VMware-Cisco-EMC coalition raises issues

opinion piece - Bagley is senior analyst at conultancy Storage Strategies NOW. Deni Connor also contributed to this column

During the past two weeks, including two full days at the recent EMC Analyst Summit, we have been educated (inundated) with information regarding the wonders of the coalition of VMware, Cisco and EMC to produce a series of integrated products that include unified computing (Cisco), virtualised operating systems (VMware) and integrated storage (EMC) called Vblocks.

The strategy of the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition is to create a pre-emptive product offering that trumps the integrated products of IBM, HP and Oracle-Sun. EMC CEO Joe Tucci's clearly stated position, reinforced by his cadre is that Power, Sparc and Itanium processors are going to be relegated to buggy whip status in the next wave of technology. Tucci established a baseline of technology waves going back to our mutual youth, starting with the mainframe, followed by the minicomputer, PCs and by network distributed computing and culminating in wave next, which will be dominated by x86 silicon, unified computing, virtualised infrastructure and liquid pools of combined resources.

Easily impressed as I am, I can't quite swallow the quiet demise of everything other than x86, despite the fact that many of us predicted the same about 25 years ago. But just for now I'll play along.

In the next generation, if indeed "the cloud" is really real and the vision of VCE prevails, the real new winners are going to be the old winners. Intel and telcos such as AT&T are the silent partners in all things touted as "the future" at EMC's Analyst Summit. And in many ways, they should be. Telcos invested in the infrastructure in the late 1990s, and they own a huge amount of dark fibre, with component suppliers such as Adva Optical ready to supply all the connecting and switching gear at new and reasonable cost levels. And, Intel has continued to pour billions of dollars into research and fab development against a scenario of decreasing volumes dictated by multi-core processors and virtualisation allowing a one-to-10 (or more) server to virtual server ratio.

Of course, execution is really tough to pull off in a well-managed company, let alone a coalition. And the coalition is dependent on a new venture (currently called Acadia) for much of the delivery mechanism necessary to take the market share of Cisco blades from noise level to potentially dominant technology. Now that is going to be a tough act. As well, HP has already fired off a first salvo with its own unified computing arsenal and you know that IBM and Oracle-Sun are not going to shuffle off to obscurity. In fact, all have pre-emptive products of their own.

As we have stated in the space before, the resulting options for all consumers of "enterprise" gear, including small business at a growing rate, are going to benefit from at least an order of magnitude's improvement in price and performance. The ability to choose technology options has never been better.

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