Cisco makes news with big partners

Company completes interoperability with Microsoft security platform, forges marketing alliance with SAP.

Cisco Systems, known for its aggressive acquisition strategy, is pushing forward with its partnership program as it announces the completion of a security platform with Microsoft and a new marketing partnership with business software company SAP.

For much of its existence, Cisco has used acquisitions as a way to enter new markets quickly and to round out its technology and product portfolios. In the past two decades, it has acquired more than 100 companies.

But Cisco has also been forming strategic partnerships over the years with several large companies, such as Microsoft, Ericsson, IBM and now SAP, to help round out its portfolio and to make sure that its products are interoperable with other products its customers are using.

Cisco and Microsoft announced Wednesday a new architecture that allows their security technology platforms to work together. Now corporate customers who want to protect their networks from unauthorized users will be able to use both Cisco's Network Admission Control and Microsoft's Network Access Protection security frameworks.

The companies had promised in 2004 that the two security architectures would be interoperable.

The companies released a technical white paper at a security trade show in Boston that describes how the systems can be used together. They also demonstrated the new architecture for potential customers.

Cisco and Microsoft said they expect to test a limited beta version of the architecture later this year. It will be commercially available in the second half of 2007, the companies said.

Cisco also announced Wednesday that it has entered a joint marketing agreement in the United States and Canada with SAP to specifically address governance, risk and compliance (GRC) business processes and information-technology control issues.

The new marketing effort will help link SAP's governance, risk and compliance solutions with access and identity information gathered from Cisco's Service Oriented Architected Network Architecture (SONA). Through the marketing agreement, the companies will collaborate on sales and marketing and provide advanced services to corporate customers.

No financial information about the deal was released. The agreement is the first of its kind in the business software arena, SAP said in a statement.

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