Cisco, IBM team up on storage virtualization

Expanding their longstanding partnership, IBM Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. on Wednesday announced a storage area network (SAN) solution designed to better enable IT administrators to manage storage resources.

The IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller for Cisco MDS 9000 switches allows for volume management, data replication and point-in-time copies directly from enterprise networks via a central location.

Essentially, as many networks contain multiple disparate storage subsystems, which typically do not communicate with each other, the solution consolidates these subsystems into storage pools. Through this functionality, IT administrators can refrain from taking servers or storage systems offline to provision additional storage capacity.

Because of the Cisco MDS 9000’s design, interchangeable modules can be inserted into their chassis’, Cisco said. The company has developed the Caching Services Module (CSM), which allows the IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller software to run on the switches.

According to IBM, the SAN Volume Controller software offers centralized storage volume management to better utilize storage resources across the SAN environment.

“Our customers needed to have their applications available all the time, they needed simpler storage and better storage utilization,” explained Roger Wofford, worldwide product marketing for IBM in Raleigh, N.C. “We decided that the best place to do this was in the network. This solution…is based on redundant hardware and the software builds a cluster to support the high availability environment.”

Wofford added that the combination reduces the complexity of managing storage and allows IT administrators to be more proactive by having a single place from which to manage storage resources.

According to Ed Chapman, senior director of product management with Cisco’s Storage Technology Group in San Jose, the MDS 9000’s Caching Services Module includes two nodes and offers 8GB of cached memory. The module is also hot-swappable with redundantly configured components.

Because of the long-term relationship between Cisco and Big Blue, it is not surprising the two have joined hands over this fabric intelligence opportunity, explained John Webster, senior analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Data Mobility Group. He said that as storage needs expand, IT administrators do not want to be concerned with the vendor device or the vendor software. IT departments typically want access to capacity without having to take applications offline.

The good news is that with the Cisco/IBM solution, administrators can essentially “drag and drop” to allot extra storage capacity and get better usage of the disparate resources.

But, there may be some bad news for the market competition including the likes of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McDATA Corp.

“Cisco is the first with a real, live, reach it, touch it, feel it, buy it implementation of an intelligent fabric switch,” Webster said. “The problem for the competition is that it is Cisco.” The company, which has dominated the networking market could potentially take a big bite out of the storage market if it continues its efforts.

However, he noted that Cisco may face a challenge convincing its customers it is a credible option for storage. The company still has some proving to do, but will get there and having IBM on its side will definitely help, he added.

Cisco’s Chapman said the company is committed to its storage efforts and added that the storage market is one of the top bets that Cisco’s executive staff is making.

“We are dedicated to providing the best-in-class storage networking infrastructure to our customers,” he said.

The IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller for Cisco MDS 9000 switches will be available Dec. 5. For more information, visit IBM is online at