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Cisco, Microsoft zero in on IT

The networking powerhouse and the software titan begin offering businesses a new blueprint for installing office systems based on Windows 2000 and hardware from both companies.

Cisco Systems said Wednesday that along with partner Microsoft it had begun offering businesses a new blueprint for installing office systems based on Windows 2000 and hardware from both companies.

The blueprint, part of Microsoft's larger Microsoft Systems Architecture initiative, consists of several pieces of Cisco equipment, including Cisco's 6500 series of high-end switches and its PIX 500 series of firewalls for securing networks from hackers, according to a Cisco representative.

Microsoft unveiled the MSA initiative in July 2002. The program calls for the creation of a slew of new guides for businesses. Other guides developed thus far include one for managing software patches throughout a business and another for installing new desktop applications companywide.

The guides are supposed to make it easier for large businesses to handle common scenarios or problems, using Microsoft products. With information technology budgets shrinking, Microsoft and its various partners that sell office-computing systems want IT managers to think of Windows as the best way to lower total costs.

The first customer to use the Cisco and Microsoft setup is the Learning Station, an online education company serving about 1 million students. It's using the MSA blueprint to speed classroom materials and presentations to thousands of students, according to a Cisco representative.