Posts Tagged Infrastructure 3.0
Over a year ago, I posed the question, “Does 10Gb Ethernet change the Competitive landscape?” Cisco has been the dominant player in networking, for over a decade no competitor ever captured even ten percent of the market. While Ethernet is continuing its march into new markets and new applications, the market landscape has definitely changed. Fresh off of VMworld, there is a buzz in the networking world around new opportunities and architectures.
The Big Trends
Over 18 months ago, when EMC and Cisco created a joint venture (with some involvement from VMware and Intel), there was talk of hardware (the Vblock which includes Cisco’s then new UCS server), management software and even the joint support; but the purpose of the endeavor was to deliver new ITaaS solutions for both enterprises and service providers. Over the first year, there were a number of changes made to the business model, switching from what was essentially a reference model that could be assembled by VARs and SIs to single-SKU offerings that would be shipped from The VCE Company. A services option, “Acadia”, that would build, operate and transfer the solution was dropped, reducing potential competitive friction with service providers who are a primary customer base. Now at over 900 employees, the significant investment in the VCE model has come under question by some. The investments by EMC and Cisco in VCE are a bet on the future of IT that is high stakes/high return. This is not a little 3-month project, but a strategic move to pivot toward the next transformation of IT that will deliver billions of dollars of hardware and services.
After a blockbuster year of storage acquisitions in 2010 with over $1B spent each on 3PAR, Isilon, Compellent, many have predicted that 2011 would be the year of networking acquisitions. Many look at Cisco’s entrance into the server business as having a ripple effect of server vendors expanding into the networking space, most notably with HP’s acquisition of 3COM and to a lesser extent IBM’s BNT purchase. This week, Intel signed an agreement to acquire merchant silicon vendor Fulcrum Microsystems and Dell announced the intent to acquire networking equipment vendor Force10. While financial terms have not been disclosed, both of these deals are estimated to be in the hundreds of $Ms and complement existing portfolios rather than changes in market direction or severing of existing partnerships.
HP helped create Silicon Valley and is one of only a handful of technology brands that is known worldwide. Being a huge company of over 300 thousand employees with many products and services, it can be difficult to pin down what HP’s mission is today. At HP Discover this week, over ten thousand gather to get an update on HP’s enterprise businesses. While competitors deride HP as “the printer company”, HP has a broad portfolio and enviable market positions. While the press is fast to talk about startups and up-and-coming competition, HP is #1 is servers, #1 in bladeservers, #2 in networking and #3 in external storage (and #1 for total storage). Two years ago, Dave Donatelli left EMC (where he spent 22 years) to take over HP’s Enterprise Servers, Storage and Network (ESSN) division. Through a mix of internal developments, acquisitions and combinations of technology, Donatelli has a clear goal for ESSN – to be the leader in converged solutions for next-generation data centers and the building blocks of cloud offerings.
Optimism was abundant at Interop in Las Vegas this week. Attendance and energy was up from the more economically subdued shows of the last two years. While I only got to spin through the event for a few hours, I did get to talk to a bunch of the companies and bloggers at the show. While cloud (and the fabric networking that enable scalable architectures) may have been the big theme, but the undertone in the networking space was attacking Cisco while they are believed to be vulnerable due to some soft financial results and restructuring.
The storage industry is notoriously slow at adopting change. So, how does the storage industry continue to innovate while not failing on the mission of storing, protecting and extracting value from data? In my last post, I looked at how server and desktop virtualization are forcing functions for evolving the role of the storage administrator. Convergence solutions (both network and full stack solutions) are blurring the lines between the silos and moving many IT practitioners towards the role of an IT generalist. This transition will better management tools, training and a desire for companies to change.
Last week, Storage Networking World (SNW), the “World’s Largest Storage, Data Center and IT Infrastructure Conference” brought together a couple thousand people to hear the latest in storage optimization and innovation. With the big trends of virtualization, convergence and cloud computing, it is without a doubt that the role of the storage administrator is evolving. While streamlining roles can help improve operational expenses, when it comes to storage, data availability and data integrity must be maintained. There are a number of solutions that are looking to transform and potentially chip away at the traditional storage administrator’s role.
The networking space is in the midst of significant changes. The starting point is the transition to higher speeds, with most customers finally moving to 10Gb Ethernet (almost a decade after the standard was ratified), and 40Gb and 100Gb solutions starting to become available. But the real drivers that make networking strategic to IT are the trends of virtualization, convergence and cloud. As has been the case for the last decade, the conversation of the marketplace starts with Cisco. Cisco has been talking about “Data Center 3.0” for over three years; today’s Cisco announcement (here’s the PR) is delivering on a number of pieces of the vision. As Cisco pushes into adjacent server market, it finds the networking marketplace more competitive than it has been in many years.
In the storage networking space, convergence has been the hot topic for the last four years. I will be attending SNW in 2 weeks and a quick look at the agenda shows that “converged” or “unified” trail only “cloud” in buzzword bingo. I wrote recently about how FCoE sales are doing well in embedded and rack-based solutions. While the move to Ethernet based storage networks is growing, there are many things that customers and vendors can do to accelerate this transition. The storage industry is notoriously slow to change and this is about more than just a protocol transition (which always take much longer than anticipated). The imperative for companies to adopt converged infrastructure is that CIOs are under tremendous pressures to lower costs, IT must compete with cloud pricing models and staffs are increasingly moving from specialists to generalists. While some customers will wait until FCoE ships as part of a standard configuration (expect more LOM solutions when Intel’s Sandy Bridge servers roll out), here are my recommendations for the industry on accelerating convergence.