When we’re discussing cutting-edge topics like cloud computing and web infrastructure, it is easy to let startups and niche vendors dominate the discussion. After all, these are often the companies driving innovation and issuing case studies that illustrate entirely new methods of computing. In the first quarter, however, the IT infrastructure market was all about the big boys.
In cloud computing, the big news was general availability of Microsoft Windows Azure and its related suite of services. Microsoft had been touting the platform since October 2008, and the reaction when finally hit the ground was overwhelmingly (but not entirely) optimistic, thanks in part to Microsoft’s smart strategies around partnerships and attracting traditional businesses. Actually, Microsoft also had a hand in the quarter’s second-biggest cloud trend, which was the call for deeper looks into the legal aspects of cloud computing. Microsoft’s Brad Smith called for congressional action on existing laws to account for the cloud.
CA and VMware both made big splashes in the internal cloud space. Systems-management giant CA did so by announcing an aggressive cloud strategy marked by intriguing acquisitions. After buying NetQos and the floundering Cassatt in 2009, CA kicked off 2010 by folding Oblicore, 3Tera and Nimsoft into its cloud mix. However, just when it looked like CA was set to run away with cloud systems management, VMware executed a coup d’état by acquiring parent-company EMC’s Ionix business. Now, VMware will be able to match CA (and others) across a variety of core functionalities, including the very important ability to manage and provision both physical and virtual infrastructure.
The cloud-based collaboration space also saw VMware play a big role by acquiring Zimbra. VMware certainly is not the big fish in that pond, though. During the first quarter alone, IBM updated its Lotus Live strategy and convinced Panasonic to move some 300,000 personnel to the system, and SAP finally got its cloud act together by announcing its StreamWork collaboration and corporate-networking service.
Elsewhere, Cisco dominated network discussions with both big announcements, like its CRS-3 router, and with its continuously deteriorating relationships with HP and Dell. For those interested in network fiber rather than network gear, however, Google made plenty of its own noise by unveiling its plans to bring 1 Gbps broadband to a select group of municipalities around the country. Intel and AMD owned the processor market during the first quarter, with each vendor rolling out new families of high-performance, energy-efficient multicore processors to much fanfare. And the January approval of the Oracle-Sun deal sent shockwaves throughout the IT world, as product strategies clarified and Sun personnel began jumping ship almost immediately.
Not surprisingly, perhaps the only place major vendors and providers did not make their marks during the first quarter was in the sometimes contentious debate over open-source software. Discussions over the role of open source in cloud computing and web data centers inspired many different theories about both business and technology, but it became clear quickly that proprietary vendors – especially large proprietary vendors – have little to no place at the infrastructural level in these brave new worlds. The database tier provided a prime microcosm of this attitude, as developers debated the merits of open-source NoSQL tools versus open-source MySQL.