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