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Cisco, EMC, VMware Partner for Virtualization, Private Clouds

Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp. and VMware Inc. on Tuesday kicked off a new Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) "coalition" to promote datacenter virtualization and private cloud deployments.

Elsewhere, Cisco and EMC announced a joint initiative called Acadia, which focuses on fostering private cloud deployments in both the enterprise and service provider segments. Cisco and EMC are Acadia's two Prime Movers, but both VMware and Intel are contributing financial backing, too.

Cisco leapt into the virtualization and cloud spaces earlier this year when it launched its Unified Computing System (UCS). With UCS, Cisco sought to leverage its creditable expertise in enterprise networking as a means to pivot into the datacenter hardware segment.

The same goes for Cisco's involvement in VCE, which officials stress is about a lot more than the sum of its constitutive parts. With VCE, Cisco and its partners plan to emphasize the importance of a tightly integrated virtual computing architecture, as distinct to turnkey or blackbox offerings.

"This coalition is about more than technology and partnership. It is about an entirely new and unique approach to the datacenter that improves utilization, power consumption and security of information, all in a way that lowers the total cost to the customer, not via a box, but with a network-based architectural approach for optimizing virtual resources," said Cisco CEO John Chambers in a statement.

Nevertheless, the VCE does truck in package offerings.

For example, Cisco, EMC and VMware introduced "Vblock Infrastructure Packages," technology and services bundles that integrate virtualization, networking, compute, storage, security and management technologies. Vblocks are sized according to capacity (i.e., the number of virtual machines, or VMs) and are available in three flavors: low-end (300 to 800 VMs), midrange (800 to 4,000 VMs) and high-end (4,000 to 6,000 VMs).

Market watchers are cautiously optimistic, including industry veteran Charles King, a principal with consultancy Pund-IT. While it's always wise to take any announcement like the VCE with an appropriate dose of salt, King said, both the presence of industry heavyweights Cisco, EMC and VMware and the flexibility of the coalition's membership responsibilities (VCE players are free to partner with other, non-VCE vendors) trend strongly in its favor.

"VCE certainly exists to drive sales of the members' various technologies and to make real their vision of private cloud computing, but the most significant part of the announcement is the coalition itself. While the IT industry as a whole loves the notion of collaboration, including partnerships based on friendly 'co-opetition,' the shape of most such relationships is conventional in the extreme, focusing on simple product interoperability and customer issues," he said.

That said, the VCE and Acadia efforts strike King as different.

"[T]he VCE coalition allows Cisco, EMC and VMware to present clients a single face and common responsibility while preserving the partners' independence. That is, while the three will contribute significantly to VCE, they will also continue to work closely with various partners and with clients who prefer other vendors' products," he said.

Organizations should benefit from the VCE's emphasis on "well-established technology solutions, along with significantly reduced risk and cost via the coalition's rigorous pre-integration and validation process," King continued, adding that "VCE's unified sales, service and support strategy offers clients the same benefits as single vendor's 'one throat to choke' services and support. Overall, the coalition's efforts should help customers realize optimal or increased datacenter efficiency and control while preserving their essential freedom of choice of products and vendors."

This isn't to say that King is completely sanguine about the VCE's prospects.

"[W]e expect [VCE] will encounter vigorous and vocal competition from established system vendors and their allies," he said, citing the opposition (and skepticism) that Cisco encountered when it announced UCS earlier this year. "If VCE even nominally succeeds as designed, Cisco, EMC and VMware all stand to profit, as will Intel both from the coalition's leverage of its Xeon server processor technologies and VCE's focus on industry-standard business computing. But at the same time, the coalition is not absolutely critical to any of the participants' long-term success. Whether enterprises and SPs significantly move toward VCE-enabled private cloud computing, Cisco, EMC and VMware will remain leaders in their respective markets and areas of expertise."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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