VMware announced this morning that it was joining Cisco's Unified Computing System initiative by entering into an OEM agreement with the network infrastructure provider. According to a VMware news release, the agreement will encompass "product engineering and integrated sales and support strategies for datacenter virtualization and unified computing."

VMware's announcement was among a host of partnership announcements this morning from other vendors, including Microsoft, BMC, Intel, EMC, and others. According to Mario Mazzola, senior vice president of the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit at Cisco, the Cisco Unified Computing System leverages the advent and widespread adoption of virtualization to "transform the computing environment" and help businesses realize extra cost and efficiency savings. Cisco's UCS announcement fits neatly with VMware's announced plan for their Virtual Data Center Operating System (VDC-OS), which VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz unveiled at VMworld 2008 last year.

"Taking advantage of this architectural shift in the data center, we developed a unique new computing model that transforms the data center into a dynamic IT environment with the power to increase productivity, improve business agility and drive the benefits of virtualization to an entirely new level," Mazzola said. Cisco's efforts to build a new datacenter platform--based on Cisco-branded blade servers--that knits together virtualization, storage, compute, and network resources into a cohesive platform also puts it at odds with hardware providers HP, IBM, and Dell, which are also seeking to become a one-stop shop for datacenter products and services.

The Cisco agreement with Microsoft was of a more limited scope, with Cisco agreeing to resell and support Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V technology, Windows Server 2003, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. Microsoft also said that it would work closely with Cisco to ensure that the Microsoft System Center family of products integrates with the Unified Computing System.

In a statement timed to coincide with the Cisco news, Microsoft's Bill Laing -- Corporate Vice President of the Windows Server and Solutions Group -- stressed the need for customers to find a business IT solution with integreated management features. "Cisco’s Unified Computing System running our Windows Server platform brings all those pieces together.”

While the addition of Microsoft as a Unified Computing System partner is a must from an integration standpoint, Cisco's stated vision for this new platform more closely follows VMware's announced product roadmap than Microsoft's announced virtualization efforts. A key piece of functionality required for Cisco's solution to work is the ability to easily copy, move, and migrate virtual machines across physical servers without interruption, a feature that VMware provides with their vMotion technology. Microsoft's Live Migration feature is still months away, and is scheduled to ship with Windows Server 2008 R2 in early 2010.

All of this activity points to a future where IT administrators could potentially deploy IT resources sourced from within internal and external clouds, providing the ability to scale resources to match business demands more easily (and cost-effectively) than ever before. Cisco has already been acquiring companies that complement that strategy with the purchase of cloud-focused vendors like Jabber, PostPath, Latigent, and WebEx.

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