Cisco, IBM to deliver Fibre Channel products

Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM Corp. recently agreed to combine the companies Fibre Channel storage-area networking products to sell to customers, a move analysts say is the start of a new era in Fibre Channel.

IBM will add Cisco’s MDS 9000 Family of fabric and director-level switches to its line of SAN products, including the Enterprise Storage Server (code-named Shark), its TotalStorage FAStT midrange arrays, as well as TotalStorage tape subsystems. The company’s Tivoli management software will be used to discover and monitor storage resources on the SAN. IBM and its business partners will offer the completed packages to customer with heavy data storage requirements.

“IBM is a very big fish that sells a lot of director-level switches, and adding newcomer Cisco to the mix gives them a very complete offering,” said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc. “It probably has the other Fibre Channel vendors nervous.”

Cisco first started manufacturing Fibre Channel switches last fall with the acquisition of Andiamo Systems, a startup venture fostered by Cisco and spun in when their development efforts were largely complete.

Analysts further say that the deal with IBM should provide spur subsequent agreements with large systems vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Sun and EMC, which will be important to Cisco’s success in the market.

“If they can get EMC and HP [to sign up] they will have nailed the lion’s share of the Fibre Channel distribution, and then its up to them to create demand at the end-user level,” Duplessie said. “It still is not a slam dunk success for Cisco, but they just got one giant leap closer to it.”

Under the terms of the agreement, IBM will resell the Cisco MDS 9509 Multilayer Director, Cisco MDS 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch and associated modules by the end of this quarter, after completing interoperability tests.

The multiprotocol Cisco MDS 9000 switches offer a variety of features such as virtual SAN security (similar to virtual LANs), diagnosis and traffic management, as well as a command line interface that is built from the company’s popular IOS, which manages Cisco’s other routers and switches.