NetApp Acquires Akorri: A Nice Band-Aid To A Complex Problem

NetApp has announced their plans to acquire Akorri Networks.  While the terms of the deal are unknown, we do know that Akorri raised over $50 million dollars in VC funding and that they have over 200 customers.  We also know that Akorri “develops cross-domain analytical software solutions that optimize performance and utilization in the dynamic data center.”

Underneath the marketing literature, Akorri plays in the crowded space of Virtualization Capacity and Performance Management with a twist; they have concentrated on storage bottlenecks within a virtual infrastructure.  Akorri supports VMware and Hyper-V as well as storage systems from NetApp, Dell, HP, IBM, LSI, EMC, and HDS.

Meanwhile, NetApp has become quite a virtualization storage powerhouse that includes FlexPod, a partnership with Cisco and VMware. Moreover, this is not NetApp’s first rodeo as they acquired Onaro, storage management software, in January of 2008.  Unlike their competitors, NetApp managed to integrate rather than deprecate Onaro’s software, as it remains very much alive within NetApp’s software portfolio branded as OnCommand Management Software (OMS).

Why does this matter?  While we are firmly within the grasps of an IT paradigm shift, there are major challenges that require both short-term band-aids and long-term solutions.  After years of hiding behind the silo’d walls of IT, storage is such an area.  Specifically, storage is becoming a major bottleneck for virtualization deployments and a major headache for traditional IT Management Frameworks.

Clearly, NetApp understands this challenge and I can only surmise that their customers are clamoring for a solution.  Although Akorri does not address the long-term challenge, they do offer NetApp a nice band-aid with the ability to extend OMS to provide their customers a view into their virtualization storage bottlenecks.  I’d expect two versions of this new solution offering both a NetApp only and an Expanded solution.

Meanwhile, it is time to address the long-term challenge of the next generation datacenter.  Virtualization is an incredible technology, but we cannot forget the physical world that includes servers, storage, networking, and security.  We cannot forget the applications, both old and new, that are the centerpiece of this revolution.  We cannot forget the dynamics of a changing world and its hunger for ‘Green’ solutions.  We cannot forget the tremendous complexities and pressures that the next-generation datacenter imposes on system engineers and their operation counterparts.

Ah, but that’s another blog post.  For now, let’s celebrate that Akorri has found a new home while NetApp has added a nice band-aid to a complex problem.

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Fun Alert: Insane 2011 Predictions That May Come True

Google Acquires Level 3 Communications

Really?  Forget net-neutrality, think fiber and capacity management.  Google gains a worldwide network and a host of services and options to redefine the Internet.  Google’s itching for another industry to transform, and the service provider market is ripe for the picking.  By streamlining processes, costs, and creating a true cloud, Google can change the game while laying the foundation for some incredible mobile products and services.

Apple Acquires Sony Corporation

Why?  How about content, home entertainment, consumer electronics, and more.  Imagine Sony TV’s pre-loaded with Apple TV or PS3 with an ‘Apple-like’ interface.  Apple would gain content via Sony Pictures, cameras, a massive distribution channel, and control of standards, patents, and more.  In the end, Apple would restore Sony to their former glory while drastically expanding their breadth and depth of products.

Cisco Acquires SAVVIS

Huh?  As Cisco is dead serious about the cloud and Infrastructure as a service, purchasing SAVVIS would give Cisco a ‘enterprise-class converged cloud solution.’  Plus, SAVVIS is a huge Cisco customer and early adopter, so Cisco wouldn’t’ need to swap out hardware as UCS is already in-play here.  Cisco gains data center expertise, IAAS, SAAS, Hosting, Content Management, and more while moving ever closer to end-customer and consumer.

Dell Acquires Brocade

Are you kidding me?  Dell needs an Ethernet and storage networking presence and they need it right now.  By purchasing Brocade and integrating their product sets, Dell can finally go toe-to-toe with HP and IBM.  Additionally, Foundry products finally get the sales and distribution channel they need to compete with Cisco, HP, and Juniper.  Dell would streamline manufacturing, sales, marketing, and more to create a viable alternative to HP’s growing ProCurve business.

