Meanwhile, EMC also is using Lenovo servers in its Project Mystic appliance, sources said. This isn't too surprising since EMC uses Lenovo's enterprise servers in some of its storage systems as part of a strategic agreement the companies formed in 2012. Lenovo didn't respond to a request for confirmation.
This week at its EMC World event, EMC will talk in more detail about its "federation," in which it is pulling in VMware, RSA and Pivotal closer than it has in the past. Sources said the EMC Federation is another sign that EMC wants to push in-house technologies over ones it used to deliver in partnership with other vendors.
However, EMC and Cisco generate a ton of revenue through their partnership and there is no sign that VMware's work with Arista will cause the companies to cut ties, sources told CRN.
Cisco's Unified Computing System, which combines servers and networking, is the predominant option for EMC's VSPEX private cloud reference architecture and for vBlocks, the flagship product of the Cisco-EMC-VMware VCE joint venture.
In a report last month, research firm IDC said the worldwide market for what it calls "integrated infrastructure" accounted for $4 billion in sales during 2013, up nearly 99 percent from the year before. EMC and Cisco account for nearly 19 percent of this market and together generated $749.6 million in 2013, which is up 481 percent from the year before, according to IDC.
What's more, VCE vBlock sales are growing like gangbusters after exiting 2013 at a $1.8 billion run rate, EMC said last month on its first-quarter earnings call.
There's a lot at stake in the EMC-Cisco relationship, but sources told CRN that Cisco has some cards of its own to play.
Cisco could offer its own Project Mystic competitor by combining its server and networking technology with its Invicta flash storage, its Sourcefire security software and its Cloupia technology for connecting all these resources to VMware or OpenStack clouds, sources said.
Sources said Cisco also could acquire a storage vendor such as NetApp, or add hypervisor technology by buying Citrix Systems. Both scenarios have been the subject of industry scuttlebutt for the better part of the past two years.
But in the chess game that's unfolding between EMC and VMware on one side, and Cisco on the other, these sorts of blockbuster moves are looking more plausible, sources said.
JOSEPH F. KOVAR contributed to this story.
PUBLISHED MAY 5, 2014