Cisco, EMC to unveil cloud joint venture

A new line of products called vBlock will combine storage, servers, networking and virtualisation for an integrated set of datacentre gear, according to reports
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Cisco and EMC are to formally announce their long-expected joint venture around cloud technology this week, according to several reports.

Under the deal, the two companies will sell a new line of integrated networking, storage and servers based on Cisco server and networking gear, with storage from EMC and virtualisation software from EMC subsidiary VMware, according to unnamed sources quoted by Reuters in a report on Friday.

The new product range, which, according to Reuters's sources, is to be called vBlock, may correspond to a project code-named 'Alpine' that was reported by The Wall Street Journal in September but never confirmed by EMC and Cisco.

The vBlock products will be available either as an on-demand service offering or physical products that can be installed on-premises, according to reports.

The products are aimed at the growing market for cloud computing, a loose term that refers to the use of technologies such as virtualisation to make the provisioning and maintenance of datacentre resources more flexible. Such technology can be deployed either for a company's internal use or to provide services to third parties over the internet.

Cisco has been reselling EMC storage gear for years, and it owns a stake in VMware. The networking company has also been making a big push into the datacentre market.

Earlier this year Cisco announced a new datacentre architecture it calls Unified Computing. This new architecture includes new hardware from Cisco, namely blade servers, an interconnection 'fabric', a chassis for the blade servers, fabric extenders and network adapters. It also includes co-ordinated support and software integration from partners such as Intel, Microsoft, EMC and VMware. A joint venture could build on this push, allowing tighter integration among the various components that go to make up a datacentre.

A report on Friday from South African IT industry publication IT Web quoted several Cisco engineers who appeared to confirm the deal.

"This partnership allows us to implement virtualisation from the application server environment to the network as well as storage," said Brett Ley, vertical solutions architect at Cisco, in the IT Web report.

Chris Norton, country manager at VMware South Africa, was quoted by IT Web as saying the venture's goal is to allow for better integration, which is becoming increasingly necessary due to the complexity of managing large numbers of virtual machines.

"As a virtualisation vendor, we have become increasingly reliant on the networking technology, because we now understand that we cannot move a virtual machine if we cannot move the network state with it," Norton was quoted as saying. "This dependency extends to shared storage as well, as it adds value to the customer's agility, flexibility and consolidation."

The deal is to be announced ahead of Cisco's first quarter of fiscal 2010 financial results, due on Wednesday, according to a report on Friday from Dow Jones.

The vBlock products will be based on Cisco's 'California' Unified Computing System blade servers, with an integrated vSphere 4.0 stack, along with the Nexus 1000V virtual switch from Cisco and physical switches supporting server Ethernet and storage Fibre Channel protocols, according to Dow Jones.

The joint venture will have its own chief executive and will independently sell, maintain and support the vBlock product line, according to the Dow Jones report.

Cisco and EMC compete in the datacentre market with companies such as IBM, HP, Sun and Dell, all of which have been working to provide more integrated product lines for datacentres.

Dell and IBM both announced deals with Juniper Networks last week in order to be able to resell Juniper's networking gear alongside their other datacentre gear.

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