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Cisco Seeks Intelligence

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has announced a new strategy for adding intelligent applications to its switches, but it looks like there's more flash than substance at this point (see Cisco Adds Intelligence).

Cisco unveiled its Storage Services Module (SSM), a 32-port card that plugs into its MDS 9000 switches to provide volume management, migration, replication, backup, and virtualization. It also revealed a roster of hardware and software partners that will build applications on the platform through Cisco's SANTap protocol, which links the SSM with third-party software and appliances.

Ciscos SSM replaces the company's previous approach of using different modules for different applications. Currently, IBM and Veritas software for the MDS 9000 runs on different Cisco cards.

Making every partner write to the same module is progress, according to analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. “My issue with Cisco has always been you need a separate hardware module with each application,” he says. “With IBM [SAN Volume Controller], you need a caching module; with Veritas, you need a services module. That doesn’t make sense. There’s no way I’m buying a $30,000 switch and have to buy separate modules to run each application. This way makes more sense.”

Cisco’s major partners so far are EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS). EMC will use the SSM in its Storage Router, which is due around midyear (see EMC Takes Storage Router for a Spin). An IBM spokeswoman says her company will use SSM for business continuity applications at first. (Interestingly, IBM's SAN Volume Controller, which works with the MDS 9000, remains untouched by SANTap.) Veritas already ports its Storage Foundation for Networks virtualization software to Cisco hardware, but would not specify how it will use the SSM (see Veritas, Cisco Ship Switch App).

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