Baidu Buys Yahoo

Never!  Baidu (the student) comes into the US Market flush with cash to buy Yahoo (the teacher).  Baidu would gain a US presence while putting their thumb in Google’s eye.  Yahoo gets an injection of cash and swagger, as they focus on platform services and open source projects.  Meanwhile, Microsoft quietly wins here as they continue to work with Yahoo/Baidu and expand their Chinese presence.

Huawei Buys Juniper

Come on?  Shunned by Dell, Juniper has little options as IBM refuses to enter the networking hardware business.  Huawei desperately wants to enter the North American Market, and Juniper’s name and mix of service provider and enterprise customers are just the ticket.  Huawei would quickly ramp up Juniper’s product line while introducing new lines of business including wireless carrier infrastructure, storage networking, and more.

Oracle Buys NetApp

Finally something we can agree on!  While Oracle/Sun have some amazing storage products, NetApp gives Oracle legitimate world-class storage solutions.  Oracle could leverage NetApp within their next generation ‘Exa’ products while refining how Oracle products perform on NetApp storage.  Meanwhile, Oracle/NetApp will make billions from FlexPods while moving closer to Cisco.

Can Cisco Eat their EMC and Have Their NetApp To?

With 2010 nearing a close, could Cisco be contemplating another major acquisition to complete their next generation datacenter portfolio?  The last glaring hole within Cisco’s portfolio is their reliance on outside vendors for storage solutions.

Over the past few months, Cisco has patiently watched as HP purchased 3Par, EMC purchased Isilon, and Dell is acquiring Compellent.  Meanwhile, EMC’s arch nemesis NetApp continues to grow and innovate in a tough economy.

Further complicating matters, is Cisco’s reliance on the VCE, a partnership between VMware, Cisco, EMC, and Intel.  It is no coincidence that the current Vblock VCE Reference Architectures specifies EMC storage offerings (CLARiiON, Symmetrix, and Celerra).

Not to be left out of the party, NetApp entered into  ‘collaboration’ with Cisco and VMware creating FlexPod that delivers ‘leading computing, networking, storage, and infrastructure software components’.  It seems that Cisco isn’t the only one hedging their bets as VMware exerts a rebellious streak against their parent (EMC).

Cisco’s future hinges around UCS being adopted as a true next generation computing platform without legacy baggage.  Cisco did not go to war with HP while potentially jeopardizing their relationship with IBM only to be saddled with the competing interests of three large companies.

In the past, I have speculated that Cisco should simply purchase EMC thereby owing a majority stake in VMware.  However is NetApp a better choice?  After all, does VMware need to maintain a ‘Microsoft’ level of independence from the server vendors?  Would HP, IBM, Dell, etc. be inclined to sell a product that lines the pocket of Cisco?

Only Chambers (ok perhaps Ellison as well) would be as bold to acquire an enemy of one of their strategic partners.  By acquiring NetApp, Cisco would be able to offer innovative solutions such as storage blades for UCS or even accelerate the adoption of FCoE.  Imagine a new Cisco Architecture with Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus, Cisco MDS, Cisco FlexPod, and Cisco Management with the availability of VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Microsoft virtualization.

In the end, Cisco could offer a true end-to-end solution as they continue to lead within the edge and core routing markets with near dominance in the switching market.  Furthermore, Cisco would stand alone as the only integrated next generation data center provider that does not develop or sell enterprise class applications such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc.  In effect, they become the Switzerland of computing against their rivals.

The only question is how long will Cisco be able to ‘Eat their EMC and have their NetApp to’? Don’t look now, but perhaps Larry (Oracle) will crash this party and make the decision for then.

