Beginning of the end of open systems?

We've just seen announcements that Dell has acquired Quest and VMware has acquired DynamicOps. Dell acquired Quest to enhance its portfolio of management tools for physical, virtual and cloud-based environments (see Dell acquires Quest: $2.4 billion to be a software player for more information.) VMware acquired DynamicOps to help organizations move from their current on-premise, physically hosted applications to cloud computing environments (see VMware acquires hybrid cloud solution company DynamicOps for more information.)

What does this all mean?

We've seen waves of integration and dis-integration wash over the IT industry. It appears that we're seeing the pendulum swing from everything being made available totally "A la carte" back towards highly integrated, proprietary stacks of hardware and software.

1960s and 1970s

In the 1960s and early 1970s, suppliers of information technology products each offered its own systems, system software, development tools, networking hardware and software, storage and applications. Customers buying into such environments knew that they were going to get highly integrated, tested solutions that would be supported from "cradle to grave."

1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s and well into the 1990s, the market saw:

  • Systems separated from software
  • Memory, storage and networking separated from systems
  • Database management, development tools and application frameworks separated from operating systems and hardware
  • Management software separated from systems

Today's market

It is clear that the pendulum is swinging back towards integration:

  • Software companies are acquiring hardware companies in the hopes of driving their software customers to purchase their hardware. Oracle and Google are prime examples of this trend. 
  • Oracle has reached into the open source basket so it could offer its own operating system and virtual machine software platform for its applications, application frameworks and database software
  • HP, IBM and Microsoft have a long history of acquiring smaller companies as a way to expand their portfolio.

When we examine Dell's move to purchase Quest, it is clear that the company is trying to piece together an integrated environment to rival HP and IBM. Dell has been working on this strategy for several years.

VMware has been trying to build a stack of software that includes development frameworks, integration tools, access and application virtualiztaino products and the like. As with Dell, it is trying to rival Microsoft and Oracle's integrated environment while also playing the best of breed card with its virtual machine software.

Where are we headed

Although the game is still underway, it is pretty clear that suppliers are seeking ways to offer complete, integrated stacks of hardware and software. Depending upon the supplier in question, the approach is either based upon offering the simplicity of an integrated, tested environment and letting customers choose what they want or using support, business terms and conditions and other approaches to coerce unwilling customers to purchase their integrated stack.

Will customers lose the ability to select their hardware, operating system, virtualization tools, database and application software A la Carte? Will the concept of open systems die? We'll all have to wait and see.   

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