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Cisco, IBM team on storage

The networking giant will soon begin to sell switches that use Big Blue's software for managing and storing huge pools of data.

Cisco Systems said Wednesday that it will soon begin to sell switches that use IBM's software for managing and storing huge pools of data.

The new equipment, available in December, couples IBM's TotalStorage SAN (storage area network) Volume Controller with Cisco's MDS 9000 switch. The combination reduces the costs of managing such networks, because the gear consolidates what are usually separate "islands" of storage networks, according to Soni Jiandani, marketing vice president at Cisco.

"SANs were first developed to help overcome the administrative complexities and costs associated with managing storage as individual resources directly attached to servers," Jiandani said in a statement. "Today, we're in the next phase as companies look to gain even more operational efficiencies and cost reductions by consolidating their small SAN islands into larger, more intelligent networks."

The new equipment is another sign that the storage market is heating up. SANs are in vogue, because companies have become increasingly interested in building disaster-recovery systems since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and because of new government regulations for safeguarding information. Companies bought about $1.2 billion in SAN gear last year, according to research firm Gartner, which predicts that SAN gear sales will increase to $4.8 billion by 2006.

The new products are the latest in a series of partnerships between Cisco and IBM. Big Blue was the first company to resell Cisco's MDS 9000 switch. Currently, Cisco and IBM are working together to launch a SAN for the AXA Group. IBM began selling its TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller separately during the summer.

SANs are one of a half dozen new markets for Cisco, which rose to prominence by selling switches and routers that are used to direct traffic over a network. While Cisco leads the router-and-switch market, it began an effort about two years ago to enter six new markets it believes will become billion-dollar revenue generators. It entered the SAN market last year with plans to surpass competitors Brocade Communications and McData in the next three to five years.