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Cisco declined to comment for this story. However, the company has made it clear in the past that it often forms partnerships with vendors who typically compete against each other. This includes Cisco's strong ties with both EMC and its primary rival NetApp in the storage business, or with VMware and its arch-rival Microsoft.
Barry Ader, senior director of product management for EMC's Flash business unit, said the eventual PCIe flash memory adopter in VCE Vblocks will be a joint solution between EMC, LSI and Cisco.
"VCE was excited to look at the VFCache software and LSI hardware solution," Ader said. "They have no plans to integrate the Fusion-io solution. VCE looks at EMC, Cisco and VMware technologies."
Cisco will look at a variety of solutions for its business and will potentially work with suppliers other than EMC, Ader said.
"Fusion-io does not have the software strength that EMC has with VFCache," he said. "We believe VFCache will be the best solution in the market. Our biggest advantage is that VFCache is a caching device that protects data by having a copy stored on the storage device in addition to the copy in the server."
Fusion-io declined to comment on this story. However, a company spokesperson reaffirmed a statement from Fusion-io CEO and Chairman David Flynn who in February called EMC's VFCache a limited approach to solving data center data growth problems because it leverages flash only as a cache for expensive backend EMC storage systems.
"In contrast, Fusion-io achieves application performance through the use of flash as a memory platform in the server. We believe ours is the optimal approach to maximizing data center efficiency and performance needs that increase in importance with the continued adoption of cloud computing. Customers don’t want to pay twice for reliable performance, and they don’t have to with Fusion-io," Flynn wrote.
For ICI's Shepard, the choice is simple.
"We're the first to buy EMC's VFCache and put it in UCS servers," he said. "We get them through Avnet. So when we write up a quote for a UCS chassis, we automatically add a line item for VFCache."