Thursday, July 15, 2010

The four datacenter horsemen - who will they be?

I've been watching some of the network manufacture market transitions happening right now and the rapid changes going on in the data center and networking market space. I think there will be four main players who I am calling the four datacenter horsemen who will be calling the shots in the future - leading players of the apocalypse I guess. This is all me having fun guessing what will go on so don't hold me to it and of course, this is only my opinion.

Team #1 is made up of Cisco/EMC/VMware due to their partnership arrangement. This partnership for taking over the data center is what caused all sorts of realignments in the industry in the first place. Specifically, with the falling out of HP and Cisco over servers and HP now having a full portfolio of network, servers and storage to go after the data center space that Cisco has traditionally shared with HP it begs the question - what next?

Granted I agree that HP, team #2, does not have a fully competitive network/storage solution when compared to the Cisco Nexus + UCS solution but they are close enough that folks are picking sides. Certainly it can be argued that HP has much more depth in the server market space and a longer deeper relationship with Microsoft to cover the hypervisor gap.

So, what other teams are out there? We can't leave IBM out of the game, they have a partner arrangement with Juniper and I would not be surprised if IBM considered buying Juniper up to cover the gap in the network portfolio. IBM has storage covered and has been doing professional services and large scale data center work since the beginning of the industry - so I say they are team #3.

Who is team #4? I think Oracle with their recent Sun acquisition is the answer. I also think since they have a storage arm from Sun that they could easily fill the networking gap by buying Brocade and then potentially developing in house (Sun team) a networking solution complement to the Foundry arm of Brocade or picking up a smaller Ethernet vendor like Force10 or Extreme to help round out the portfolio. Oracle already has a hypervisior and so does Sun so they have lots of software to leverage and they can strong arm customers into buying a "blessed" data center deployment solution that runs Oracle top to bottom and compete against everyone else.

So, who is left out of this game? I guess Dell falls back to a distant #5, and while they technically have server, storage (EqualLogic) and network their story is incomplete and their solution do not align with a complete data center story. Also marginalized are SAP, Microsoft, Novell, RedHat, Citrix and several others that used to have very strategic partnerships which now will not be as important for those four horsemen in the immediate future. And then there are folks like NetApp, F5, Riverbed, Infoblox and others who will have to fit into this ecosystem partner arrangement without being swallowed up.

I think the next 3-4 years are going to be some of the most interesting and fast moving for the data center market space. To think, we haven't even addressed the SaaS/Cloud market space that Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure) and others are rapidly pushing forward. Perhaps Microsoft will leapfrog everyone at the end of the day and the four datacenter horsemen won't even be relevant because you won't need a data center anymore. Hard to imagine? Is that the real apocalypse for data center, where the four horsemen aren't even relevant to the process for most customers?
- Ed

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