Can Cisco Eat their EMC and Have Their NetApp To?

With 2010 nearing a close, could Cisco be contemplating another major acquisition to complete their next generation datacenter portfolio?  The last glaring hole within Cisco’s portfolio is their reliance on outside vendors for storage solutions.

Over the past few months, Cisco has patiently watched as HP purchased 3Par, EMC purchased Isilon, and Dell is acquiring Compellent.  Meanwhile, EMC’s arch nemesis NetApp continues to grow and innovate in a tough economy.

Further complicating matters, is Cisco’s reliance on the VCE, a partnership between VMware, Cisco, EMC, and Intel.  It is no coincidence that the current Vblock VCE Reference Architectures specifies EMC storage offerings (CLARiiON, Symmetrix, and Celerra).

Not to be left out of the party, NetApp entered into  ‘collaboration’ with Cisco and VMware creating FlexPod that delivers ‘leading computing, networking, storage, and infrastructure software components’.  It seems that Cisco isn’t the only one hedging their bets as VMware exerts a rebellious streak against their parent (EMC).

Cisco’s future hinges around UCS being adopted as a true next generation computing platform without legacy baggage.  Cisco did not go to war with HP while potentially jeopardizing their relationship with IBM only to be saddled with the competing interests of three large companies.

In the past, I have speculated that Cisco should simply purchase EMC thereby owing a majority stake in VMware.  However is NetApp a better choice?  After all, does VMware need to maintain a ‘Microsoft’ level of independence from the server vendors?  Would HP, IBM, Dell, etc. be inclined to sell a product that lines the pocket of Cisco?

Only Chambers (ok perhaps Ellison as well) would be as bold to acquire an enemy of one of their strategic partners.  By acquiring NetApp, Cisco would be able to offer innovative solutions such as storage blades for UCS or even accelerate the adoption of FCoE.  Imagine a new Cisco Architecture with Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus, Cisco MDS, Cisco FlexPod, and Cisco Management with the availability of VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Microsoft virtualization.

In the end, Cisco could offer a true end-to-end solution as they continue to lead within the edge and core routing markets with near dominance in the switching market.  Furthermore, Cisco would stand alone as the only integrated next generation data center provider that does not develop or sell enterprise class applications such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc.  In effect, they become the Switzerland of computing against their rivals.

The only question is how long will Cisco be able to ‘Eat their EMC and have their NetApp to’? Don’t look now, but perhaps Larry (Oracle) will crash this party and make the decision for then.

Oracle Takes Dead Aim At VMware’s Vision

Still wondering why Oracle purchased Sun?  Day One of Oracle’s OpenWorld 2010 cleared up at least one reason; Oracle has its own “stack” and it does not include VMware. 

When Sun was originally purchased by Oracle, my attention immediately fell to Sun’s virtualization assets and engineering talents.  Before the acquisition, Sun was amassing an arsenal of virtualization and management assets including xVM, VirtualBox, and Solaris.  If you factor in hardware development and JAVA, then Sun had everything they needed to “change the world.”  That is, everything except a track record for translating engineering into revenue.

Love him or hate him, Larry Ellison has no such issues.  His track record speaks for itself as Oracle has an uncanny ability to execute.  With the launch of Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud, Oracle has signaled to the market that they are ready for a fight.  While most believe Oracle is gunning for Amazon Web Services, I believe hidden in their messages and jabs at IBM is their true target of public, private, and hybrid clouds ala VMware.

VMware unleashed their vision of the future at VMworld 2010 that included vSphere, vDirector, vCloud, vFabric, SpringSource, and more.  What’s missing?   Oracle would point to VMware’s ratio of vision to products, their lack of owning an operating system, and their dependency on third parties to deliver server power (I’ll give them storage as EMC is VMware’s parent company).  Oracle’s vision is unique in that they control the entire Cloud stack using proven technologies and deployments; unleashing the potential of Sun hardware, JAVA, and Fusion.

Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud has a few things going for it:

  • Power – Scale Out and Scale In  
    Cores 96 to 2880, SSD 256GB to 7.7TB, RAM 768GB to 22.4TB, and SAS disk 40TB to 320TB
  •  Applications – JAVA and Fusion
     Oracle’s Applications as well as others that run on Oracle Solaris and Oracle Linux

Although, I’m not thrilled with Oracle’s reliance on InfiniBand, it makes sense given Sun’s product portfolio and expertise.  Also, we need to learn more about how you manage this system including orchestration via business process management solutions.  However, this is a great start for Oracle. 

One last thought, Oracle took a subtle jab at VMware, EMC, and Cisco when they proclaimed, “Run 1000s of existing applications” and “No Certification Required.”  Perhaps Ellison should not be picking a fight with Mr. Chambers at Cisco.  For the common denominator of vBlocks (VMware, xBlocks (Citrix), and rBlocks (Red Hat) is UCS and its momentum may be unstoppable.