Has hell frozen over? EMC and Microsoft signs a 3 year alliance on virtualization

emc logo

microsoft logo

Yesterday EMC and Microsoft signed a 3 years extension of their strategic alliance (now ending in 2011).

Part of the agreement involves virtualization, which is pretty odd considering that EMC owns 80% of VMware and that VMware can be seriously impacted by the endless amount of free virtualization products/technologies that Microsoft released and will release in future.

The thing is rather comic as part of the agreement (published by both companies PR departments) includes:

Microsoft offers one of the fastest-growing and most cost-effective virtualization solutions from the desktop to the datacenter, including the ability to manage both physical and virtual environments from a centralized management console. EMC’s technology solutions enable storage, protection and management of information in Microsoft virtualized environments including Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Microsoft System Center, and jointly supported mission-critical workloads such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft SharePoint Server.
EMC Consulting’s Application Practice, a thousand-person strong team with deep Microsoft knowledge, provides expertise in assessing, planning and implementing Microsoft’s technologies in a wide array of virtualization solutions.

Now, coopetition is something that every customer can understand but believing that the EMC consulting division will recommend (or support) the implementation Hyper-V over VMware seems way too much.

Steve Ballmer answers to CNET on this very point with a hard-to-believe statement:

We’re not sitting here pretending we’re partnering with VMware. That’s more competition.

With EMC, which is a large majority owner in VMware, but is also independent, there’s a lot that rides on virtualization. The fact of the matter is the storage business is being transformed also by virtualization. And virtualization is transforming the storage business. We want to do very well in virtualization. While Joe may own 80 percent of VMware, he still thinks it’s a good idea to sell storage in places where perhaps we’ll win as opposed to VMware…

(the entire interview below definitively deserves a read)

EMC always waved the VMware independence and its desire to not influence the virtualization vendor, but at the end of the day, as Patrick O’Rourke at Microsoft says, VMware provides EMC $200 million direct profit /year plus additional indirect profit positively influencing the stock trading.

Assuming EMC will really do its best to play fair with both VMware and Microsoft on virtualization, the real question is: how VMware will react to this?

At this point it’s legit to suspect that this agreement is the real reason why Diane Greene couldn’t stay as VMware CEO and had to be replaced by Paul Maritz (a former Microsoft executive).

While wondering about this last point it’s worth to recap the current status of the some key strategic alliances in the virtualization world:

So, let’s see, this story will end up with VMware and Citrix seriously partnering together?