Cisco, EMC Competing PCIe Flash Storage Strategies Raise Concerns

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Long-term partners EMC and Cisco, co-investors in converged infrastructure vendor VCE, are pursuing their own server-based PCIe flash storage strategies and in the process seeding possible confusion and concerns about their partnership going forward.

The two vendors have adopted rival PCIe flash storage technologies as a way to extend control of the storage infrastructure to inside the server, an important part of developing converged infrastructure offerings that ties storage, server and networking technology into a single platform.

PCIe-based flash memory storage adapters sit inside servers to act as a high-performance cache for frequently accessed data, thereby increasing the speed at which that data can be accessed.

[Related: Data Center Decision: Converged Infrastructure Vs. Best-Of-Breed]

Hopkinton, Mass.-based storage king EMC developed VFCache, a PCIe flash memory solution based on the company's own software and the Nytro WarpDrive PCIe flash adapter from Milpitas, Calif.-based LSI.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, developer of the high-performance UCS blade server line, in June signed an OEM relationship with Fusion-io, a relative newcomer to the business whose primary product is high-performance PCIe flash storage adapters for use in servers.

That followed the May news of Cisco's signing of an agreement with EMC and LSI to bring the VFCache technology to its UCS blade servers.

Cisco's overall PCIe flash storage adapter strategy will become clear in the second half of 2012, which is when it plans to offer adapters from both Fusion-io and LSI, the latter in conjunction with EMC's VFCache software.

One of the first implementations will be by VCE, the Cisco and EMC joint-venture company which combines Cisco's server and networking technology, EMC's storage technology, and virtualization technology from Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware into the Vblock converged infrastructure solutions.

A VCE spokesperson said the company's plan is to prioritize on the solution from LSI, which is partnering with both Cisco and EMC, and that VCE has no plans to integrate Fusion-io technology into its Vblock systems.

One solution provider close to EMC, who preferred to remain anonymous, called Cisco's OEM deal with Fusion-io a slap in the face of long-term partner EMC.

"[Cisco Chairman and CEO John] Chambers is smart," the solution provider said. "He's looking at new ways to sell UCS. He doesn't want to give EMC too much power."

NEXT: Strains In The Cisco-EMC Relationship?

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