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Cisco & IBM Serve Virtual Combo

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) today announced that they've "tailored" IBM's SAN Volume Controller storage software to be hosted on the Cisco MDS 9000 family of SAN switches. Does it measure up to expectations? (See IBM, Cisco Team on Storage Virtualization.)

The IBM virtualization software will be delivered on the Caching Services Module (CSM) for the Cisco 9500 or 9216 switches, representing the first "intelligent," network-based services available for the MDS family. The companies expect the IBM SAN Volume Controller option for Cisco MDS 9000 -- which will be entering beta trials shortly at select (undisclosed) customer sites -- to be generally available starting Dec. 5.

The new solution is designed to allow users to administer volume management, data replication, and point-in-time copies directly from the SAN fabric, giving them a single point of control and management across multiple storage subsystems. The CSM, configured with 8 Gbytes of cached memory, consists of two compute nodes running IBM's Linux software. Cisco says the module runs a network processor (as opposed to an x86 chip) but the company wouldn't provide details about the CPU.

But let's back up for a second. When Cisco first launched the MDS switch line about a year ago, it made a huge fuss about the supposedly revolutionary intelligent, network-based features it was planning to deliver to the market. In fact, Cisco's yammering about adding intelligence to Fibre Channel switches was a big reason that Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) decided to buy startup Rhapsody Networks last year (see Cisco Buys Andiamo, Brocade Reupholsters Rhapsody, and Brocade Scoops Up Rhapsody).

Well, the "intelligent SAN switch" from Cisco is finally here. But in the harsh glare of daylight, it doesn't seem so earth-shattering. For one thing, the integrated Cisco/IBM storage virtualization offering is nearly twice the price of the standalone version of the IBM SAN Volume Controller appliance -- and it provides the same level of features and performance.

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