Cisco Teams with IT Giants on Data Centers

Cisco Systems Wednesday announced a new initiative to give enterprises a blueprint for advanced data centers, the latest step in its effort to evolve from selling standalone hardware to offering more sophisticated networking systems.

As part of its “Business Ready Data Center” offering, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant has partnered with EDS , HP , IBM , and Intel for technology, system integration, and support.

Previously, Cisco’s involvement with data centers began and ended with the sale of routers and similar equipment. Now, the company has added consultants to help customers address current and future server consolidation, security, backup, and virtualization needs.

Cisco reports its routers, storage appliances, and security software will be used to build out customers’ systems. But it will also work with multi-vendor systems, using open standards.

The service additionally includes consulting from Cisco network experts to assess needs and design a data center for current and future needs. Cisco’s data center plan is also slated as the preferred foundation for EDS, HP, and IBM’s utility computing platforms.

Cisco also announced it will work with Intel to improve the performance of Gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to improve server and storage capabilities.

Christine Falsetti, a Cisco spokeswoman, says the offering is in response to market trends and customer concerns.

Large companies want to consolidate disparate systems onto a single architecture, according to Falsetti. The move makes the most of server and storage assets and delivers network services such as security and application optimization and lowers a company’s management costs.

A tightly integrated system built on the Business Ready Data Center model also protects against downtime from power outages or security threats. In this respect, the data center plans and practices intersect with another Cisco strategy — the self-protecting network.

According to IT researcher IDC, the worldwide enterprise data center networking market is forecast to reach $7 billion by 2007. The market is being driven by IT executives’ needs to reduce management costs, address vulnerabilities, and comply with new regulatory requirements.

Cisco expects the offering to tempt current customers who are upgrading and consolidating their data centers as well as companies that are building data centers from scratch. An uptick in corporate mergers could also drive business, says Falsetti, as companies seek to weld together different systems.

Several customers are in different stages of implementing Business Ready Data Center, including Exempla Healthcare and George Washington University.

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