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IBM, Cisco Team Up For Grids

By Dan Orzech

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IBM continued its push into the world of grid computing with a slew of announcements this week, including an alliance with networking vendor Cisco, and grid software aimed at four new vertical markets.

Big Blue's grid computing efforts seem to be paying off. The company also announced three new customers of its grid technology, petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell Japan?s Kansai Electric Power and Missisaugua, Canada-based RBC Insurance.

RBC Insurance was able to significantly slash processing time for a key business application by shifting it onto a grid running on IBM xSeries servers and middleware from grid management software vendor Platform Computing.

"We have been able to reduce a 2.5 hour job to 10 minutes, and an 18 hour job to 32 minutes," says Keith Medley, the company's head of insurance technology, "[and] are now looking to move to a production environment."

IBM and Cisco are working together to enable enhanced Grid services for Storage Area Networks (SANs). According to the companies, Cisco's storage networking architecture provides a foundation for global access to Grid data. By teaming up, the two companies hope to simplify data access across the Grid, as well as resource sharing and management.

"The ability to access storage in a scalable and secure way is a critical component in Grid computing, allowing businesses and their partner companies to manage massive amounts of data and to collaborate worldwide," said Soni Jiandani, vice president of marketing in the Storage Technology Group at Cisco.

IBM and Cisco have already been working together in the areas of Internet infrastructure and e-business services. Earlier this year IBM began reselling Cisco?s MDS 9000 SAN switches, which Cisco plans to enhance to enable globally scalable access to data through grids.

Cisco is not IBM's first partner in the grid arena. The company has been working with grid firm Platform Computing, as well as application software makers like Mercury Interactive, Cadence and Accelrys, which makes software for the life sciences industry.

IBM also announced new grid offerings tailored to specific vertical markets: petroleum, electronics, higher education and agricultural chemicals.

For the petroleum industry, for example, IBM is offering a grid tailored to the needs of geophysical processing and analysis. The grid is designed to reduce seismic imaging time and improve reservoir management results by providing better access to key analytical applications, and allow those applications to scale to meet the peak demand of specific projects.

The company already has five grid focus areas targeting the aerospace, automotive, financial, government and life sciences markets.