Mountain speculation on EMC/Cisco joint venture

Taking a peak at Alpine plans

EMC and Cisco are discussing a joint venture centred on Alpine, a one stop enterprise VAR shop focussed on selling and installing integrated Cisco servers and networking, with EMC storage.

These details come from a Wall Street Journal report and help confirm an earlier tip.

Cisco needs a new outlet for its UCS servers, as existing server networking product reselling partners Dell, HP and IBM won't sell its UCS blade servers. The lack of an integrated storage component for UCS has been widely noted.

Alpine will have board representation from both Cisco and EMC. Its backers and the enterprise data centre market suggest it will be an international venture and will need to include consulting, implementation, installation and support service skills.

VMware is not involved in the discussions although - since EMC owns VMware - it is only an arms-length away, and a UCS+Nexus+Symmetrix/Clariion/Atmos product set would need VMware's ESX and virtual machines to get it up and running. This implies that Alpine will need to have the system software skills and business application smarts needed to present a persuasive case to customers to buy its products and services. It cannot simply be a hardware value-added reseller (VAR)

What we are looking at here is a kind of Cisco-EMC Global Services start-up. Both companies have their own independent service organisations and some personnel could, or must, transfer from these bodies to the Alpine JV if it comes into being. That would give it existing skill sets as a foundation.

It seems inevitable that cloud computing would feature in the Alpine offering and services.

One tack the two companies could take is to buy an existing global enterprise services and systems integration company and use that as a foundation rather than set up a green field services company. There are no indications that this route to market is being chosen.

If Cisco sets up a JV with EMC that emphasises EMC storage for UCS, then Cisco's relationships with other storage companies, such as NetApp which is focussed heavily on its Cisco relationship, could be prejudiced and weakened.

Also, Cisco's relationships with the main server vendors, already compromised by its entry into the server market, could be further eroded by its support for EMC storage, in competition with the server vendors' own storage.

An Alpine JV formation could accelerate the production of integrated server+networking+storage offerings by Dell, HP and IBM as an answer to a Cisco+EMC combination and have an impact on stand-alone, general enterprise storage vendors such as HDS, NetApp and others.

Both Cisco and EMC are reported as offering no comments on the JV discussions. ®

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