All for One and One for All

The world has changed and customers are no longer content with mere solutions. For that matter, many people don’t really care about the hardware and software behind a solution. Instead, businesses want to see the outcome of IT—the actual improvements and efficiencies it can bring about.

In this new scenario it’s imperative to become a one-stop shop offering end-to-end solutions. Back that up with a trusted and credible name and a large customer base.

Companies have a certain set of skills and are good at a finite set of things. For the missing pieces, they either acquire or associate with other companies that have the core technologies they’d like to have—often paying millions or even billions of dollars for it. But wait, there’s another motive to this.

Take Cisco for instance. I think of Cisco as a networking company with expertise in switching technology, first. Cisco has been on an acquisition spree through the years, gobbling companies for expertise in voice and video over networks. It’s most recent acquisition was Tandberg, the Norwegian conferencing solutions company. Today Cisco has even got into the server business, long the domain of IBM, Sun and HP.

HP recently acquired networking stalwart 3Com and this acquisition will give its ProCurve business a major boost next year. 3Com has also got a firm presence in the Chinese market, one that no one can ignore today. But there’s another motive behind this acquisition—it is a step closer to HP’s data center vision—an environment that brings together servers, storage, networking, management, facilities and services. HP calls this Converged Infrastructure. Cisco is onto something similar and calls theirs the Unified Computing System (UCS); it’s their version of the virtual data center.

By acquiring a series of companies with core skills, one will eventually be able to offer all layers of the stack. But where such acquisitions are not possible there is always the option of collaboration and coalition. A recent and notable example is the coalition between Cisco, EMC and VMware, forming the Virtual Computing Environment coalition. This partnership will set new standards for, and revolutionize private cloud infrastructures.

But the idea of converged network architecture, recently proposed by HP, Cisco and others, isn’t new. In fact a company called Liquid Computing had suggested this back in 2005. It has already deployed its LiquidIQ ‘data center in a chassis,’ at customer sites. In this converged system, server, network, storage and operating system, and associated physical and virtual connections, are represented as logical components manageable via a LiquidIQ interface or through existing management systems.

While converged network architectures aim to take the complexity out of integrating disparate IT systems, the real winners will be the enterprises. Customers will now be able to increase business agility at a faster pace thanks to IT infrastructure flexibility and because of lower costs for operating IT infrastructure in converged or virtual data center environments.