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Coopetition creates a virtualization soap opera

One day two companies are working together. The next, they are competing at the same level. Coopetition can create a virtualization soap opera.

In a world where your partner today may very well be your competitor tomorrow, the concept of coopetition plays out daily in IT discussions around the world. Coopetition is where two parties are simultaneously cooperating while competing in the same market. In IT, coopetition exists on many layers.

Within the VDI space, a large number of Citrix XenDesktop environments actually run on VMware's vSphere hypervisor. The same is true in Microsoft Server environments. While both Citrix and Microsoft have competing hypervisors, they have to cooperate with VMware to make sure all of their products perform well in vSphere.

However, nothing beats that awkward feeling in the room when long-time partners become new competitors. When Dell and EMC ended their storage relationship, it was not an amicable split. It was a messy split and, in IT terms, a sudden one. Within a very short period of time, Dell and EMC went from close friends to rivals. Dell began reworking proposals to replace EMC storage with Compellent. Likewise, EMC was quick to step in and court customers from the Dell-branded EMC storage over to the new EMC-branded storage products.

To a much less extent, there was the awkwardness created by Cisco's purchase of Whiptail to enter the storage market. While they were quick to market it as a caching offering for their servers, everyone saw the obvious roadmap of maturing that product into an enterprise flash storage product. Cisco works closely with both EMC and NetApp for reference architectures and converged offerings. Unlike Dell and EMC breaking up, this was more of just a bump in Cisco's relationships. Cisco continues to work very closely with a number of storage vendors, and that will not change any time soon. However, each of those vendors will now guard their words and communications, knowing Cisco could also be a storage competitor.

In the last few years, it seems as though all loyalties among IT vendors have been tested. Cisco branched into servers and server vendors began improving their network products. VMware entered the storage market and their longtime storage partners began working a little more closely with Microsoft and Citrix. At the same time, Microsoft's Hyper-V continues to mature, making it a little easier for vendors to work with them.

The number of awkward handshakes in IT boardrooms will only be increasing.

VMware is releasing software-defined storage offerings that threaten their long time relationships with storage hardware vendors like NetApp. In turn, NetApp launches a new product that will actually leverage VMware's software-defined storage product. That is just one example of what is going on daily in IT. Today's close partners may be next week's competitors, only to be close partners again next month. While this virtualization soap opera plays out, try to keep your eye on the value in each offering. No IT product is ever insulated from Moore's Law and constant change. Try to temper every "the sky is falling" announcement with the understanding that something else will likely change next month that makes it all better again.

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