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EMC and Microsoft are buddying up closer with an invited audience of CIOs enjoying or enduring a Steve Ballmer and Joe Tucci love-in this week during which they extended an existing alliance for another three years.

They do compete, notably with VMware versus Hyper-V; but EMC wants to sell its information infrastructure and storage gear to MIcrosoft customers, and Microsoft wants its server hardware and software products to interoperate with EMC products and be readily available through EMC's consulting services.

The event had a tripartite focus: storage and protection of information in virtualized environments, centralised management of content, and security products to prevent data loss.

The alliance involves joint engineering to increase Office and SharePoint and Documentum inter-operability so that content produced through Office and SharePoint can be stored by Documentum repositories. Microsoft values the ability to store data produced by its front-end software in back-end Documentum arcives.

We might think of EMC's information infrastructure products wrapped around a core of MIcrosoft information-producing products; Documentum working with SharePoint, Office and SQL Server, and RSA working with Active Directory.

There is a tension between the two companies here though, as Documentum's eRoom collaboration software increasingly competes with SharePoint. The RSA area is much less sullied by competition. Microsoft is integrating Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technologies from RSA into its platform and future information protection products. EMC has engineered RSA DLP Suite 6.5 with tight interoperability with Microsoft Active Directory Rights Management Services.

The event audience was told that EMC's technology products enable the storage, protection and management of information in Microsoft virtualized environments. The two presented a united and happy co-opetitive front towards their invited audience but in reality, in the desktop, server and desktop virtualization space they are deadly marketing enemies.

Microsoft would far rather CIOs use Hyper-V to virtualize servers, but recognises the VMware lead and wants ESX-adopting CIOs to have full access to its system software and middleware products as if they were running physical servers instead of virtualized ones. On the other hand it does not want to disadvantage Hyper-V.

Could Microsoft add management facilities for its system software and middleware to Hyper-V, above and beyond what customers get with VMware and make the operation of virtual machines running Microsoft software stacks easier and more efficient under Hyper-V supervision than ESX supervision?

The thing is that there is an awful lot of duplicated code execution with VMs. With ten of them running in a server, that's ten operating system instances doing more or less the same things. If you could take some of that OS functionality from the VMs and consolidate it in the hypervisor then you could run more VMs in the same server. This means taking the tack that a VM only needs a light OS to host its application and not a full-featured OS.

Traditionally Microsoft has dealt with competition by adding features to its existing products so they work better than competing ones and integrate much better with existing Microsoft products. It's seen off Lotus spreadsheets, word processing competion, Netscape browser competition and more by using this embrace and extend, integrate and bundle strategy again and again. Will it be different this time? ®

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