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VMware: EMC and Cisco own us, but we still have indie cred

Carl Eschenbach, EVP of field operations, told IDG News Service that the media is making too much of its strategic alliance with EMC and Cisco Systems. VMware, he says, is an independent infrastructure software vendor that plays nicely with Dell, HP, IBM et al. “We treat everyone equally,” he said.

VMware, Cisco and EMC formed the VCE (Virtual Computing Environment) coalition late last year, which introduced the vbBlock Infrastructure Package, a modular data center package that’s supposed to power cloud computing. It consists of fully integrated and validated bundles of software, servers, storage and network gear.  I guess Eschenbach thinks we, the media, are making too much out of the VCE coalition. But how can you avoid hyping a strategic relationship between the world’s biggest virtualization vendor, the world’s biggest storage vendor and the world’s biggest networking vendor?

And besides, VMware has more than a strategic relationship with these two companies. EMC owns 80% of VMware. In 2007, Cisco bought its own stake in the company. Yes, Cisco owns just 1.5% of VMware, but that’s probably about 100% more of an ownership stake than any VMware customer currently holds.

VMware has done a good job of staying vendor agnostic, which is important since enterprises want to be able to run a hypervisor on whatever hardware they have in their server racks. But tight relationships with partners (and part owners) will continue to be a fact of life. VMware faces some serious competition in the future from Citrix Xen and Microsoft’s Hyper V. At Interop last month, consultant Jim Metzler, of Ashton Metzler & Associates, surveyed attendees by show of hands during a panel session on virtualized application delivery appliances. First he asked attendees whether they were currently VMware shops. Nearly all of them raised their hands. Then he asked them if they expected VMware to be the only hypervisor vendor in their data center two or three years from now. No one raised a hand.

A future is coming where VMware won’t be the de facto hypervisor in data centers. How will VMware hold onto market share when Microsoft is giving away Hyper V? Advanced and innovative features and functionality is one answer. Another answer is continued strategic partnerships with key vendors, like EMC and Cisco.

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