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IBM, Cisco Deepen Storage Pact

IBM and Cisco deepened their longstanding storage networking pact Tuesday when Big Blue agreed to include the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services module in its MDS 9000 storage area networking (SAN) directors and fabric switches.

With the deal, for which financial terms will not be made public, SANS may be connected to remote SANs and other non-networked storage devices.

Why is this a bonus? Because the IP Storage Services Module supports competing data transfer protocols iSCSI (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface) for host connectivity and FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP) for long distance SAN connectivity, customers get one adaptive solution in one shot as opposed to paying for additional products to bridge the gap between heterogeneous storage items.

By lodging the IP Storage Services module in the Cisco MDS 9000 SAN switches, customers will have an easier go of managing their disparate storage resources. Scott Drummond, program director for Storage Networking at IBM said that because the module supports iSCSI and its rival FCIP, customers will be able to consolidate devices on their storage networks.

Drummond said the key to the pact is helping customers expand fibre channel SANs to additional servers and applications within data centers and departments across local and remote distances.

Enterprise Storage Group Senior Analyst Nancy Marrone called the deal a big win for iSCSI, given that IBM and other vendors have long supported fibre channel.

"IBM is essentially giving credence to iSCSI as a viable networking technology," Marrone told internetnews.com. "They believe that there is a significant opportunity for remote offices, workgroups and SMB's to use iSCSI in order to realize all of the benefits of networking storage. IBM believes they will be driving down the cost of iSCSI networking, particularly for enterprises that want to mix FC, FC/IP and iSCSI networking technologies, as all of the ports are in a single platform, so users do not have to purchase separate iSCSI switches."

IBM began selling the Cisco MDS 9000 SAN switch portfolio this past March and later began selling the Cisco infrastructure at a lower price in the midst of fierce competition with switchmakers McData and Brocade.

The MDS 9000 family includes the Cisco MDS 9509 and 9506 Multilayer Directors, Cisco MDS 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch, the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module, the Cisco MDS 9000 Port Analyzer Adapter for analysis of fibre channel traffic anywhere on the network and Coarse Wave Division Multiplexing (CWDM) Small Form Factor (SFP) interfaces for optical connectivity.

That partnership has borne fruit in the form of such major customers as infrastructure provider AXA Technology Services, which is deploying Cisco MDS 9000 switches in six of its "IT Competency Centers." AXA plans to deploy nearly 2,000 SAN switch ports in the first year of program, ultimately expanding to 8,000 SAN switch ports in the next six years.

The AXA global storage consolidation program is part of the company's Infrastructure on Demand (IOD) initiative, a $1 billion technology services agreement AXA signed earlier with IBM Global Services.

IBM Tuesday also lowered the pricing on its full line of Cisco MDS 9000 Family of switches Combined with IBM TotalStorage disk and Tivoli storage management software, the switches geared to help reduce storage system management costs.