Last March, Cisco made a surprise announcement of its plan to sell servers; in April, Oracle declared its bid to buy Sun. Cisco followed up by teaming with EMC and its subsidiary VMware to launch Vblocks: integrated packages of server, networking and storage hardware, and virtualisation and management software, intended as building blocks for virtualised data centres. Oracle in turn disclosed plans to combine Suns technology with its own to create a one-stop technology shop.
The common theme is technology convergence, and the need to combat the ever-increasing complexity of IT systems, by providing customers with ready-integrated systems. This is a revival of the classic idea of packaged, turnkey systems, in a modern setting of virtualised, low-cost x64 hardware. Alongside Vblock, another example is the system in a shipping container that HP and Microsoft are developing, which Microsoft has described as the next generation of mainframe. This will undoubtedly knit together Microsofts virtualisation and server management software with HPs server, storage and networking gear.
The biggest risk for vendors teaming up to deliver such integrated systems is that customers will be put off by the inability to mix and match products from other suppliers. This is exactly why HP and Microsoft promise that they will continue to work with each others rivals.
More could come, but do not count on it
Despite some inevitable overlaps, HP and Microsofts product and services portfolios are clearly complementary, and as a result a deeper relationship between the two is very possible. However, it is equally possible that the new deal will not move far beyond joint marketing of a range of product bundles. HP and Microsoft have only promised comprehensive technology integration, not the deep integration of technology convergence.
Timothy Stammers is senior analyst with Ovum.
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