The Gathering Storm Clouds

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On one level it's high time something akin to the expanded technology alliance that Hewlett-Packard and Microsoftannounced this week finally took place. When you think about it, the fact that servers are still so difficult to deploy and the lack of integration between disparate systems management tools are an industry disgrace.

Although HP and Microsoft are a little light on specific customer benefits of the alliance, the ones they did note are overdue. For instance, the ability to deploy Microsoft e-mail and database servers with the push of a button is a welcome advance. The ability to tightly integrate HP's Insight Software with Microsoft System Center software is long overdue. The delivery of new data center container architectures is something to look forward to, and the fact that HP is going to train its people on Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform can only help.

But for all those positive things, the announcement itself is still reactionary. As we have already seen from Cisco in most notably the form of a Unified Computing System, the definition of servers is changing. Oracle has also recognized this change with its move to acquire Sun Microsystems. In both instances, we will continue to see the development of next-generation servers that comes with all the software and hardware pre-integrated.

For IT organizations, that will mean that instead of thinking about a server as a collection of system, storage and networking components, they will instead be managing units of servers as discrete virtual units within the data center. That approach will also essentially define the way we think about managing cloud computing, which is why all the vendors are finally coming together to solve long-standing management issues within enterprise IT. Simply put, the vendor that has the best management story in the age of cloud computing is going to win the day.

This, of course, is leading to all kinds of mergers on one hand and expanded alliances on the other. And as these forces build, the IT industry landscape is about to be forever changed mostly for the better. But in the short term, there's going to be a massive storm of deal-making in the coming year across the entire enterprise IT sector that will most assuredly test the patience and loyalties of chief technologists everywhere.