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Cisco, IBM Make Service Provider Assist

Cisco  and IBM  said they have expanded their strategic alliance to bring service assurance and fault management to telecommunications providers.

Cisco next month plans to begin offering Cisco Assurance Management Solution, a product that pairs its Active Network Abstraction (ANA) software with IBM Tivoli Netcool software to help service providers better manage new services.

The software will help service-provider customers change network devices and configurations without having to change their applications for service management and operations. Characteristics of the service will include network fault monitoring, trouble isolation and event management for large networks.

Functionality provided by the Cisco Assurance Management Solution is a major convenience in helping service providers manage IP-based services while paring implementation and maintenance costs; service providers want to provide and support Internet services for millions of customers as inexpensively as possible.

The first offering from the Cisco Assurance Management Solution will include IBM Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus and Netcool/Precision technology, which more than 1,000 service providers around the world use. IBM grabbed the Netcool line when it bought Micromuse last year.

John Sein, global director of OEMs and strategic alliances for Tivoli Software at IBM, told internetnews.com that Cisco chose Tivoli Netcool to help accelerate the uptake of its ANA software, which the company launched last month.

The deal is not a stretch for either vendor, as Sein added that Cisco has been using Netcool technology as the basis for its Info Center client/server system for alarm and event management for years.

Cisco, which will offer professional services to support customers using the Cisco Assurance Management Solution, will also be able to incorporate other Tivoli technologies into the mix down the road.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The offering is the latest piece of an intricate blanket of management software and networking gear that IBM and Cisco have been weaving since 1999. Together, IBM and Cisco have more than 25,000 joint customers under the alliance.

Offering service providers joint technologies is just one area of collaboration between IBM and Cisco, which also work together in storage networking, servers and unified communications.

Unified communications, which entails delivering instant messaging, Web conferencing, VoIP and other technologies through a common platform from PCs, may be a segment with the greatest stakes. There is a battle line shaping up in the industry centering on unified communications, pitting IBM and Cisco against Microsoft and Nortel.

IBM and Cisco expanded their unified communications strategy earlier this March, while Microsoft  and Nortel  are cross-licensing each other's technologies to grab the biggest possible piece of the multi-billion-dollar pie.