Cisco, IBM Extend Partnership To Data Center Solutions

Solution providers said the new integrated data center solutions, which include a Cisco Gigabit Ethernet Layer 2 switch module for IBM's eServer Blade Center, will help speed deployment times and ease management of on-demand technology environments.

"This is a big win for IBM," said Chris Swahn, president of sales at Amherst Technologies, a solution provider in Merrimack, N.H.

The partnership propels IBM past rival Hewlett-Packard, which has not been as quick to integrate its own ProCurve network equipment into its autonomic computing strategy, Swahn said.

Cisco and IBM said they are bringing together their server, storage, networking and management products to provide an integrated data center automation platform.

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"The key for customers and partners is that it takes away a huge amount of risk for deployments in the data center. It eliminates the human error factor, provides better profitability for our partners and saves time and money for customers," said Pierre-Paul Allard, vice president of worldwide enterprise marketing at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

The new solution is an extension of Cisco's Business Ready Data Center initiative, launched in April, which provides tested architectural designs, deployment guides and best practices for rolling out Cisco equipment in data center environments.

In addition to launching the Intelligent Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module (IGESM), Cisco is also embedding IBM's Virtual SAN software into its MDS 9000 SAN switch. IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager, a component of its Virtualization Engine, will now provide automated provisioning for Cisco gear, including Catalyst 6500 switches, MDS 9000 switches, the new IGESM and Cisco firewall and SSL services modules. IBM Global Services is providing services around the new offerings.

"By leveraging our joint data center architecture, [partners] now have a design point they can replicate in clients' infrastructures to deliver more value than they could with the individual elements," said Jeff Benck, vice president of the BladeCenter product line at IBM, Armonk, N.Y.

The integration of the two companies' products into a blade server environment can dramatically reduce management requirements for customers, said Rick Kearney, president and CEO of solution provider Mainline Information Systems, Tallahassee, Fla.

"By combining it all into one managed system, the day-to-day stuff you spend 80 percent to 90 percent of your time on now is being managed by automated tools," Kearney said.

The products and service offerings are slated for general availability in June. The IGESM, which includes four external ports, is priced around $5,000. The alliance is not exclusive for either company.