EMC, Cisco and VMware take aim at 'private cloud'

The partnership plans to offer a range of datacentre infrastructure packages called Vblock, to eventually be built by a new joint venture
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Cisco, EMC and EMC subsidiary VMware have announced a partnership to provide integrated datacentre products that combine virtualisation, networking, computing, storage, security and management technologies.

The companies have also formed a joint venture called Acadia, which will begin operations in the first quarter of 2010. Acadia will be devoted to building and delivering the integrated products, called Vblock Infrastructure Packages, the partners said in their announcement on Wednesday.

As expected, the Virtual Computing Environment coalition is the result of a project code-named 'Alpine' that was first reported in September. It is intended to take advantage of businesses' growing interest in cloud computing, which uses technologies such as virtualisation to make the provisioning and maintenance of datacentres less expensive and more flexible.

The companies said their collaboration is aimed at the 'private cloud', a term for a virtualised IT infrastructure operated for a single company, whether that infrastructure is located on- or off-premises or combining the two. This is distinct from a 'public cloud', where the infrastructure is provided as a service to multiple companies.

The tight integration of all the components of the group's Vblock products means they operate more efficiently than virtualised infrastructure assembled from disparate parts, the companies said.

Cisco chief executive John Chambers argued that the integration of everything from networking to storage will allow companies to buy and manage cloud-style infrastructure as a coherent package, rather than as a collection of different products.

"[This coalition] is about an entirely new and unique approach to the datacentre that improves utilisation, power consumption and security of information... not via a box, but with a network-based architectural approach for optimising virtual resources," Chambers said in a statement.

The partnership will initially begin selling a range of Vblock Infrastructure Packages this quarter via systems integrators and channel partners. As of next year, the Acadia joint venture will be devoted to building and delivering Vblock products.

Acadia will have a role in initially operating the infrastructure products for companies if desired, before transferring them to the customers. Intel has joined Acadia as a minority investor, due to the Vblock hardware's heavy reliance on Xeon processors, the companies said.

Sales, services and support
The partnership has established a sales, services and support team focused on Vblock and plans to support the growth of a range of systems integrators, service providers, channel partners and software vendors around the products. At launch, the coalition counts six systems integrators as partners: Accenture, Capgemini, CSC, Lockheed Martin, Tata Consulting Services and Wipro.

Initially, the partnership is selling two Vblock products: a configuration for the high end and another aimed at medium-sized projects. An entry-level product is expected to follow next year.

The high-end configuration, Vblock 2, is designed for large-scale and 'green field' virtualisation projects and supports between 3,000 and 6,000 virtual machines. It uses Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) technology, Nexus 1000v and Multilayer Directional Switches (MDS), EMC's Symmetrix V-Max storage and the VMware vSphere platform.

The mid-sized Vblock 1 is aimed at projects such as consolidation and optimisation of existing infrastructure, and supports from 800 to 3,000 virtual machines. It is based on Cisco's UCS, Nexus 1000v and MDS, EMC's Clariion storage and VMware vSphere.

Entry-level Vblock 0, to be available in 2010, will be aimed at medium-sized businesses or small datacentres, or at test and development uses. It is based on Cisco's UCS and Nexus 1000v, EMC's Unified Storage and VMware vSphere.

All the packages are intended to be repeatable, meaning companies can buy as many 'blocks' as needed to support the project in question, and all include security by RSA.

In a related announcement, EMC on Wednesday introduced a management technology for Vblock called Ionix, which supports a range of enterprise management consoles.

Vblock packages
The companies said they plan to introduce Vblock packages specialised for shared services, applications and vertical industry solutions. They will include a system called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, for provisioning and managing enterprise applications.

Cisco and EMC are competing in the datacentre market against a number of other players, including IBM, HP, Dell and Sun, and those companies have also made recent moves towards offering integrated cloud product lines.

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.

Storage vendor NetApp, which has partnerships around virtualised datacentre technology with Cisco and VMware, noted that the partnership and joint venture lock out the participation of certain competitors.

"We view today's announcement as a clever attempt by Cisco to sell UCS servers into EMC's install base," said Jay Kidd, vice president of NetApp's storage solutions group, in a statement. "Open partnerships, not closed coalitions, are what customers need and want to make the transformation to a virtualised datacentre."

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