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Cisco, VMware, EMC Forge Datacenter Alliance

Cisco, VMware, EMC Forge Datacenter Alliance
A trio of tech heavyweights on Tuesday announced an alliance that's targeting the lucrative corporate datacenter market where enterprise customers are racing to virtualize their data workloads and develop private cloud architecture for disparate applications and business processes.

Executives at the three companies said the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition will "help organizations simplify and accelerate pervasive virtualization and the transition to private cloud infrastructures."

The new effort includes a joint venture called Acadia, designed to help speed customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures through "an end-to-end enablement of service providers and large enterprise customers." In particular, the plan centers around a technology they call Vblocks, which combines virtualization technology from VMware, storage from EMC (NYSE: EMC) and networking equipment from Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO).

Cisco's CEO John Chambers said goal is to more effectively target the large market for cloud infrastructure and services, which could be worth as much as $350 billion.

VMware (NYSE: VMW), which still maintains a significant lead in the virtualization software market despite increasing pressure from Microsoft, Citrix Systems and a handful of open source players, brings its vSphere product line and installed customer base to the partnership.

EMC, the data storage systems provider, owns 85 percent of VMware, and networking colossus Cisco Systems wants to position itself as the provider of more than just networking gear: It's increasingly been eying the nuts and bolts infrastructure for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud-based software services.

As more enterprise customers warm to the concept of on-demand data storage, security and applications hosted by another provider instead of footing the bill for expensive self-maintained datacenters, major software vendors are locking down their dance partners to take on the likes of Amazon and Google in the cloud.

"Customers are increasingly looking to virtualization to dramatically improve the performance and flexibility of their existing IT systems," VMware CEO Paul Maritz said in a joint statement. "Today's announcement provides a compelling vision and set of roadmaps valuable to any company looking to harness cloud computing in a fundamentally more pragmatic and nondisruptive way."

Vblocks: A "prix fixe" virtualization menu

Using what the trio is calling Vblock Infrastructure Packages, the alliance members aim to provide enterprise customers with a fully integrated, tested, validated and production-ready infrastructure package that includes virtualization applications, networking software and hardware, computing, storage, security and management applications from all three vendors.

Specifically, the offering includes a combination of Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), EMC storage and security as well as VMware's vSphere.

"Vblock is the best of breed from Cisco, EMC and VMware," EMC CEO Joe Tucci said today during a press conference. "Vblock is like a prix fixe menu: We've pre-integrated the solutions and we're removing risk. We'll still offer an 'à la carte' choice where customers can choose other servers, storage or virtualization -- we're not removing anything, we're just adding efficiency, control and choice."

Tucci added that Vblock will be offered in three different configurations, all built for different scale. Vblock 0 is for running 300 to 800 virtual machines, while Vblock 1 will be for 800 to 3,000 machines, and Vblock 2 for 3,000 to 6,000 or more virtual machines.

Company officials also said the vendors aim to grow customer adoption of Vblock systems through a global community of systems integrators, service providers, channel partners and independent software vendors (ISVs).

Intel, which manufactures the Xeon processors predominantly used in the Vblock architecture packages, will also join Acadia as a minority investor, company officials said.

"The purpose of Acadia is to leverage the partner ecosystem that we have," Tucci said in response to a question from InternetNews.com.

Tucci declined to comment on how much money the partners are actually investing into Acadia. However, he added that Acadia will initially be staffed by 130 people, and that a search is currently underway to find a CEO for the new joint venture.

Industry changing partnership?

According to Tucci, the key to the effort is the fact that customers want a unified experience when it comes to building out clouds, and a simplified way to engage with the three partners.

Cisco CEO John Chambers added that the joint effort is about more than simply offering 'one throat to choke' for a customer. In Chambers' view, the effort is about having a joint roadmap and vision for where cloud computing is going and about providing well-integrated solutions for rapid deployment.

Tucci added that to realize the promise of fully virtualized cloud computing, no one vendor on its own would have sufficed. In his view, only by having the three partners come together can they deliver a truly end-to-end solution.

"Will this change the industry? Time will tell," Chambers said. "I believe that it will be the partnership that people will look back on and say it changed the datacenter and clouds forever."