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Cisco edges away from VMware, tries Red Hat on for size

Drives nails forged with Red Hat iron into VCE's coffin

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Blocks and Files From co-operation to co-op-etition and then competition: it's happening in front of our eyes with EMC and Cisco. The choreography involves Cisco working more and more with Red Hat and its KVM server hypervisor and less with EMC subsidiary VMware's ESX.

Red Hat is joining in with Cisco and working with its OpFlex protocol in Netzilla's ACI take on nearly but not quite open software-defined networking. Red Hat sees ACI involvement as a way of spreading its KVM technology and outflanking VMware.

The open source solution provider announced its participation in the ACI effort with Tim Burke, Red Hat VP for virtualization and cloud development, stating: "Red Hat ... firmly believes that collaborative development is the driving force of innovation. Linux and OpenStack are ... remarkable examples of what can be accomplished through this community-powered innovation.... Red Hat is excited to be collaborating with Cisco to offer our customers an Application Centric Infrastructure that is integrated with Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform."

It continued: "Application-centric networking requires tight integration of the Linux operating system platform and KVM hypervisor with advanced policy-based networking provided by Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure."

There are three levels of innovation, Burke says:

  • OpenStack Networking (Neutron) - network plugins enabling the configuration and policy, as well as upcoming OpenStack Orchestration (Heat) programme
  • Open vSwitch - by integrating Cisco's OpFlex interfaces supporting policy, Red Hat will "accelerate the ability to efficiently perform configuration between switches and controllers"
  • OpenDaylight - controller level complement to above components enabling the policy and configuration to take effect on the network plane.

Little guys always big up the impact of partnership with big guys. Here's Burke doing just that: "The most awesome aspect of Cicso's collaboration with Red Hat to drive this open source innovation is that by working together, writing code and defining the interfaces with the community, we are creating de facto multi-vendor standardisation."

Red Hat does have storage software, its Red Hat Storage Server, but it has had relatively little impact. A Cisco UCS server running RHEL and KVM with attached Invicta flash arrays and Cisco network gear could be a nice converged box.

What's next?

VCE vBlocks could face cBlocks, all-Cisco hardware with RHEL/KVM providing the server virtualisation and ACI doing a software-defined networking gig. NetApp and the Flexpod initiative should be OK, as NetApp has no particular server ambitions.

In the converged infrastructure stakes, you need server hardware, server software, networking hardware and software, and storage software and hardware.

Cisco has server hardware, networking hardware and software and some storage - the Invicta all-flash arrays. Partnering Red Hat to get the server virtualisation piece looks good. If Red Hat introduces a VSAN-like storage software offering so much the better. NetApp can add the missing storage pieces.

EMC has storage hardware and software, server virtualisation software and some network software (VMware's Nicira stuff). It has to partner for server and network hardware.

It seems to us Vulturites that having stuff in-house is fundamentally better than partnering, as converged infrastructure's integration can be so much deeper and co-ordinated.

DIY is best

EMC may well have to partner, possibly OEM, a Taiwanese white box server manufacturer, one building servers to Facebook Open Compute Project standards. Then it could give Cisco UCS servers a run for their money.

It also needs networking hardware. Brocade would be eager to partner EMC and, we would guess, ecstatic to be acquired.

What are you EMC? A limited bore networked storage supplier plus server virtualisation software and this developing Pivotal stuff, or a full bore converged infrastructure IT supplier?

How can EMC compete effectively with the cloud - Amazon, Google, Azure - which presents all its infrastructure as converged, unless it has its own in-house converged infrastructure which it can sell at affordable prices?

This could be Joe Tucci's last great challenge; how to move EMC up to the next level and compete on an equal fitting with Cisco, Dell, HP and IBM. Does he want EMC to do this? Has he got the energy and ambition to do it?

So ... Joe ... are you up for it?

Put it another way: we are watching the converged infrastructure supplier tectonic plates shifting in real time, with a series of mini earthquakes happening one after another. This Red Hat Cisco deal around ACI is one such quake and signals to this Vulturite that VCE will soon be facing an end game. ®

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