When it comes to private cloud computing these days, there's a lot of bluster in the air. In fact, it seems like every time you turn around there is yet another vendor announcing yet another turnkey computing solution specifically designed for private cloud computing requirements.
The four biggest purveyors of these types of cloud computing platforms, all of which tout some form of convergence in the data center, are IBM, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. HP is the one most likely to tout a complete end-to-end solution for building private clouds, while IBM and Dell, with the exception of networking gear, do not need much help from other vendors to build their own turnkey platforms. The next most complete solution from a single vendor comes from Cisco, which only needs help from storage vendors such as EMC or NetApp to complete its solution.
That leaves a lot of room for posturing, but you can't help wonder how much any given turnkey platform is going to appeal to customers. Like all turnkey solutions, there are definite advantages in terms of quickly deploying the product because, at least in theory, the components are all better integrated. But many IT organizations feel that having independent layers of server, storage and networking services offers them advantages over the long term because they are not held hostage by any one vendor.
For the last year, converged architectures from vendors such as HP and Cisco have dominated much of the discussion. In fact, both EMC and NetApp have gone out of their way to be seen as major Cisco partners in convergence as part of their efforts to undermine IBM, HP and Dell in the storage space. Depending on the day of the week, either NetApp is Cisco's most important storage partner, or EMC is given the company's role in the Vblock data center platform.
But now word comes of a renewed alliance between EMC and Brocade, a maker of switches that competes directly with Cisco in the data center. Unlike Cisco, however, Brocade's long-term strategy is to provide the network fabric that integrates data center components from multiple server and storage vendors. But if EMC is such a strong ally of Cisco, why do they need to partner with Brocade?
According to Bob Braham, vice president of product marketing for Brocade, the answer to that question lies in the fact that when it comes to making sales in the field, EMC does not want to limit its opportunities to being a storage satellite of Cisco. If EMC wants to find a way to work with Dell, HP or IBM in the field, it is going to need do that in a way that doesn't require EMC to bring Cisco into the deal. After all, it's hard enough to sell EMC storage in a Dell, IBM, or HP server account without having to fight over the network hardware. Brocade is an acceptable neutral party that allows IT organizations to combine whatever servers with whatever storage they desire.
It's pretty clear that a vendor such as EMC at this juncture wants to hedge its bets about the future of the data center. There's still a lot of debate over how data center convergence is going to play out. But no matter what individuals within EMC would prefer to happen, they are not going to let those opinions get in the way of a storage sale just because a customer doesn't want to adhere to the same party line about the future of private cloud computing.