Rebuilding and imposing the integrated stack

Suppliers that largely focus on processing virtualization have suddenly taken a great deal of interest in network and/or storage virtualization. I'm hearing many questions about the reasoning behind these moves. While I wasn't in the boardroom when the decisions were made, I believe I understand why.

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, system manufacturers offered an integrated, proprietary stack of software from the operating system all the way up through the applications needed to use computers productively.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the industry saw the market dis-integrate. Systems, operating systems, application frameworks, application development tools, database engines, networking products and storage products were all offered by separate companies. While these companies promised that their products complied with industry and international standards, it was typically quite a chore to get everything working together.

Some suppliers, such as HP and IBM, came to market with many different product families. Some of these were totally integrated. Others were "industry standard" and made use of the increasingly diverse software ecosystem.

Organizations using information technology have been spending the last two decades learning that a dis-integrated market means higher levels of complexity, the requirement for a larger staff and greater costs. They've been demanding that their suppliers make things simpler.

The result is that suppliers that didn't already have a unified stack of software are doing their best to fill all of the niches in their own market. So, companies that largely focus on virtual processing technology have acquired companies offering access virtualization, application virtualization, network virtualization, storage virtualization, as well as both management and security in virtualized environments.

A unified product offering certainly can make life easier for companies that chose to use software from only one supplier.

My concerns center on the plans I see some suppliers playing out that are based upon unifying their customer's IT infrastructures through force, that is by requiring their customers to use their and only their software components rather than through the strength of their product offerings.

Will we see Oracle, VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and others only offer support to customers who use their unified stack?

We'll have to wait to see how this plays out.   

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