Cisco, NetApp, VMware Map Out Unified Data Center Architecture

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-02-09

Cisco, NetApp, VMware Map Out Unified Data Center Architecture

Back on Nov. 3, 2009, Cisco Systems, VMware and EMC came to the media with an announcement that they would collaborate on a new joint venture, the Virtual Computing Environment, to produce cloud computing systems called vBlocks that integrate hardware and software from all three companies.

Three months later, two of those players-Cisco and VMware-have now teamed up with EMC's sworn enemy, NetApp, to provide similar functionality: new and improved hardware and software for next-generation, unified-protocol data centers that make full use of cloud computing as needed.

Off the top, it looks like the networking kingpin Cisco-the ringleader behind these new partnerships-and virtualization market leader VMware simply swapped out the storage vendor, just in case potential customers prefer NetApp, or perhaps don't like EMC.

Or maybe it's just Cisco, which gets along with most non-networking companies in a nice way, like Switzerland gets along with all countries.

In all fairness, both EMC and NetApp were the exclusive storage partners for Cisco when it first introduced its Unified Computing System concept back on March 16, 2009.

So they've both been there from the beginning, and both certainly have their loyal clienteles and strengths in different market segments.

You can't have too many partner-friends in the data center business. You never know which vendor a customer or potential customer may want to add to the IT stack.

Look at it any way you want, but another big storage bundle is in the offing for enterprises looking to upgrade their data centers in 2010. According to virtually all the research houses, this coming year will be better for buying new IT products than was 2009, when many IT managers simply bit their lips and rode out aging equipment for as long as they could to save money.

Into this encouraging business scenario, Cisco, NetApp and VMware recently announced their new collaborative blueprint for building what they are calling "Secure Multi-Tenant IT Infrastructures." This is a long, tongue-twisting phrase meaning, for all intents and purposes, "cloud computing."

The new reference architecture, officially documented as a Cisco Systems Validated Design, "lays out the recipe for linking the capabilities of the three companies together to create a shared server/network/storage infrastructure that can securely host multiple workloads or 'tenants' with confidence that none will interfere with the other," NetApp exec Jay Kidd told eWEEK and later wrote in his blog.

Marketspeak, or No Marketspeak?

Marketspeak, or No Marketspeak?

Isn't this just a sophisticated marketing ploy, something positioned as something new and important but really only another way of packaging goods and services to sell? It could be read that way.

"None of these technologies are brand new; they have all been deployed individually in many environments," Kidd wrote. "And our three companies have been working together on technology integration and customer deployments for some time.

"What is new is the collaboration between Cisco, NetApp and VMware to document the best practice for using these technologies together. ... We have also lined up our respective support organizations to ensure resolution of an issue with a single call to any of the three companies."

The transformation of data centers is largely driven by virtualization and involves many disparate elements, and the three companies share the same vision about how to deploy these new hardware/software/services packages for various vertical markets, Ed Bugnion, vice president and CTO for Cisco's Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit, told eWEEK.

"The key thing to note about this partnership is the intelligent and judicious ways these technologies are combined," Bugnion said.
Fair enough. So if any of these products noted below are bought and installed in the same system, Cisco, NetApp and VMware will work together to make sure they all work correctly and will support them as one unit.

The new architecture covers the following hardware/software products:

  • Cisco Nexus 7000, 5000 and 1000V Series switches
  • Cisco Unified Computing System (in its entirety, including new Cisco network servers)
  • NetApp FAS storage with MultiStore
  • VMware vSphere and VMware vShield Zones

Servicewise, when a customer opens a case with Cisco, NetApp or VMware, that vendor will be considered the lead and will work with the other companies to service the customer issue, Kidd said.

The three companies are also working with their networks of channel partners, systems integrators and service providers to use the Secure Multi-tenancy design architecture. These partners include ePlus, Forsythe, INX, Lockheed Martin, Logicalis, Longview and Presidio.

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