VMware, Cisco and EMC form Virtual Computing Environment coalition. Why?

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As expected, today VMware, Cisco and EMC announced a special alliance, a coalition as they call it, dubbed Virtual Computing Environment (VCE).

This entity will share investments to sell the components, training and consulting for a number of bundle packages called Vblocks.

The VCE will also count on a partners ecosystem, which already counts on six system integrators: Accenture, Capgemini, CSC, Lockheed Martin, Tata Consulting Services, and Wipro.

The Vbocks can be deployed at customers data centers or hosted online. 
To design them, operate them on behalf of the customers, or just transfer them from the hosting facility to the customers data centers, Cisco and EMC created a special joint venture called Acadia
VMware and Intel invested in Acadia too, and the company will start operating in 2010. 
It’s not clear why the system integrators above cannot do that instead of Acadia.

At its launch VCE will offer three Vblocks:

  • Vblock 0
    entry-level configuration available in 2010
    supporting 300 up to 800 virtual machines
    leveraging Cisco’s UCS and Nexus 1000v, EMC’s Unified Storage (secured by RSA), and the VMware vSphere platform
  • Vblock 1
    mid-sized configuration (undisclosed launch date) 
    supporting 800 up to 3,000 virtual machines
    leveraging Cisco’s UCS, Nexus 1000v and MDS, EMC’s CLARiiON storage (secured by RSA), and the VMware vSphere platform
  • Vblock 2
    high-end configuration (undisclosed launch date) 
    supporting up to 3,000-6,000 virtual machines 
    leveraging Cisco UCS, Nexus 1000v and Multilayer Directional Switches (MDS), EMC’s Symmetrix V-Max storage (secured by RSA), and the VMware vSphere platform


VCE will develop and offer additional bundles over time for shared services, applications and vertical industry solutions.
“Shared Services” and “Applications” is where the interest should focus the most. There, it’s possible to see popping up the hosting provider Terremark, where VMware invested $5 million, and SpringSource that VMware acquired in August for $420 million.

All Vblocks will be ISO 27001 compliant.

To manage these data-centers-in-a-box as a whole, EMC is offering a new management product called Ionix Data Center Insight.

Ionix will not replace the vSphere and UCS management consoles, but will coordinate them, gluing them with an application management stack that controls what happens inside the virtual machines:EMCIonix


The most important question around this partnership is: why these VMware, Cisco and EMC have to form a coalition to validate and sell their products as a commercial bundle?
Their architects already produce jointly validated infrastructure blueprints that customers can use to design new data centers. 
Part of their channels already sell their solutions together where it makes sense, and more will do if the products works better together.
Their customers don’t need a new brand and marketing brochures to buy the idea of cloud computing and private cloud. Cisco alone (in terms of selling servers) is new enough to generate interest and concerns.

VMware is taking a lot of risks with this move.
HP alone sells 36% of all virtualized servers. And it has EDS.
Dell just acquired Perot Systems, which is one of the biggest consulting arms in the world to sell the VMware-centric Dell virtualization portfolio.
IBM just has to think about Red Hat and its new KVM-centric offering, and it could be a dangerous competitor on a global scale.

Months ago virtualization.info published an article suggesting that VMware may be slowly morphing into an infrastructure management company that will compete with BMC, CA, HP and IBM.
Maybe it’s not VMware, it’s EMC that has this ambition. Ionix seems to imply so.
And because Cisco may have a similar ambition too, and both can’t afford to become an infrastructure management company in 2010 without controlling the virtual layer, VMware is the mandatory addition.

Maybe the VCE coalition is just an attempt to generate significant results that can validate a future merger.
VMware, Cisco and EMC all have a neutral position in the market today. 
All have a solid relationship with the entire ecosystem (except their direc
t competitors), including Microsoft (except of course for VMware).
While this coalition doesn’t change much, apparently, an actual merger would drastically change the way these companies behave. And the shareholders may not consider the move worth losing the current market alliances.
But, if a coalition could produce amazing results in 12-18 months of work, then it would much easier to justify the new Ciscoware.

While waiting to see if the merger will take place or not, it’s worth to consider once again how this coalition will impact the other OEMs that so far preferred VMware over Microsoft and Citrix.
A number of smart people suggested that this partnership will not change anything, but it’s worth to remind that Cisco has a significant stake in VMware, that Intel and VMware just invested in the new Acadia joint venture, and that VMware just sent out a message to its sales channel that says:

…The Virtual Computing Environment coalition offers organizations of all sizes an accelerated approach to data center transformation with dramatic efficiencies that promise significant reductions in both capital and operating expenses. As a result, organizations will no longer have to choose between best-of-breed technologies and end-to-end vendor accountability

Who knows if HP, Dell and IBM consider this a non-problem.