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What the Cisco/EMC/VMware Trinity Means For Cloud Computing

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serversCisco (s csco), EMC (s emc) and VMware (s vmw), the trifecta of companies putting their own proprietary stamp on cloud computing for the enterprise, today created a partnership to offer equipment called Vblocks and support a new joint venture called Acadia that will help business customers and service providers build out clouds based on the Vblock gear packages. The partnership can be read as an attack on hardware providers building gear for the clouds and a potential threat to cloud providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s cloud services that aren’t building VMware clouds.

Vblocks combine the server, storage and OS together in different pre-configured variations (from 300 to 6,000 virtual machines) so customers can buy them and easily launch their own private clouds. It’s similar to the specialized hardware offered by IBM (s ibm) under its CloudBurst name and gear from HP (s hpq). The CisEMware partnership could sell Vblocks to cloud providers such as Savvis and Terremark which are currently building enterprise clouds based on software and gear from the coalition members. The Acadia joint venture, which is majority owned by Cisco and EMC with smaller contributions from VMware and Intel, will begin life in 2010 with 130 people to help sell and run clouds based on Vblocks. The amount of investment in the venture was not disclosed.

Basically, if you think of the cloud as Legos, Vblocks are those pre-formed boat hulls and castle turrets that make it easier to build stuff without using only the tiny blocks. And that’s going to make this a compelling offering for established enterprise customers who want to create internal clouds to deliver IT as a service. Unsurprisingly, HP, which is heavily vested in the same server+networking vision that Cisco is, also wants to deliver gear so enterprises can deliver IT as a service.

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This is setting up a dual view of  cloud computing, with some pitching private clouds as an in-house way to deliver computing as a service, and other vendors such as Microsoft or service providers like Savvis and even Amazon pitching true multi-tenant infrastructure and platform as a service offerings that claim to offer private cloud levels of security and reliability on a shared infrastructure. The economics of each will be a key differentiator, with internal private clouds costing more. No one from CisEMware would talk about the pricing for the gear, saying only that the offering reduced operating expenditures by 40 percent for a test customer.

Another big issue here is the openness of the platform. None of these players are known for their embrace of open software, and most are far more famous for squeezing high margins out of proprietary code. IBM and Rackspace have been pushing for some type of open cloud effort, which it defines as being built through a standards group. Vblocks are a refutation of that model, and of the idea that commodity hardware will underlie most clouds.

Today’s announcement divides compute clouds into those built on commodity gear and those that aren’t, as well as showcases the split between how folks plan to deliver private clouds for enterprise customers. The choices made at both the hardware level and when a company is determining how private it wants to be will affect the economics of cloud computing profoundly. It also shows how the once monolithic cloud mania is finally breaking up into real debate about how to deploy compute infrastructure in a manner that is cost effective and flexible. After three years of fluff, there are storms on the horizon.

Related GigaOM Pro content:The Future of the Data Center is Murky,” and “Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud: What’s New, What’s Next?

12 Responses to “What the Cisco/EMC/VMware Trinity Means For Cloud Computing”

  1. Habib Ullah Khan

    I think Cisco’s channel is one of the best in the world and has kept up with Cisco’s incredible rate of product and technology launches. But UCS was a step too far for it. The gap between Cisco’s channel getting ready to scale up and deliver on UCS and how fast the market was coming was evidently there and hence we have Acadia. I have no doubt this venture partially exists to cater to Cisco’s top 30 accounts directly from a services end.

  2. This whole joint venture/VCE coalition is fascinating. I assume the companies involved have done their research and found a market for this product, but there is so much competition in all of the component markets (and the unified computing market), much of it more open and commodity-grade and less expensive. Plus, it’s not even settled that internal clouds must be hypervisor-based.

    There also has been talk (evidenced by IBM’s use of the Nexus 4001I switch) that IBM and Cisco still are partners more so than enemies, but I wonder if that will change now that Cisco is, indirectly at least, undercutting IBM’s storage and systems management sales, too.

  3. VCE “very costly equipment” .. great marketing spin, but others have been doing this all for some time. Arcadia is simply VMWare / EMC / Cisco coming together to sell direct. Not sure where the channel fits in here..

    .. but the big problem here is that it all sits on UCS, which is pure vendor lockin. You must have Nexus throughout for this to work. CEE is coming soon.

    I look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.

    • Jez:

      The Cisco UCS is no more or no less “closed” than other blade-based solutions out there from other vendors, and, in fact, it does not require Nexus anywhere else in the data center. The northbound Ethernet and Fibre Channel interfaces are completely standards based and will connect to whatever standards-complaint infrastructure you may have in place.

      As far as GTM, our guiding principle is unchanged: we go to market via our partners:
      – Partners will play a critical role in this strategy
      – Our partners are critical in driving an open business and technical on-ramp for Vblocks
      -Acadia’s capabilities around BOT services are appropriate for a customers who want this type of BOT model
      -Acadia will also be focusing on enabling partners, and will work with our partners jointly to help to build the technology and standards
      -The best practices from Acadia will transfer to our partner community to scale to market


      Omar Sultan
      Cisco Systems