IBM today became the first major vendor to announce that it will begin reselling Cisco Systems Inc.'s MDS 9000 IP storage modules, which allow users to plug remote storage devices into storage-area networks (SAN) via the iSCSI protocol and tunnel between SANs using the FCIP protocol.
Cisco is offering IP blades that enable IP storage support for both the iSCSI and FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP) protocols in Cisco's Multilayer DataCenter Switch (MDS) 9000 switches and directors.
FCIP is a method for connecting two or more SANs by encapsulating Fibre Channel frames in IP headers for transport over long distances via Ethernet, whereas iSCSI is a protocol used to facilitate data transfers over LANs and to manage storage over long distances via Ethernet.
Nancy Marrone, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said that by integrating the iSCSI and FCIP ports into the MDS 9000, Cisco eliminates the need for external gateways and additional switch platforms, greatly reducing the cost of storage.
"The cost of a blade will ultimately be cheaper than the cost of an external switch/gateway, and management costs should be reduced, as there is no need for a separate element manager. It's a nice option for any customer looking to do remote replication over an IP network or hooking a remote/workgroup iSCSI network into the data center," Marrone said.
The IP modules will be available on Cisco's MDS 9216 switches, and 9509 and 9506 directors, which sport 224 ports and 128 ports, respectively.
IBM said it would be selling the Cisco 2208 iSCSI blade for $48,500 and the 2209 FCIP blade for $16,500, and has lowered the base price of the Cisco switches and directors as well. The MDS 9216 switch will start at $29,000 and the MDS 9509 and 9506 directors will start at $75,000 and $23,000, respectively.
Scott Drummond, program director for storage networking at IBM, said the Cisco reseller deal will allow IBM Global Services to offer customers more business continuity tools and "another high-density, high-availability technology for consolidation."
Drummond also said IBM Global Services and Cisco have signed a global storage consolidation deal with AXA Technology Services, the in-house IT services organization for the Paris-based AXA Group, which will result in the largest deployment of Cisco's MDS 9000 switch.
AXA has begun consolidation in the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. and plans to deploy almost 2,000 SAN switch ports in the first year of the rollout. Over the next six years, the project is expected to involve more than 8,000 ports rolled out in remaining data centers in Belgium and Australia.
Marrone also said the AXA deal "definitely proves the viability of the Cisco switch."