The enhanced partnerships, which include OEM and reseller agreements, are part of a larger strategy called the Data Center Networking initiative that was kicked off about two years ago, as IBM saw the need to reintegrate servers, storage devices and networking technology within the data center.
The deals, announced July 22, also are an indication of how IBM is going to differentiate itself from rivals such as Cisco and Hewlett-Packard in the push to offer more converged data center solutions.
With Brocade, IBM is offering its first FCOE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) products in the form of the IBM Converged Switch B32 and 10 Gigabit Ethernet Converged Network Adapter for its Series x x86 servers. Those devices will be manufactured by Brocade, an expansion of the OEM relationship between the two companies for Fibre Channel and Ethernet offerings. The products are available immediately.
FCOE also is a factor in IBM's growing relationship with Cisco. Through the new deal, IBM's Systems and Technology Group sellers and partners will be able to resell Cisco's Nexus 5000 Series switches, which support 10G Ethernet, Fibre Channel and FCOE. These products will be available through IBM and its resellers starting in September.
IBM also is entering into an OEM agreement with Juniper, with which IBM has had a reseller agreement. Under the new deal, IBM will rebrand and resell certain Juniper EX and MX switches and routers.
Jim Comfort, vice president of enterprise initiatives for IBM, said the new and enhanced deals will give IBM customers greater choice and flexibility as they look to update their data centers to handle the expected growth in traffic due to Web 2.0 technologies, the rise of cloud computing and other technological trends.
IBM will offer these networking devices with its own server and storage products, and will differentiate itself with its management capabilities through its Tivoli and Director software suites.
FCOE is a key standard that is emerging as the trend toward more converged data centers continues, Comfort said in an interview. IBM envisions a scenario of tightly integrated server, storage and networking devices that IT administrators handle through "very powerful management [software]," he said.
The variety of networking and other products within these integrated data center "pods" is also a key differentiator for IBM in comparison with what rivals are doing, Comfort said. Both Cisco and HP have rolled out all-in-one data center offerings that include servers, storage, networking and management software in a single package.
Cisco kicked off its UCS (Unified Computing System) strategy in March, a move that signaled a more expanded role in the data center. HP soon followed with its HP Matrix all-in-one offering.
Having options is important to customers, Mike Banic, vice president of product marketing for Juniper's Ethernet Platforms Business Group, said in an interview.
"Juniper always uses standard [technology]," Banic said. "That ability to offer choice and flexibility in conjunction with IBM is important."
Juniper's products are designed to increase networking capabilities while driving down costs in the data center, he said, adding that the company's offerings can drive down capital expenditures by as much as 68 percent, power and cooling costs by 43 percent each, and space used by 34 percent.
IBM's Comfort said helping businesses decrease operating costs also was key to the move toward a more integrated data center environment.