EMC, Cisco, Vmware cause waves with cloud coalition

November 3, 2009 -- Competitors are already calling the EMC – Cisco – VMware Virtual Computing Environment coalition and its Vblock compute systems a veiled approach to vendor lock-in, but the trio begs to differ.

EMC, Cisco and VMware caused a commotion when the companies announced the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition and a new set of systems that operate as building blocks for virtualized cloud computing infrastructures.

The companies have been collaborating to create a virtualized, cloud infrastructure platform based on their respective technologies. The result is a series of integrated "Vblock Infrastructure" packages comprised of storage and networking systems and server and storage virtualization software.

We've been fielding comments from across the industry and it didn't take long for the competition to react.

EMC rival NetApp fired a shot at the VCE by classifying Vblocks as nothing more than a reference architecture rather than a full stack of server, network, storage, and virtualization technologies.

Jay Kidd, vice president Storage Solutions group and chief marketing officer, NetApp:

"We view today's announcement as a clever attempt by Cisco to sell UCS servers into EMC's install base. We also feel that this announcement further validates the trend that we're seeing as more and more enterprises move to a virtualized dynamic data center infrastructure. NetApp has been at the forefront in helping enterprises realize this shift through our close partnerships with Cisco and VMware. With VMware we have virtualized large data centers for customers like T-Systems, BT, and Sprint, and have expanded on these architectures with several integration partners to include Cisco UCS servers. Open partnerships, not closed coalitions, are what customers need and want to make the transformation to a virtualized data center."

More of Jay's thoughts on the VCE and Vblocks can be found in his latest blog post.

Dell – a huge EMC partner – calls the VCE/Vblock news an attempt to lock users into proprietary technologies.

Dell's vice president of enterprise storage and networking, Praveen Asthana, says, "The VMware, Cisco and EMC joint venture assumes that customers are looking for closed technology architectures that lock them into a restricted vendor stack. This proprietary implementation of industry standard architectures is a throwback to the 1990's and creates complete vendor lock-in. As the leading provider of Cloud infrastructure, Dell knows from its customers' insights that cloud compute workloads are best served by open, standards-based solutions – not by repackaging high-cost infrastructure as a cloud solution."

The coalition members beg to differ. They are in lock step with a message of openness.

VMware's president and CEO, Paul Maritz, says Cisco, EMC and VMware all remain committed to working in an "open way."

"We maintain our commitment to working in an open way with existing partners by making our technologies available to other parties who want to put together solutions," says Maritz. "There is no need or reason for our relationships to change. At the same time, we are adding to the options for our customers and not removing them."

EMC's CEO Joe Tucci claims the VCE and the Vblock systems offer customers more "choice."

"On the choice side, we know this is an open world and we are committed to openness," he says. "We are still offering an a la carte menu. For example, you can take EMC storage and choose another server. We are not removing choice."

However, open does not mean the ability to use just any technology to create a Vblock.

"We are not substituting on the Vblock side. If you want to use somebody else's storage you have to buy from the [a la carte] side of the menu, but you're not buying a Vblock," says Tucci. "That's the distinction. You give up certain things if you don't order from the fixed menu."

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posted by: Kevin Komiega

Kevin Komiega, Senior Editor
by Kevin Komiega
Senior Editor

Kevin Komiega has been the Senior Editor of InfoStor since 2005. He was previously a senior news writer with SearchStorage.com and held a position as a public relations account executive with Porter Novelli, Boston. Kevin also spent four years running tape backup operations at the University of Rhode Island's Academic Computer Center. He can be contacted at kkomiega@quinstreet.com.

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