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Analysis: Cisco, EMC, VMware partnership is a long shot

Users get a unified service offering, but don't think of it as a private cloud

November 3, 2009 05:38 PM ET

Computerworld - Cisco, EMC and VMware today joined forces to sell products as a private cloud offering to enterprises. Called the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition, the announcement was called "unprecedented," something destined to lead to "greater IT infrastructure flexibility."

What the Cisco, EMC and, ahem, VMware collaboration -- EMC owns VMware -- represents is an opportunity for Cisco to sell its Unified Computing System (UCS) server and networking platform into EMC's customer install base. For the IT consumer, the VCE partnership represents two things: an opportunity to purchase a tightly integrated, pre-tested -- yet proprietary -- set of extended virtualization technologies, and a single throat to choke for service.

The VCE alliance calls its private cloud offering Vblock Infrastructure Packages. Vblock Packages amount to integrated server, networking, storage, security, virtualization and software technologies.

But cloud computing it is not.

Tom Bittman, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said the VCE Vblock Infrastructure Package may resemble cloud, and it provides the underlying infrastructure for cloud computing, but it lacks higher-level management software that would seamlessly and automatically provision capacity for applications without manual intervention.

"Actually, I'm surprised BMC [Software Inc.], a close partner of Cisco's, was not a part of this," Bittman said.

Gartner defines cloud computing as a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to internal customers using Internet technologies.

"The point is, how the provider delivers the service is hidden from the user," he said. "Virtual machines can be one of the ways of doing that, but there are many ways. uses multi-tenant software and Google uses parallel programming. But on the consumer side, what they see is a service-oriented interface all metered by use. They don't see the implementation. If I have to go to the provider and ask for specific virtual machines and be specific about how it's implemented, that's not cloud."

Charles King, the principal analyst with Pund-IT Inc., agreed that while the VCE alliance may sound like a "grand pronouncement," about "unprecedented efforts firmly rooted in precedent and unique solutions," it's nothing of the sort.

"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," King said. "As such, they do not threaten the vertically-focused product and service integration strategies common among traditional end-to-end systems vendors and which are central to some emerging players."

He pointed to Oracle, with its impending acquisition of Sun Microsystems, as one emerging player in the private cloud infrastructure marketplace.

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