Cisco answered Riverbed's unveiling of a remote services platform by revealing plans for its own remote services...
through a partnership with Microsoft.
One day after Riverbed launched its Remote Services Platform (RSP), Cisco said it will sell its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) appliances with Windows Server 2008 installed. Cisco identified Domain Name System (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Active Directory and print services as Windows Server 2008 services it will offer. With Cisco placing Windows Server on the WAAS devices, its customers will not require separate servers in branch offices.
Riverbed will still beat Cisco out the door with the remote services. On Monday Riverbed said it would offer print and streaming media services beginning in March with DNS/DCHP and Active Directory planned in the near future. Cisco's director of product marketing Baruch Deutsch said that WAAS with Windows services will begin shipping in the second half of this year, but would not reveal price or product configuration details. Cisco and Microsoft will offer joint support for the product.
Results of Cisco, Microsoft collaboration pledge
It was probably no coincidence that the announcement came one day after Riverbed's RSP release and one day before Microsoft releases Windows Server 2008. However, the deal was in the works for months and was one of the initiatives CEOs John Chambers of Cisco and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft referred to last August when they pledged to collaborate on products for mutual customers, despite heated competition in some areas.
"This reflects work we've been doing together the past year," Deutsch said. "The focus is not on technology today, it's on solution integration and technology support. Our installed base [Cisco and Microsoft common customers] wanted to see an integrated solution."
Because the deal is not exclusive, Microsoft can package Windows Server 2008 on other vendors' WAFS and WAN optimisation products and Cisco can partner with other software companies for remote services.
Microsoft already works closely with Cisco WAN service rivals Packeteer and Citrix, and Microsoft director of product marketing Bala Kasiviswanathan won't rule out similar deals with other partners. "Will there be more partners? We hope so. But this is significant in terms of how Cisco and Microsoft can deliver services together."
Deutcsh said Cisco might add remote services from other partners down the road, but "the most important service our customers want to see is integration for Windows services."
Remote service partnerships make sense
Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa said the deal makes sense for both companies, as does similar partnerships with other vendors. "Cisco needed these capabilities and didn't have them," he said. "The Microsoft server group wants to keep its footprint of servers in branch offices so it makes sense for them too. It wouldn't surprise me to see Riverbed integrate Windows Server, just like it wouldn't surprise me to see Cisco add more services from other partners."
Another analyst, Rob Enderle, said other partnerships in the space probably wouldn't go as deep as the one between Cisco and Microsoft for joint product development. "Microsoft is a deal-making machine, and they've been able to work well with Cisco in coopetition," he said. "I have little doubt Microsoft will have other partnerships, but it's hard to find one any deeper than the one it has with Cisco."