Are we ready for the Cisco/VMware virtual data center? Get ready because that’s the message about the data center’s future from Cisco and VMworld 2007. Essentially, grid computing, storage and networking with VMware as the data center OS and Cisco’s Vframe managing the data center network cloud. Cisco describes this all as the "data center fabric". It may sound dreamy right now but if Cisco is really able to pull off this software strategy, it would literally change the face of the data center.
Stuck right in the middle of this strategy is the shifting sand of Microsoft’s virtualization licensing restrictions, which has had VMware up in arms for some time. Microsoft’s ability to control when it’s OS can be virtualized may allow them to charge for licenses but restricting the technology that can be used raises anti-competitive vibes. Linux obviously does not have these same Microsoft complications but it would take a tectonic plate shift to completely displace Microsoft from the data center. Not in our lifetime anyway. I still see the major sticking point as to whether Cisco can pull of this software coup, it truly would require Cisco to become a very strong software company.
A huge complication no one is talking about is how the "data center fabric" intersects multiple disciplines across IT. Network design, provision and management mashed up with data center server and applications management, software development and system administration sounds like the Pittsburgh Steelers Kordell "Slash" Stewart equivalent of the IT career path.
This organization upheaval, and IT skills and change of job descriptions will be an even bigger challenge than any of the technology issues Cisco is likely to face. Microsoft has made much stronger inroads into networking than Cisco has into IT systems. This game isn’t over so I wouldn’t assume creating a happy ending for Cisco will be an easy one.