IBM and Cisco will release a product in July, that combines their technologies to improve network management.

The new Cisco Assurance Management Solution offering, aimed mainly for telecoms network management and service assurance, integrates Cisco's Active Network Abstraction (ANA) device management and mediation technology with IBM's Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus and Netcool/Precision management software, according to Alan Ganek, chief technology officer, IBM Tivoli Software. The vendors have been working on the product for about a year, he said.

Ganek is hopeful that the new product will appeal not only to telecom carriers but also to large enterprises such as financial services providers that are looking for a simpler way to manage their heterogenous networks.

IBM does have "very high expectations" about the likely revenue the co-developed product might generate, Ganek said, though he declined to name a figure. IBM and Cisco also didn't provide any financial details about their expanded relationship.

"IBM's overall partnership with Cisco has largely been around the services area," Ganek said. "This new one really gets into our development teams in the software world."

IBM and Cisco struck a broad-based strategic alliance back in 1999 and in recent months have been collaborating on multiple fronts including an expansion of their unified communications partnership and a combined disaster recovery offering.

The first version of Cisco Assurance Management Solution will offer features including network fault monitoring, trouble isolation and real-time service-level event management.

Future versions of the software will include more of IBM's Tivoli systems and network management technology, Ganek said. The next natural additions would be the Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database and Tivoli Monitoring, he added.

Over the long term, new releases of Cisco Assurance Management Solution could also include technology IBM acquired from the purchase of network performance monitoring software company Vallent, Ganek said.

IBM closed the purchase of Vallent in February and the software became part of its Tivoli business unit. IBM gained access to the Netcool software after buying network management specialist Micromuse in February 2006. It's also possible that IBM and Cisco may release other jointly developed software, he added.

Ganek stressed that the IBM/Cisco relationship isn't exclusive and that IBM also has "great relationships" working closely with most of the other network equipment providers.

Cisco's ANA already interoperates with other members of the Tivoli family including Tivoli Netcool/Impact and Tivoli Business Service Manager. Cisco has been rebranding IBM's Tivoli Netcool as Cisco Info Center for some time and it's being used by more than 500 of its customers.