What If Cisco Acquires EMC

An intriguing idea, isn't it? <a href="http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2008/07/cisco_wont_buy.html">Outlandish, you say?</a> Maybe, maybe not. The fight for the data center is on. Brocade acquired Foundry solidifying the storage giant in the data center. HP ProCurve's One program forms a solid partnership to round out <a href="http://www.informationweekreports.com/shared/download.jhtml?id=170200029&cat=iwkr_datacenter&doc_id=206900660">data center</a> components. Oracle's acqu

Mike Fratto, Former Network Computing Editor

April 21, 2009

3 Min Read

An intriguing idea, isn't it? Outlandish, you say? Maybe, maybe not. The fight for the data center is on. Brocade acquired Foundry solidifying the storage giant in the data center. HP ProCurve's One program forms a solid partnership to round out data center components. Oracle's acquisition of Sun gives Oracle data center hardware and software as well as Java, Sun's virtualization platform, and their identity management software. Cisco buying EMC makes sense.In the spirit of full disclosure. The initial idea of Cisco buying EMC came from a conversation I had with Rick Kagan of Infoblox. If this doesn't come to pass, blame him. If it does come to pass, forget Kagan. It's all me (har, har). Kagans rationale is that Cisco is heading into the cloud services space and EMC could help them do that. That got me thinking along the following lines.

EMC, among other things, has been on an acquisition spree picking up diverse companies such as VMWare in 2004 and RSA in 2004. EMC then picks up SMARTS which focused on event automation and systems management in 2005. In 2006, EMC acquires RSA which gives the storage giant enterprise security solutions such as data loss prevention, federated identity management, digital certificates, and rights management not to mention RSA's core cryptography research and their flagship token authentication, SecureID. All the while, EMC has been enhancing its information lifecycle and storage products.

Cisco has the networking product portfolio and the market share in nearly every aspect of enterprise IT networking. The company also has a strong storage portfolio of it's own and continues to compete with Brocade in storage networking. Acquiring EMC for the storage components [Registration Required] by themselves isn't really a big win. Cisco would still have to offer and maintain Brocade hardware to their own customers. Similarly, HP, Hitachi, and IBM would still have to offer Cisco gear, though the former may be dis-incented to lead with Cisco gear. No, the big win for Cisco is majority stake in VMWare + the event automation and systems management software from the SMARTS acquisition, and of course, the security products from RSA. It doesn't hurt that Cisco would also gain all of EMC's information lifecycle management software.

Moving to the cloud

Let's not forget that Cisco has been providing services since it acquired WebEx and IronPort both in 2007. Their most recent foray into cloud services, Cisco Security Cloud Services, which bridges their WebEx and IronPort services to the enterprise with on premise appliances, is giving Cisco experience in running a service. In addition Cisco global correlation used IPS data from around the world to provide threat models and analytics. Cisco is dipping its toes in the cloud waters, but there is more, much that it could from an acquisition of EMC.

Cisco expertise in building and managing complex networks is formidable (they aren't alone in that expertise, either. Alcatel-Lucent, Extreme, HP, IBM, Juniper, to name a few, have some serious chops as well). UCS shows they can design a high capacity blade system. By getting the disk arrays, Cisco would literally own the information plumbing end to end. Now layer on features required by cloud computing like automation and management of networking infrastructure and server hardware as well as virtualization products and management and Cisco is on could build, from its own portfolio, a cloud service on par with cloud providers like Amazon and GoGrid. Add in products and features from EMC's RSA such as entitlement controls, federated identity management, and authentication, in addition to RSA's other security offerings, and Cisco could leap frog the competition offering a cloud service complete with a robust network, strong management, and importantly, security controls far beyond what is available today.

All Cisco would need a strong consulting division and they'd be able to recommend, design, deploy, and maintain computing services on premises or in the cloud. That's a pretty interesting thing to think about.

About the Author(s)

Mike Fratto

Former Network Computing Editor

Mike Fratto is a principal analyst at Current Analysis, covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. Prior to that, Mike was with UBM Tech for 15 years, and served as editor of Network Computing. He was also lead analyst for InformationWeek Analytics and executive editor for Secure Enterprise. He has spoken at several conferences including Interop, MISTI, the Internet Security Conference, as well as to local groups. He served as the chair for Interop's datacenter and storage tracks. He also teaches a network security graduate course at Syracuse University. Prior to Network Computing, Mike was an independent consultant.

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