IBM and Cisco Systems Inc. said today they are expanding their alliance to provide centralized service management for their service provider customers. Cisco next month plans to combine its Active Network Abstraction (ANA) technology with IBM's Tivoli management software to create the Cisco Assurance Management Solution, according to the two companies. The new technology will provide network fault monitoring, trouble isolation and real-time service-level event management for large networks, the companies said. The new approach means that service providers will be able to change network devices or the way they are configured without needing to change their service management and operations support systems applications, the companies said. Currently, every device can have its own management system, but "this is exciting technology and has great potential," said Alan Ganek, IBM Tivoli's chief technology officer. Initially, Cisco Assurance Management Solution will integrate with IBM Tivoli's Netcool/Omnibus and Netcool/Precision management software, and sometime in the future will work with IBM's Configuration Management Database, "which will allow for a much more robust platform," Ganek said. Also, Tivoli monitoring tools for centralized system management will be connected. No timeline has been established, however, he said. Pricing was not announced. The companies said that about 25,000 joint customers already use the network and systems management products, based on a relationship started in 1999. Jeff Cotrupe, an analyst at MarketPower LLC, said that the Cisco-IBM announcement "means that IBM is locking in on what could be a watershed event" in the way carriers provide operations and business support through use of Cisco's ANA. The technology itself was the result of a collaboration between Cisco and Nokia Siemens Networks and is designed to provide management of all the relevant brands of network equipment within a carrier's network, Cotrupe said. "If ANA becomes ubiquitous in the communications market, the industry will have achieved the Holy Grail of true multivendor plug-and-play integration," Cotrupe said. "Service providers will at long last be able to make those massive, multimillion-dollar networking equipment purchasing decisions based solely on feature functionality and how well different brands of equipment support their business objectives instead of 'defensive buying' of trying to dodge network integration nightmares or of throwing oceans of software and service at the problem to try to make it all work together."
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