RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – In case you missed it Monday, Cisco Systems and IBM took another step closer to marriage.

The two networking giants said they would collaborate on product maintenance and support for enterprise customers in 46 countries, expanding on a relationship that started in the U.S. three years ago.

Just last week, IBM and Cisco disclosed they were working to develop a unified communications and collaboration platform with applications from IBM designed to integrate better with Cisco for video and networking products.

This new alliance means networking engineers appropriately certified by Cisco but who work for IBM will be available to assist IBM customers in what the companies are calling “one integrated support offering.”

Cisco’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Chambers has called IBM Cisco’s relationship with IBM as its “best strategic relationship, bar none.” He obviously means it.

From Australia to Solvenia, Hong Kong to Poland, IBM and Cisco are wed at the hip.

"This is a significant evolution in our Global Services Alliance," said Karl Meulema, vice president of Cisco services marketing and channels, in announcing the deal. "Providing a collaborative maintenance service offering means our mutual customers will no longer need to choose between Cisco networking skills or IBM multivendor systems integrator capabilities. Instead customers get the collective expertise of both companies, combining the best of both worlds."
IBM will offer the service as “IBM Managed Maintenance Solution for Cisco Products.”

Long name, interesting offering.

"We have been working together on these service offerings in the United States for the past three years and are excited to offer a broader global customer experience by expanding our efforts into additional markets around the world," said Robert Kritzer of IBM in Big Blue’s announcement.

Kritzer’s title indicates the importance IBM puts on the Cisco partnership. He is vice president, IBM-Cisco Strategic Alliance, IBM Global Technology Services.

Under the plan, Cisco will train network specialists who will be located at IBM Technical Support Centers. If someone has a serious problem, IBM can boot it up the chain, or “escalate” it, to a Cisco Technical Assistance Center.