VMware, Cisco, NetApp combat

Most of today’s data centres have been built and powered by “accidental architecture,” according to a group of executives from Cisco Systems Inc., VMware Inc. and NetApp Inc.

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The three companies got together in front of customers Thursday in Toronto to present their views on why data centres must break away from siloed operations and how the three companies are working together to address this problem.

Val Bercovici, a senior director with NetApp’s CTO office, said that most enterprises today have acquired their network, server and storage level infrastructure through a variety of separately funded projects. “The money didn’t come from one place,” he said.

Despite the downsides brought as a result of the recession, many IT shops can actually use the struggling economy to focus investments and give IT a meaningful seat at the boardroom table, Bercovici said.

And while Cisco, VMware and NetApp all agree that this can only be achieved through virtualization and private clouds, investment in this technology without the proper focus is destined to fail.

Executives from each company highlighted their role in the Virtualized Dynamic Data Centre strategy, which is a joint venture between the three companies to offer network, server and storage solutions that work well together.

Cisco is bringing its Nexus 1000 virtual switches and unified computing servers to the partnership, NetApp is delivering on the virtual storage component, and of course, VMware is providing much of the virtualization capability.

Under the strategy, the three companies will bring enterprises an end-to-end secure multi-tenancy platform.

The plan was announced earlier this year, but company executives said it wouldn’t be aggressively pushed in marketing campaigns until early 2010.

The strategy is not focused on building better individual networking or storage devices, but rather building them to work better together, said Jason Reil, product sales specialist with Cisco. He added that siloed IT shops might have actually hit the ceiling in terms of the cost and efficiency savings they can achieve.

Bercovici said that unlike the IBM Corp. or HP Co. “one vendor does it all” approach, this partnership will bring the best of breed in servers, network, and storage technology from three companies basically acting as one.

Similarities to this strategy can seen in an announcement made earlier this month from IBM, which announced its intention to start building private clouds for their customers.

As for the Cisco-VMware-NetApp approach, Reil said it is one that encourages customers to pace themselves and not jump in all at once.

“We’re talking about logical steps,” he said.  That might mean investing in Cisco’s Nexus switches and looking for convergence at the network level first, and then branching out to the server and storage side when ready.

For Stephane Lalonde, a senior systems engineer with VMware, keeping the end goal in mind when building a virtualized data centre is the key.  By attacking certain layers first, enterprises can get a sense of the type of cost savings they will be achieving and then can slowly branch out to other areas.

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