Cisco-EMC-VMware Alliance Already Moving into New Sectors

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-11-09

Cisco-EMC-VMware Alliance Already Moving into New Sectors

The IT giants that formed the Virtual Computing Environment joint venture Nov. 3 to create and market modular cloud computing systems appear to be building a coalition with the combined market share and product lineup to go way beyond a single data center product rollout.

In fact, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that Cisco Systems, VMware, EMC and Intel may be aligning themselves in an effort to revolutionize IT as we know it.

Only days after creating the VCE and its legal business entity, the shared-equity Acadia startup, to scope out solution packages and market the new vBlock cloud systems, the four market-leading companies appear to be moving into other trendy and fertile IT farmlands: namely, virtual desktops, hosted applications and new storage options.

VMware announced on Nov. 9 the launching of View 4, the latest version of its desktop virtualization software that uses the company's vSphere 4 virtualization platform and the strong partnerships VMware has with EMC (for storage) and Cisco Systems (for networking).

Following its big move last March into the IT systems business by building servers for its Unified Computing System, Cisco jumped into the hosted e-mail business Nov. 9 by introducing WebEx Mail,  which will compete with Google's Gmail, Zoho Mail, IBM LotusLive iNotes and Microsoft Exchange Online. VMware and EMC also will be providing their products and services through this VCE coalition.

In addition, Cisco's Enterprise Collaboration Platform will take aim at IBM Lotus Connections and other enterprise social-networking software products from MindTouch, Socialtext, Jive Software and others.

Beginning of a trend?

So this is happening fast and furiously. Are we seeing the beginning of a trend? And which of the group is really the ringleader here? Cisco organized the Unified Computing System partnership, announced last March, but the others play vital roles in all of this, too.

"EMC's 2003 acquisition of VMware for $635 million has not only yielded a $15 billion-plus market cap return for shareholders, it has also placed EMC at the epicenter of the battle for data center dominance -- an amazing feat for a storage company," Wikibon storage and data center analyst David Vellante wrote in his blog Nov. 6. "EMC's leverage with VMware allows it to heavily influence this coalition, if not call many of the shots.

"The VCE partnership is clearly aimed at accelerating the revenue streams of VCE. While VCE claims the initiative is open, what it really means is it's not closed -- an important nuance. Specifically, VCE is a coalition designed to confer advantage to its direct participants and their customers -- if you're not invited to the party, you're at a disadvantage. Translation: the VMware deck is stacked in VCE's favor."

No surprise there.

VCE: Major Industry Implications

"There are two major industry implications of this fact specifically and this coalition in general if it succeeds," Vellante wrote. "Namely: The winners are VMware, Cisco and EMC along with Intel and the six announced integrators.

"Furthermore, this coalition has great appeal to loyal EMC customers that are happy to build homogeneous EMC infrastructure and exist as predominantly EMC shops. [Secondly], the losers are IBM, HP, Microsoft, BMC, Dell, Sun/Oracle, NetApp, Hitachi, and every other storage player. One result is these non-Acadians are going to be much friendlier to Microsoft and Citrix."

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, is among those who believe the Cisco-EMC-VMware-Intel coalition has huge potential.

"Absolutely. There have always been strategic partnerships among IT vendors, but I can't think of another collaboration as deep or wide ranging as the one between Cisco, EMC and VMware," King told eWEEK.

"It's particularly important given that traditional vendors are amalgamating power, products and services -- such as HP with the EDS acquisition and Oracle with its pending purchase of Sun. If you measure the success of an initiative by the volume of competitors' FUD, VCE is likely to become a very big deal."

This is a road EMC has been on for a while, King said.

"Purchasing VMware allowed the company to begin acting as a 'virtual' systems vendor with any interested server or networking partner," King said. "EMC's relationship with Dell was an early iteration of this strategy, but Cisco's UCS initiative, in concert with VMware's Vsphere effort, has created the opportunity for a whole new dynamic. Should be an interesting next few months/years."

Another respected analyst had a different take on this.

"The main reason this coalition is unique is that neither EMC nor Cisco had holistic credibility by themselves," James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research, told eWEEK. "HP, IBM and Dell all have credible storage and server solutions and all have partnerships with VMware. I think this is more of a partnership of need than a trend we expect to see from others."

Staten said it's clear that EMC and VMware bring market presence and solutions in their areas that are proven and mature.

"[But] the same isn't true for Cisco UCS, and customers will remain skeptical about acquiring a new solution like UCS, even when it comes with the endorsement of these other players," Staten said.

"This helps, but it's more important that Cisco prove that UCS is a no-compromise server solution that requires enterprise customer references and that just takes time."

Is there any chance that IBM is falling behind when it comes to development and marketing of unified cloud-computing systems?

"Not at all," Staten said. "In fact, the Cisco-EMC solution [vBlock] is catchup with HP, IBM and Dell who already have virtual infrastructure-in-a-box solutions on the market. IBM's is CloudBurst, HP's is Blade System Matrix. Dell's is with Egenera and EqualLogic.

"I think what's most interesting about this development is that each of the above players [Cisco, EMC, VMware] are trying to make the case for a unified infrastructure as better than building a best-of-breed solution on your own. It's a somewhat old story that these vendors have been trying to tell for years. Is the story any better this time around? Not clear."

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