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VMware, Cisco, NetApp in Cloud Security Effort

VMware last week teamed up with Cisco and NetApp to promote a virtualized datacenter offering geared toward shared or public cloud environments.

The trio unveiled a Secure Multi-tenancy Design Architecture (SMDA) that's designed to isolate and secure IT resources and applications between business units, departments or other entities in a shared cloud computing environment. It's based on a Cisco Validated Design reference architecture and uses a mix of technologies, including Cisco's Nexus Series Switches and Unified Computing System (UCS), NetApp's MultiStore-based FAS storage appliances, and VMware's vSphere cloud operating system and vShield Zones virtual firewall.

The SMDA also entails a services component involving both a set of complementary professional services and a round-the-clock "cooperative support model."

It marks the formal debut of a multi-tenancy solution that VMware, Cisco and NetApp had reportedly been working on since this summer.

And while the three companies have previously collaborated around (and developed offerings based on) private cloud efforts, the new SMDA marks their first public cloud deliverable.

Officials positioned the effort as a kind of turnkey virtual datacenter in the public cloud. "Our joint vision with NetApp and VMware centers on delivering a unified architecture for customers to design and build a complete, virtualized datacenter that will streamline operations and improve their business resilience," said Tony Bates, Cisco's senior vice president and GM, in a statement.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz -- a veteran of both Intel and Microsoft who replaced founding CEO Diane Greene in mid-2008 -- aptly described what's at stake.

"A shared virtual infrastructure requires that resources for different tenants are isolated while delivering on promised service levels," Maritz said in a prepared release. "We have integrated our technology with Cisco and NetApp not only to accelerate our customers' journey through their datacenter transition, but also to deliver an outstanding customer experience."

The success of the SMDA will likely hinge on whether enterprise IT shops warm up to the idea of hosting production and mission-critical applications or services in the public cloud.

"Over time, the three companies imagine that the new architecture's data/client isolation features will prove highly attractive to organizations and service providers entranced by the idea of using, supporting or providing shared...cloud computing environments," wrote industry veteran Charles King, a principal with consultancy Pund-IT.

King, for his part, sees a combination of both innovation and tradition in the SMDA.

"At one level, the [SMDA] might be considered another helping of same old, same old since the trio has long worked together and cooperated on various product and market strategies. The joint-testing and validation process does press things up a notch, however, as do the companies' support and channel collaborations," he said. "Considering its basic shape and [partner composition], SMDA looks and sounds quite similar to the Virtual Computing Environment [VCE] Coalition announced by VMware, Cisco and EMC in November, though the depth of the SMDA efforts, investments and intentions seem shallower than those in VCE."

Unlike the vision outlined by the competing VCE Coalition, King observed, the SMDA currently lacks a formal product (Vblock, in the VCE universe), a branded service organization (Acadia) or a joint investment opportunity (VCE can point to both Acadia itself and funding from Intel in this regard).

"[This] does not mean the [SMDA] will not benefit its partners over time," he said. "In fact...the effort offers potential synergies for all three companies and provides additional validation for Cisco's UCS strategy."

About the Author

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

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