Cisco, IBM roll along

It has been six months since Cisco Systems and IBM Global Services forged an alliance. To date, with Cisco on the hardware side of things and IBM offering integration services, the partnership has enjoyed success in joint e-commerce initiatives and customer projects. With more than 100 customers worldwide engaged in the last 60 days, Dan McLean, network analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said the alliance is “a real double-barrelled combination.”

According to Phil Soper, general manager for systems management and networking with IBM Global Services in Toronto, “What it’s (alliance) really done from our clients’ perspective is clean up the IBM face they see.”

He added, “The pace of change is so rapid that clients don’t have the luxury that they had even five years ago to do in-depth analysis of all the various technologies and run extended pilots.”

They turn to a company like ours that has done the analysis, that works with various vendors and can help them make a technology decision and will handle as much or as little as they want us to,” he said. “The reason that Cisco is playing such an important role in the networking solutions we provide, is that Cisco is a market-leading technology that our clients are asking for.”

One of IBM’s clients, Welland, Ont.-based Canadian Tire Acceptance Ltd. (CTAL), the financial services division of Canadian Tire Corp., needed to marry both their existing systems as well as focus on a quick transition to a more robust e-business solution.

“We looked for an end-to-end solution for upgrading our network and based it on a number of goals, which included speed to market, availability, scalability, involvability, security and cost of ownership,” said Leo Heffernan, director, Infrastructure Solutions Delivery, CTAL. “We don’t want to go shopping for a new relationship in three to five years.”

But first, IBM had to fulfil CTAL’s extensive satisfaction criteria, ranging from availability through design enhancements to effective and timely communications. CTAL “wanted to minimize the impact to the business and the users,” said Heffernan.

With a 1,600-seat (full and part-time) call centre, four campuses ranging in distance from 4km to 44km apart with divergent business needs, and an extensive credit card system (corporate and third party) Heffernan said, “This is a crucial network that can’t be shut down, it has to be transitioned and phased properly, which they’ve met. We can’t screw around with the network, it’s lifeblood, it’s mission critical. They (IBM/Cisco) rose to the occasion, they were very competitive and they came through on what they promised,” he said.

Other vendors, although competitive, did not have the time in the market space, and “they didn’t have the depth of people as far as support,” said Heffernan. “[We] could have done it on product alone or service alone, but when you had to combine the whole thing that’s what you had to look at. We had to make a decision and I have not been unhappy with the decision.”

IBM Canada’s alliance executive, Ron Leith, said, “When we work together [with Cisco], we have the ability to bring a solution to the table that I don’t think anyone else in the market has the depth to deliver. I think that’s where there’s real value.”

According to IDC’s McLean, “It’s a pretty key partnership, because really what you’ve got is the leading global services organization hooked up with certainly one of the most important network equipment vendors in the world and definitely the leader in enterprise networking equipment.”