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IBM, Cisco dive into corporate streaming

The alliance looks to cash in on growing corporate demand for streamed media by providing a complete package of hardware, software and services.

IBM and Cisco Systems are teaming up to sell a digital media delivery package to businesses, to capitalize on growing corporate demand for Internet and intranet streaming.

In an extension of a longtime relationship, IBM said Thursday that it will incorporate Cisco's Internet Protocol-based delivery and distribution system for digital media into its own suite of digital media storage and management tools.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based company also announced that it has joined forces with software maker Media Publisher to build a user interface for the streaming media package.

With the new partnerships, IBM is putting the pieces together to sell companies on a complete architecture for creating, storing, managing and distributing digital media via the Internet or intranets, a system it calls the Digital Media Factory.

IBM, with its WebSphere line, already makes and licenses storage and servers for digital media. Now, with the addition of existing Cisco hardware and software, it has the delivery system to complete the picture. IBM calls the content delivery network its Digital Media Delivery Solution (DMDS).

"With Cisco and MPI, we've put together a package that attacks the distribution of rich media across an IP network," said Michael Maas, vice president of marketing for IBM's communications sector.

The package of existing Cisco and IBM software, hardware and services is designed to provide all that a company needs to convert and stream training videos, customer communications and other media.

Cisco's networking is "a very strategic piece of the business, because it draws a thread for enterprises. It allows them to get started in distribution of digital media, because the capability is architected into the Digital Media Factory," said Maas.

Cisco and IBM have their eyes on the burgeoning digital media market, particularly as more companies transform assets, such as training videos, into bits and bytes and imagine new ways to use them. The prospect is especially attractive to the two companies because digital media requires vast amounts of storage and the technology to deliver it efficiently.

Big Blue has made an increasing commitment to technologies for digital media storage and management, signing on customers such as CNN and Lions Gate Entertainment.

Paul Ritter, an analyst at the Yankee Group, said that Cisco is its own best customer, as it already uses streaming media effectively within its own corporate network. For example, it regularly tracks how many people watch Webcasts on its corporate intranet, he said.

"As more and more corporations are using digital media via the Web, the need for solutions in both hardware and software--many of which Cisco offers--become reality," said Ritter.

Maas said IBM's research team is fine-tuning state-of-the-art techniques for efficient data delivery already in use in Cisco's system. These include "edge caching," or positioning content on the network as close as possible to the people accessing it, for faster delivery. It also uses a technique known as multicasting, a process of intelligently routing audio and video in packets.

"We're trying to take IBM's deep research capability and apply it to this realm," Maas said.

The two companies are targeting customers in the telecommunications, publishing, business and education sectors. So far, Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has begun testing the IBM and Cisco technology to allow students to access educational materials remotely via a school portal. The college allows on-demand streaming access to school archives, orientation materials and some course work.

IBM will officially unveil the system Tuesday at the Supercomm 2003 convention in Atlanta.