The VMware, Cisco and EMC alliance continues to shape. HP, NetApp, IBM should pay attention

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Since the VMware acquisition at the end of 2003, EMC always said that its new subsidiary had to stay independent to win the market.
A few really trusted those words at the time: nothing like virtualization has driven the storage spending in the history of enterprise IT (and it’s just the beginning, wait for VDI to become mainstream).
It was hard to believe that EMC wouldn’t leverage its relationship with VMware to declass NetApp, HP, IBM, Sun (now Oracle) and others as second choice options when designing virtual data centers.
But over the years the storage giant demonstrated its commitment to keep VMware independent.
For a period of time EMC was even accused of not doing enough, lacking that minimum integration that customers expect between two technologies as complementary and connected as the VMware hypervisor and the EMC storage array.

If EMC ever used its influence on VMware to damage its competitors, is not aware of it and no customer or reader ever complained about that.

Now everything is changing.

It’s not changing in the sense that EMC has started to adopt sneaky or illegal techniques to better position inside the virtual data center.
It’s changing because the EMC commitment is no more to let VMware play nice with every storage vendor in a very balanced way.

The new EMC commitment is to develop, evangelize and deploy solutions that work with VMware better than anything else available from competitors. And they are doing well. Really well.

A major driver in this new strategy is Cisco: the networking giant doesn’t have any real competition in the virtualization space at this point, and this puts the company in the position to demand for an unprecedented level of commitment to its new partners EMC and VMware.

If unpleased, Cisco can go to Citrix. Or Microsoft.
And both VMware and EMC know that networking is the next biggest bottleneck in the virtual data center of tomorrow.
Simply put, Cisco is too important (with or without its unified fabric effort) to let it go.

Nobody here is trying to say that the EMC effort entirely depends on Cisco. 
Their effort depends on a long-term vision that finally makes a lot of sense and that is embraced at all levels inside and outside the company.
The synergy/symbiosis with Cisco is just accelerating the events.

NetApp, HP and IBM (assuming that one day Big Blue will start paying attention again to the x86 market) have a huge problem.
It doesn’t matter how good their solutions in the virtual data center are. It doesn’t matter how tight the integration with VMware vCenter is.
There’s a growing perception that EMC is the way to go. And a growing perception that there’s nothing on the market that can compete with the triad VMware-Cisco-EMC.

These companies have three options: do nothing, start to spend a massive amount of energies in countering the EMC activity and gain back the attention of the VMware audience, or build something similar elsewhere.
Of course this last option is the most interesting. Something may happen around Citrix and Microsoft in the coming months.