Three Cheers: Cisco Unleashes a UCS Surprise with ‘xBlocks’

With today’s webcast and subsequent announcements, Cisco showed their continued focus and commitment to the UCS platform.  The results are breathtaking; a new B230 M1 ½ blade with 16 cores and 2048/4096GB of memory, a new Nexus 5500 series that doubles the port density of the previous generation 1U models for up to 960Gbps of throughput, and virtual appliances for both Virtual Security and WAAS.  Perhaps the most interesting announcement of the webcast focused on VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) sporting a partnership between Cisco, Citrix, and NetApp that I’m dubbing xBlocks.

Like vBlocks, xBlocks maintain their own Reference Architecture that was jointly developed by Citrix and NetApp and validated by Cisco as a CVD (Cisco Validated Design).  Unlike vBlocks, xBlocks shed VMware for Citrix and offer an implementation based on Citrix’s XenDesktop infrastructure.  Additionally EMC is swapped for NetApp as they are the perfect non-competitive complement to Citrix.

While Cisco is heavily invested in VMware, this announcement demonstrates Cisco’s desire to broaden the UCS audience.  Of course, this isn’t the first time Cisco has ventured from VMware’s path as in June of 2010 Cisco announced a strengthening of their relationship with Red Hat and their KVM hypervisor.

Finally, Cisco confirmed 1700 UCS customers worldwide with 200 Unified Computing Authorized Technology Providers (ATP).  This means that Cisco almost doubled the total number of UCS customers from the quarter before.  If anyone doubted Cisco’s ability to disrupt the server market, then these numbers clearly demonstrate that Cisco is succeeding at an alarming rate to their competitors.

Is Cisco blowing up the old notion that innovation only comes from start-ups or small companies?  Are Chambers’ course corrections leading to a right hand turn and the complete transformation of an industry giant?  Is HP focused on this market or are they too busy buying and integrating companies?  Is Larry pacing his mansion contemplating how to leverage Sun to get into this fight?

Three cheers to Cisco:  innovators without baggage, partnerships without exclusivity, and a platform that is breathtaking.  What’s next, I can’t wait!

Enterasys Joins the Datacenter Fight; Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight

Enterasys joins the growing list of network equipment vendors unveiling their vaunted datacenter strategy with the hopes of derailing their larger competitor’s plans.  Enterasys’ hope hinges on a “vendor agnostic” datacenter strategy and is based on their S-series switches with their policy-based operations model.  By supporting multiple virtualization and storage vendors, Enterasys is banking the farm on best-of-breed architectures and emerging IEEE standards.

While Enterasys’ strategy looks good on a press release, it may have been their only option.  Faced with the reality that Dell has decided to team with Juniper Networks, IBM is remaining “neutral” (for now), HP does not need another switch, Brocade purchased Foundry Networks, and Cisco is Cisco, there is little room for Enterasys to partner with a major U.S. manufacturer.  However, would an International partnership make sense?  Aren’t they stronger outside of North America?

Additionally, does Enterasys really believe that Cisco, HP, and Brocade will not support 3rd party vendor solutions?  The last time I looked, Cisco’s MDS supports EMC, HDS, IBM, HP, NetApp, and more.  Cisco’s UCS-B supports multiple hypervisors including offerings from both VMware and Microsoft. Finally, do you remember Cisco’s Open Partner Ecosystem that “helps stimulate technology innovation, augment service delivery, and accelerate market adoption of Unified Computing”?  The same could be said, in varying degrees, about HP and Brocade.  Therefore, what is new or different about Enterasys’ solution?

Perhaps, Enterasys’ will attempt to differentiate their virtualization support via their superior policy-based security and templates.  However, isn’t that simply a different way to do virtual machine profile mapping ala Cisco and Brocade?  Don’t get me wrong; Enterasys has some very interesting and innovative technology but their lack of market power and limited product portfolio puts them at risk of getting lost in the shuffle.

In the end, Enterasys faces an uphill battle against their larger and higher profile competitors.  The war for the next generation datacenter is in full swing and Cisco and HP are proving plenty of “shock and awe” while Juniper, Brocade, Dell, and IBM have their guns locked and loaded.

In the future, Enterasys’ relationship with Siemens Enterprise Communications may yield additional firepower.  However, right now Enterasys is bringing a knife to a gunfight.

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