In the last two years Cisco made at least two long-term key investments in the server market: invested over $150 million in VMware and became a player with its own blade system Unified Computing System (UCS).
Cisco wants to sell and interconnect next generation data centers. To do so it needs servers, storage, networking, software abstraction and software management.
EMC is helping with storage and software management, VMware is helping with software abstraction.
The three worked together for some months and then announced a formal coalition, that will sell these integrated data centers through channels and direct relationship with customers (through a company called Acadia).
The joint effort of these three companies may be just an elaborate (yet remarkable) marketing exercise, but it certainly had an impact on the market.
It may have forced IBM to attempt the acquisition of Sun (which ultimately went to Oracle).
It may have forced HP to buy 3Com for $2.7 billion.
HP is the company that has the most to lose because of the VMware-Cisco-EMC coalition considering that it currently sells 36% of all physical servers that will run virtualized workloads, and that it’s the leader in this segment, ahead of Dell and IBM.
Cisco may use VMware to slip into the enterprises where HP reigns, like it attempted to do on the VMworld 2009 data center.
If Cisco becomes a real threat, HP will need servers, storage, networking, software management and software abstraction to counter it.
The question is not if HP wants or not to adopt a strategy that is similar to the Cisco one. The question is how long before the Cisco plans will allow HP to play nice with all three major virtualization vendors instead of buying the only one it can?