How Much Integration Is Too Much in the Cloud?

If you’ve been following the data center hardware space for the past year, you might be under the impression that integrated stacks are the future of IT. After all, Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems was all about integration and HP and Cisco appear locked in a death match over which one of them is best equipped to handle your server, storage and networking needs. However, as detailed in my weekly column on GigaOM Pro, IT spending is ramping back up after the economic meltdown, and it doesn’t look like customers are buying into the promise of having just one throat to choke.

Cisco has outpaced the Ethernet switch market in terms of revenue and market share, HP has taken the server market lead from IBM, Dell’s seen the biggest spike in server revenue (36 percent), and NetApp -– the same storage vendor that has been written off as dead on countless occasions -– experienced yet another impressive revenue jump (at the expense, it seems, of EMC). Positive results for such a broad array of vendors, most of whom cross paths in more than one market (either directly or through tight alliances), don’t bode well for any vendor pulling ahead across the board.

Especially as IT departments evolve their operations to embrace cloud computing, software selection could prove a very difficult decision, too. Yes, IBM, HP and Oracle all have some flavor of product to build and manage customers’ internal cloud infrastructures built using their hardware, but so do third parties like VMware, CA, Microsoft and now, BMC. I’d be remiss to omit the droves of cloud startups that also want to manage cloud computing data centers, of which some have compelling offerings. (To learn more about cloud computing, attend Structure 2010 June 23 & 24 in San Francisco)

In the database and BI worlds, stack-peddling incumbents like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft face increased competition from new NoSQL and non-SQL options, fast-growing vendors like Greenplum and Aster Data Systems, and Hadoop-based solutions like Datameer and Pentaho.

For me, the takeaway from all this market-watching is that vertically integrated stacks might not be as common as some hope, especially in an increasingly cloudy world where innovation reigns supreme. Vendors with multiple components will continue to push them as packages, but buying trends show customers buying what they want from whom they want, and they have more choices than ever. Read the entire post here.