IBM and Cisco Systems in December will begin shipping a new SAN (storage area network) module for Cisco's MDS 9000 family of switches based on the software from IBM's SAN Volume Controller storage appliance.

The new product, which will begin shipping on 5 December, is the result of a two-year collaboration between the two companies, according to Roger Wofford, IBM's worldwide product marketing manager for storage software. "We took the same functions, the same software that we used on the appliance, and we have ported it over to the caching services module that Cisco provides for its MDS 9000 family of switches," he said.

Customers will be able to use the SAN modules to pool storage capacity from a variety of devices on the network into a virtual storage system, which will give them a centralised point of storage management.

The modules can be inserted into the chassis of Cisco's 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch, or into the 9506 or 9509 Multilayer Director Switch products, said Ed Chapman, a senior director of product marketing with Cisco.

The product will initially support Fibre Channel interconnects, but IBM and Cisco plan to eventually add support for the ISCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) protocol, Chapman said.

A US$112,000 entry-level configuration would include two caching modules and would support as much as 2TB of storage, the companies said.