Cisco's Channel Focus, SAN Switch Plans Continue

Soni Jiandani, Cisco's vice president of marketing for storage technology, said a new alliance with IBM will give Cisco a critical ally in the management software space.

"IBM made it clear that Tivoli this quarter will ship integrated management software for [Cisco's] MDS [9000] line," Jiandani said.

That partnership comes just as Cisco wraps up beta-testing of some of its soon-to-be-released SAN switch products, including a 16-port Fibre Channel switch, a 32-port Fibre Channel switch and the Supervisor 1.

Jiandani and other Cisco executives also addressed investors at the RBC show. Their appearance followed an announcement earlier this month that Cisco and IBM will collaborate in the SAN space.

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Under the terms of that alliance, IBM solution providers will be able to offer two of Cisco's Multilayer DataCenter Switch (MDS) products, which were unveiled last August,the MDS 9509 Multilayer Director and MDS 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch.

Don Geier, CTO of MSI Systems, an Omaha, Neb.-based solution provider, said he believes Cisco's product line and its channel-heavy strategy bode well for partners.

"We have a good relationship with Cisco," Geier said. "It sounds like they're going to do less direct sales and go more through the channel."

Cisco will rely on channel partners to deploy its storage technology, just as it has with its networking business, Jiandani said. But in cases of complex deployments of storage subsystems, the vendor plans to engage its higher-end partners, he said.

Since MSI has a close relationship with both Cisco and IBM, the alliance between those two vendors can work to the solution provider's advantage on two fronts, Geier said.

Although he still has questions about margin opportunities, Geier said he remains positive about Cisco's new offerings.

"It looks like they will have strong products," he said.