EMC unveils the next generation data centre

Published: May 20th, 2009

Orlando – If vendors and their channel partners have one challenge in rolling-out cloud computing and embracing the benefits of its flexibility and agility, it may be helping IT managers get over their natural conservatism to change, said an executive with storage vendor EMC (NYSE: EMC) said at the company’s EMC World conference.

Speaking as part of a panel with executives from networking vendor Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and virtualization vendor VMware (NYSE: VMW) to discuss the companies’ technology alliance and vision for the next-generation data centre, Chuck Hollis, vice-president and CTO, global marketing with EMC, said IT managers are paid to be conservative, but the three companies are now able to allay many of their cloud concerns.

“There’s an optimistic mood to experiment with new things,” said Hollis. “They’re setting-up private clouds. Not with critical data, but just testing and getting comfortable. Those that are doing it are very excited. It’s a low-touch management experience.”

But it’s one that will rely heavily on skilled channel partners in an integration role said Chad Sakac, vice-president, VMware technology alliance for EMC. To make the cloud work you need networking, you need storage and you need virtualization, and you need it to all work together.

“In some ways we’re more dependant on our partner channel than other stack vendors, because customers are increasingly looking for one place to go build, assemble and make it work,” said Sakac. “Each company can do a part, but the only one who can bring the whole solution to the customer is the channel.”

Sakac adds that, in the Americas, there’s 95 per cent overlap between the top 100 partners of the three alliance vendors.

The three vendors are developing interoperable products and working together to refine their vision for the next-generation virtual data centre, which will see cloud and traditional computing resources working together seamlessly through a single management experience.

Enterprises like a vision that allows them to leverage their existing infrastructure, said Hollis, something that cloud-centric offerings such as Amazon cannot. And the key to making it work is virtualization.

Ed Bugnion, CTO of the server access and virtualization business unit at Cisco, said the cloud has three pillars. The first is virtualization, which allows the IT paradigm to shift from controlling hardware to controlling resources.

The second is networking, and the network within the data centre. The third one is more challenging, said Bugnion, and that’s scale.

“Cisco has invested in core networking products such as Nexus with scale for next-generation data centre,” said Bugnion. “We’re focused on designing products that are aware of virtualization and are able to leverage its advantages. The Cisco UCS platform is about creating the highly scalable building bock for next generation data centre.”

Parag Patel, vice-president of alliances with VMware, said their work has revolved around the three things they keep hearing from customers. The first is that their IT spend is increasingly going to maintaining existing infrastructure, leaving little budget to innovate and little flexibility to adapt to changing business needs. The second is that most companies are saddled with rigid infrastructures that can’t adapt, and the third is business agility.

With the fourth generation of its vSphere virtualization infrastructure, Patel said VMware feels it has an operating system (OS) for the data centre that lets it bring a lot of that flexibility to market.

The Competitive Landscape: Microsoft and Oracle

Don’t look for the three data centre amigos to become a foursome anytime soon by adding Microsoft. In order to do the things cloud computing is talking about, Patel said, you have to change and design your applications and infrastructure in a way that you’re not fixed to a certain OS or a certain mentality.

“For Microsoft to be up here they’ve got to really accept that notion and get out of the mentality they’ve been in, which is very Windows-based,” said Patel. “The world is shifting to a third dimension, and everyone that is stuck in their old two-dimensional paradigms is missing that.”

EMC’s Hollis added Microsoft is a strong EMC partner with their application portfolio, but when it comes to virtualization, VMware is the stronger player.

“The key for this is virtualization technology that scales, and right now we can’t get that from Microsoft,” said Hollis. “We believe that virtualization that scales is the secret sauce.”

As for Oracle, which has caught the eye of many in the storage and virtualization arenas with its Sun Microsystems and Virtual Iron acquisitions, Hollis said the pieces may be there for Oracle to challenge in the data centre but putting them together will be tricky. Cisco’s Bugnion added Oracle’s view tends to me more vertical and monolithic, while Cisco sees a desire for more diversity and choice.