Practical Analysis: How Locked In To Vendors Are You?

Stem-to-stern storage, networking, and management products are coming from several vendors. Is that a positive trend?

Art Wittmann, Art Wittmann is a freelance journalist

November 19, 2009

3 Min Read

Judging from the jockeying they're doing, the big hardware vendors expect their sagging server sales to rebound in the not-too-distant future. I'm thinking of EMC's recently inked deal with Cisco to better integrate EMC's storage, management, and virtualization products with Cisco's Unified Computing System, a deal that aims to make that combo more appealing to large enterprises. And I'm thinking of Hewlett-Packard's deal to acquire 3Com, which would boost HP's security offerings and make its play for stem-to-stern server, storage, and networking more appealing, most notably in Asia.

These two deals also reinforce a notion I wrote about a few weeks ago in a column about Cisco's entry into the server business. Vendors want strategic relationships with customers, and if those customers start using unique features that come about because storage, servers, and networking came from a single vendor, then that's just fine. Cisco bristled at the notion that its systems are more proprietary or cause customers to be more locked in than any other vendor's. Sounds a bit like erstwhile carmaker Delorean saying, "Hey, we're using the same half-inch bolts as everyone else."

What Cisco and I think about vendor lock-in is far less important than what you actually think and do. So I was curious to see the results of our annual storage survey (full results to come in January), which includes a question on management tools in use, a good indicator of how you're thinking about single-vendor systems. This year, we saw a 10% spike in those using vendor-supplied tools. Remember, this is the storage community, which rarely shows a 10% swing in use of any technology in a single year for any reason.

If this trend toward use of proprietary systems is true, then what does that say about the other hyped trend of the past few years, cloud computing? Private clouds would seem to be anathema to this trend, unless you allow for single-vendor private clouds, which misses the point of cloud computing.

Stressed out IT shops are more willing to at least consider "solutions" concocted by vendors. While these systems may require fewer servers and may be more responsive to business needs, they'll amount to something closer to

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island computing than cloud computing, with implementations taking place application by application--and that sounds suspiciously like where we're at today. For more on the future of the data center, see the Network Computing digital issue at

Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics. Write to him at [email protected].

To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.

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About the Author(s)

Art Wittmann

Art Wittmann is a freelance journalist

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