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IT utilities, the biggest game in town

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Networking vendors

Only Cisco has the market penetration, resources, and ambition to go it alone and develop its own complete system with in-house servers and networking, OEM'ed virtualisation software, and certified storage from partners such as EMC and NetApp. All other networking players will need 10GbE switching and routing products plus partnerships to become an essential component supplier.

That's why Brocade bought Foundry and is establishing closer ties with HP and, more substantial already, IBM. It's also why Broadcom, an Ethernet switch vendor, is trying to buy FCoE IP-owner Emulex, and produce a product set encompassing server attach and offload for FCoE, TCP/IP, and iSCSI, and Ethernet switching that can deal with these three protocols. With Emulex having relationships with storage vendors, courtesy of its in-array switching and bridging technologies, Broadcom will be seeing opportunities there as well.

Other potential 10GbE-based networking players are Blade Network Technologies, Juniper - with an existing IBM relationship but no FCoE - and Extreme Networks. Their table stakes as a private cloud networking-component player have to include FCoE.

The only remaining FCoE-capable supplier is QLogic. Instead of pursuing an acquisition, merger, or takeover with a networking vendor, QLogic has chosen to buy NetXen and secure its own 10GbE technology.

This could imply that QLogic sees a viable future as a stand-alone supplier of server-edge network-attach products - adapters in either card or chip format, and that same technology stack used by switch and storage array vendors. On the other hand, it might be QLogic's way of making itself more desirable to a possible acquirer.

Storage vendors

Storage vendors need to decide if they want to supply the highly scalable, highly reliable, and modular storage closely integrated with VMware and Hyper-V and, to a lesser extent, with Citrix/Red Hat, or not. An absolute requirement is a roadmap to native FCoE support and, most probably, a multi-tiered storage offer embracing solid state drives (SSDs) or large controller flash caches - or both - for very fast-access data, Fibre Channel and SAS drives for fast access data, and SATA drives for bulk storage.

They will have to integrate with the virtualisation software for thin provisioning, disaster recovery, VM migration, and data protection. They will also have to integrate with complete-systems suppliers, either on an OEM basis or on a certified-partner basis.

EMC and NetApp have stepped up to the table. Who else is a candidate?

Hitachi Data Systems obviously. Like Dell there is a lack of public committment to the idea of getting involved with complete-system private cloud supply, though. HDS has to partner; it has no other choice if it is going to play.

There is also 3PAR, an existing enterprise data centre storage supplier with a utility storage idea that is already attractive to service providers, and a demonstrated will to integrate closely with VMware. It's easy to conceive of 3PAR positioning itself as a storage supplier to Cisco, and any other complete-system supplier lacking an in-house storage product line or wishing to broaden their overall storage offer.

Lastly there is Sun.

All other storage suppliers that do not have enterprise data centre products or customers are prevented from playing at this essential component table. That means Compellant, Copan, Infortrend, NEC, Nexsan, Pillar Data, Xiotech, and others.

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