Networking giant Cisco Systems has strengthened its alliance with IBM as it attempts to offer a comprehensive interoperability storage solution to enterprise customers.
In the first of what is expected to be a number of reselling agreements with major storage vendors, IBM will resell Cisco's MDS 9000 line of high-end switches, which connect storage systems to servers in storage area networks (Sans).
The Gartner Group analyst organisation has predicted that the market for San switches will grow from $1.2bn (£755m) in 2002 to $4.3bn (£2.7bn) in 2006.
The agreement will enable IBM and its Business Partners to offer customers Cisco's MDS 9000 series of Fibre Channel and IP switches by the end of the first quarter of 2003.
Roland Hagan, IBM vice president of marketing for storage products, said the agreement reinforced the company's strategy to offer customers the widest range of storage networking solutions.
The Cisco switch, along with products from competitors like Brocade Communications and McData, will support IBM's Enterprise Storage Server ('Shark'), linear tape open drives and libraries, the 3590 and 3594 mainframe tape drives and FAStT midrange storage.
In addition to IBM, Cisco has reportedly begun working with Adaptec, EMC, Emulex, Hitachi Data Systems, StorageNetworks and Veritas Software.
Enterprise Storage Group analyst Steve Duplessie compared the announcement with an 800lb gorilla telling everyone it is going to be an NFL star. "It's just all noise until it suddenly gets drafted by the 49ers," he said.
"I figured it would take six to nine months for Cisco to get through anyone's qualification process, but IBM says it's ready to ship come February," said Duplessie.
"While in and of itself this deal won't change the world, it could be a sign of things to come."
He added: "You've got to figure EMC and HPQ are next on their target list, and that means the three companies who sell the most Fibre Channel switch products will all also be adding Cisco to the list.
"Then it's up to Cisco to create the demand at the end-user level, which they really should be able to do."Some analysts report that corporate demand for data storage technology strengthened during the fourth quarter.
Bear Stearns analyst Andy Neff said in a research note that expectations for the fourth quarter had been so low that it was uncertain whether there was a turnaround in spending.
"The key issue now is whether a better-than-expected fourth quarter 2002 is simply off low expectations or whether there's a trend from here," Neff said.
"We had the same pattern last year, a strong fourth quarter 2001 but a weak 2002 thereafter."
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