The tech industry is a mess right now. In a jumble of consolidation and new partnerships, it's getting hard to keep track of who does what in the corporate data center.

Today, The Wall Street Journal's customary unnamed sources say that networking giant Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and storage guru EMC (NYSE:EMC) are planning to launch a joint venture that would combine the consulting and services expertise of each company. The idea is to sell end-to-end solutions with networking and computer systems by Cisco and data storage by EMC -- backed by the installation expertise of EMC and Cisco's famous long-term tech support.

If the Journal got this right -- and it usually does -- I suppose Cisco is more serious about that new line of server systems than I thought. By entering into direct competition with IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Cisco could lose a couple of valuable distribution partners whose service arms currently provide about $2 billion of Cisco's annual sales. EMC isn't quite as large as Big Blue or HP, but with a tighter partnership of this sort, EMC could be enough to fill that dual void.

Under this strategy, I think Cisco CEO John Chambers should give Larry Ellison a call and see if Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) might want to unload the hardware side of Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) before closing that acquisition. Doing Cisco-rific modifications to Sun's servers and storage makes a lot more sense than getting a whole new product line up to speed. The Sun and Solaris brands still mean something, and thousands of support engineers all over the world don't need to retrain. And you've already annoyed your server partners -- might as well jump in with both feet.

Of course, this is sort of the opposite of what HP did when it acquired big-time IT consultant EDS last year. Oracle and HP are going on shopping sprees while IBM and Cisco go looking for partners instead. Which is the better strategy? Feel free to discuss in the comments section below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.