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Essential component suppliers

The essential components are the four categories above; servers, virtualisation software, networking (FCoE and 10GbE), and storage. How are suppliers doing so far?

Only Citrix/Red Hat, Microsoft, and VMware have the virtualising software needed, with VMWare furthest along the road to integrated virtualised server and data centre software with APIs for networking and storage. Microsoft's Hyper-V, positioned to be adopted by large numbers of existing Microsoft customers, will probably develop in the same way and we might expect some linkage between Hyper-V and Windows to enable a Hyper-V server to run more Windows and Linux virtual machines (VMs) than an ESX server. After all, there is much code in Windows - multi-tasking, for example - that can be junked in a single-app VM environment, and various Windows services could be sent upstairs to Hyper-V.

All other suppliers will use hypervisors and data centre-level software from these three sources. Oracle/Sun might try to propose a Solaris-based stack with Solaris containers instead. That will depend on Oracle's intentions - and we await those with interest.

None of the virtualising software vendors looks as if they could build a complete systems offering. EMC is furthest along this road, having both the leading virtualisation software supplier - VMware - and being the leading storage supplier to enterprise data centres. But it shows no signs of wanting to acquire a server supplier or a networking supplier.

Microsoft's traditional relationship with hardware vendors of the server, storage, and networking persuasion is to partner with them openly, favouring none. It has the financial resources to build a complete system, but to do so would be pretty much counter to its DNA.

Servers

Servers can come from Intel OEMs or AMD OEMs. It's entirely possible IBM will propose Power-based server complexes and even develop its mainframes into private cloud service utility machines, if it hasn't already done so, but the mainstream will be X86.

Blade and rack server suppliers such as Rackable and Verari could, do in fact, compete here, but will need compelling integrated storage, networking, and virtualisation software in a complete-system package that is differentiated from Cisco, HP, IBM, Oracle/Sun, and the potential Japanese supplier. They might look for private cloud niches to specialise in as a way of limiting the demand on their resources. Either or both might even get bought by a server supplier needing to strengthen its offering to the private cloud data centre market.

Cisco, HP, and IBM are confirmed players in the complete-systems market. To my mind Dell is not. It has the blade servers, already OEMs VMware and Microsoft software, and has both in-house (EqualLogic) and OEM'ed EMC Clariion storage. However, it doesn't have any more scalable storage than Clariion and, so far, has no expressed FCoE strategy. Clearly there is the potential for Dell to strengthen its storage offerings - but does it have the corporate will?

Dell also OEMs networking products from both Cisco and Brocade and has made no signs at all about distancing itself from Cisco or getting closer to Brocade. It's as if Dell is ruminating what to do. Can it afford, in the long term, not to be a complete-systems supplier to the private cloud market? Will there be any viable complete-systems suppliers to that market who OEM Dell servers?

Many people would answer these questions "No" and "No", in which case Dell has to assemble the components it needs and step up to the mark. How it will assemble the missing storage and network pieces is an interesting question.

HP and IBM have in-house storage products which they can integrate into their product offering. Cisco does not, hence its partnerships with EMC and NetApp. HP also has its in-house ProCurve networking products, an offering IBM lacks, and is probably the strongest complete-system private cloud vendor at present.

Oracle/Sun has in-house storage and networking, although the Sun networking products are not as well-positioned or as rounded as either Cisco's or HP's. Sun's Open Storage ideas are right on the money for building commoditised storage with commoditised software. But it all depends upon Oracle's intentions as to whether this will see the light of day.

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