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Cisco relationship was stressed with Nicira buy: EMC

CEO Tucci acknowledges VMware's acquisition of network virtualization start-up opened rift with partners

VMware's acquisition of network virtualization start-up Nicira did indeed put some stress on EMC/VMware's relationship with Cisco, EMC CEO Joe Tucci acknowledged this week to Businessweek. VMware is majority-owned by EMC and the three are involved in VCE, a joint venture to sell pre-packaged data center gear.

While admitting that the Nicira buy did strain relations, Tucci also stressed that the partnership will continue. There has been persistent speculation that VCE is crumbling as the three principals pursue their own agendas for compiling a one-stop-shop data center arsenal: EMC, with VMware, Nicira and a new alliance with server vendor Lenovo; Cisco, with spin-in Insieme, its OpenStack implementation, and tighter ties with Citrix and EMC storage rival NetApp; and VMware, with Nicira and storage parent EMC.

VMware's $1.26 billion purchase of Nicira, which makes network virtualization software to take more control away from vendor-specific switches and routers, put EMC and VMware on a competitive stand-off with Cisco for next-generation, software-controlled networking for data centers and cloud environments. VMware may have even stole Nicira from under Cisco's nose; it's been reported that Cisco was sizing up Nicira for acquisition.

So the three joint venturers are set to compete head on in software-defined networking. Yet, their alliance will continue, Tucci claims, because companies still need the products and services that all three offer, according to Businessweek:

"Cisco is our closest and most strategic partner, and we'll have a long, prosperous relationship," Tucci said. The Nicira deal put "a little stress on the relationship," he said.

Tucci also said EMC would "never" spin out VMware into a separate company, according to the report.

Tucci's reaffirmation of the Cisco relationship comes three weeks after he dashed speculation that EMC would buy Juniper Networks... or any other networking hardware vendor. Tucci said in a post-earnings conference call back then that he isn't interested in buying a networking company, as reported in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal:

"The reality is that software-defined networking complements the network infrastructure, and EMC has no plans to drive deeper into networking by acquiring a network hardware company," Tucci told analysts.

His comments were in response to reports that Juniper had put itself up for sale and that EMC was a leading candidate to buy the company due to, among other factors, the growing strain between EMC/VMware and Cisco.

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