Clash of the IT Titans

A battle is raging for IT mindshare: who and what will control the enterprise data center? The great consolidation has started and there will be blood.

A battle is raging for IT mindshare: who and what will control the enterprise data center? The great consolidation has started and there will be blood.

First Cisco came out with the Unified Computing System - a combination of Cisco switches and blade servers, VMware virtualization and EMC storage. Then Cisco cut HP - the market leader in blade servers - off as a Cisco reseller, so HP is expanding its line of network switches.

Oracle bought Sun so it could provide complete packaged solutions. And now Hitachi Data Systems is partnering with Microsoft using Hyper-V for virtualization.

IBM is already a services company and will sell you whatever - including Cisco, VWware and plenty of rebranded storage - from many vendors.

What's behind this push for unified or integrated systems? Customer demand? Executive egos? Or financial desperation?

Consolidation The enterprise IT industry is consolidating. HP, the world's largest computer company, appears strong but is vulnerable - or at least John Chambers, Cisco's CEO, thinks so.

Cisco, dominating network switches, needs new worlds to conquer. Large switches have been specialized blade servers - CPU and I/O - for decades, so why not take the next step?

From a customer perspective Cisco's strategy is not ideal. Partnering 3 of the highest cost vendors - VMware, EMC and Cisco - to create high-scale vendor lock-in using proprietary features? Pass.

Especially when VMware faces tough competition from Microsoft's much-less-expensive Hyper-V virtualization. Yes, Microsoft was late to the v-game, but they're fired up. Don't expect a Zune-ish debacle here: server virtualization is their backyard and they intend to own it.

Which is why it makes sense that Hitachi, a major player in enterprise storage, would base their unified strategy on Hyper-V. They get a cost advantage and Microsoft's marketing muscle.

The Storage Bits take The unresolved question is: do enough customers want to buy "unified" systems? This is, after all, only a repackaged mainframe - and mainframe spending has been shrinking for decades.

Consolidation is inevitable: IT has standardized on a few platforms, so they can standardize on a few suppliers. But do those suppliers need to be vertically integrated?

Only when it makes sense. Oracle has the better argument: when you know exactly what you want from your database, we'll sell you an integrated appliance that will do exactly that. And it's fine if you roll your own.

Cisco is responding not to customer demand, but to Google. Their vast commodity infrastructure, linked by - horrors! - cheap unmanaged switches is Cisco's nightmare. If CFOs understood that much of IT could be migrated to that model over the next decade. . . .

Comments welcome, of course.

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