The partnership, which also includes virtualization software vendor VMware, is set up in two parts: one is a Virtual Computing Environment coalition to develop the new products; the other is a joint venture, called Acadia, to train customers and partners on how to install and use the products.
Cisco and EMC are lead investors in Acadia, while VMware and Intel are minority investors. Acadia will have its own CEO, which the companies are searching for, and an initial staff of 130. Acadia's main mission will be to accelerate product sales and deployment, perform initial operating and then transfer operations to customers or partners.
"It will be a repository of knowledge transfer and best practices," said EMC CEO Joe Tucci, during a Webcast announcing the coalition and joint venture.
The collaboration between the three companies is targeting a market the companies say -- citing data from McKinsey and Company -- exceeds $350 billion annually. Half of that amount is spent on capital expenses -- product acquisition -- and half on operating expenses.
Roughly 70% or more of those costs are allotted to maintaining existing infrastructures, leaving 30% or less for new technology purchases. The companies also say that approximately $85 billion can be addressed with data center virtualization and private cloud technology by 2015.
"When we look back on this in five years from now, we'll see that this was the most major change in data centers and cloud computing made in this decade," said Cisco CEO John Chambers on the coalition's potential impact.
Some analysts say the collaboration between Cisco, EMC and VMware could further strain relations and partnerships each company has with other major vendors in the data center market -- notably, IBM, HP and Dell.
"They're putting themselves in direct competition" with those powers, says Deni Connor, principal of Storage Strategies NOW. "And this may jeopardize VMware's relationship with its server and operating system partners," which include IBM, HP, Dell, CA, NetApp and Sun Microsystems. Connor sees the division widening between these camps as they all compete for the lion's share of data center expenditures.
VMware CEO Paul Maritz downplayed the impact to his company's relationships during the Webcast.
"We remain in our commitments," he said. "We're not denying technology to anyone. There's no reason for our relationships to change."
The products being developed by the coalition are called Vblock Infrastructure Packages. They are pre-integrated, tested and validated packages combining virtualization, networking, computing, storage, security and management products from the three vendors.
There are three Vblocks. Vblock 2 is a high-end configuration supporting up to 3,000 to 6,000 virtual machines targeted at large enterprises and service providers. Vblock 2 includes Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), Nexus 1000v software switch and MDS storage-area network switches; EMC's Symmetrix V-Max storage system; and the VMware vSphere platform.
Vblock 1 is a midsize configuration supporting 800 to 3,000 VMs. Vblock 1 includes Cisco's UCS, Nexus 1000v and MDS, EMC's CLARiiON storage system and the VMware vSphere platform.
Vblock 0 will be an entry-level configuration available in 2010, supporting 300 to 800 VMs, aimed at midsize businesses, small data centers, and for test and development by customers and partners. Vblock 0 is comprised of Cisco's UCS and Nexus 1000v, EMC's Unified Storage and the VMware vSphere platform.
Vblock products will be managed by EMC's Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager and secured by EMC RSA security products.
Vblock Infrastructure Packages are scheduled to be available this quarter direct from authorized systems integrators and channel partners. EMC, Cisco and VMware components can be purchased directly from the respective companies or their authorized partners.
The companies say they will also develop other Vblock packages for shared business services, applications and vertical industries. One example is the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure on Vblock, which is designed to enhance the provisioning, scale-out and back-end management of enterprise applications and users.
Vblocks will comply with the ISO 27001 standard for information management security, the companies say.
The coalition has also invested in dedicated pre-sales, professional services and single support contact comprised of personnel from all three companies.
The Acadia joint venture expects to begin customer operations in the first quarter of 2010. The companies did not disclose the investment they've made in Acadia.
The Virtual Computing Environment coalition already has six system integrator partners: Accenture, Capgemini, CSC, Lockheed Martin, Tata Consulting Services and Wipro. Service provider partners include Savvis, Orange, SunGard and Terremark. Channel partners include Bell Canada, CDW, Presidio, World Wide Technology, Dimension Data and Verizon Services, among others.