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Cisco Joins Ficon Fiesta

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is the latest of several big SAN suppliers to tap the Ficon mainframe-to-storage transport protocol from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) to harvest enterprise customers.

Cisco today announced that IBM has qualified the MDS 9000 directors and fabric switches in its own labs, blessing Cisco's implementation of a series of features based on the Ficon protocol, which mimics Fibre Channel in speed and functionality but has specific links to IBM mainframe operating systems. As a result, IBM is going to resell Cisco's Ficon solutions to its mainframe customers (see IBM OKs Cisco Ficon Features).

Cisco's hardly the first switch vendor to announce Ficon support. Indeed, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) (Nasdaq: CMNT), and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) have already issued their own news of Ficon support and IBM qualification (see McData Supplies Kookmin, IBM OKs McData's Ficon CUP, CNT Extends SAN Management, and CNT Gets IBM Support).

Each of these vendors, particularly CNT and McData, hold their Ficon features dear and are ready to brag about their differentiators. Now they have Cisco to contend with, too.

For its part, Cisco's claiming to have the same level of Ficon support that CNT and McData enjoy. This includes IBM's approval in its Poughkeepsie, N.Y., lab -- a must for Ficon watchers. "It's got to be Poughkeepsie!" says Doug Ingraham, senior director of switching products at CNT. All three vendors also have Ficon Control Unit Port (CUP) management capabilities, which means the SAN director can be managed by the same IBM software that's used to manage the mainframe links to other storage gear. This is crucial to keeping Big Blue customers happy, the vendors say.

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