Cisco to buy cloud service orchestration start-up Tail-f Systems for $175m

By Graeme Burton
17 Jun 2014 View Comments
Cisco's Nick Earle

Networking giant Cisco is to buy-out Swedish cloud service orchestration software start-up Tail-f Systems in a $175m deal. Tail-f's technology enables service providers to implement applications and networks services across networking devices.

"With a rapidly increasing number of people, devices, and sensors connecting across the Internet of Everything (IoE), service providers require new capabilities to deliver value-added, cloud-based services and applications," said Hilton Romanski, senior vice president, Cisco Corporate Development.

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"Our goal is to help to eliminate the bottleneck caused by operational complexity within the network. The acquisition of Tail-f's network services configuration and orchestration technology will extend Cisco's innovation in network function virtualisation, helping service providers reduce operating costs and the time it takes to deploy new services, making agile service provisioning a reality."

The company's technology will fit into Cisco's "inter-cloud" strategy, launched earlier this year, which is intended to free organisations from vendor lock-in to proprietary clouds.

"We're not building out a network of data centres as Cisco to provide infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) type services and follow public cloud providers in the race to the bottom to provide low-cost, low-margin services," Nick Earle, senior vice president for cloud and managed services at Cisco, who is responsible for Cisco's global cloud strategy, told Computing.

Speaking at the Cloud World Forum today, he added: "What we're doing instead is using our very large partner eco-system - we have some 62,000 partners - and specifically the service providers, to build out a network of Cisco-powered nodes that will have access to a common catalogue of services that runs on top of that network to enable them to get services to market more quickly by sharing catalogues of services across the network of partners," said Earle.

The vision, according to Earle, is something akin to airline alliances that enable through-ticketing and for people to more easily transfer between airlines.

"We are a series of major hubs, powering them with Cisco [technology], connecting them together, brokering workloads across them, and then creating a catalogue, which will consist of three types of managed services in the catalogue: all of Cisco's managed services, such as WebEx; the service providers can put their own services into the catalogue; and, thirdly, our channel partners, who may have industry-vertical applications, can put their own services on the catalogue.

"So what we are essentially doing is connecting the clouds together and we are using our technology, which we launched in February, called APIC, which stands for 'application policy infrastructure controller' to provide end-to-end security guarantees for the cloud workloads across public, private, managed and hosted environments," said Earle.

In the process, Cisco will also offer end-to-end security across this network of clouds, as well as the ability for customers to migrate services more easily from one provider's cloud to another, independent of hyper-visor. Partners already signed up include Australia's Telstra, Dimension Data-NTT and Sungard.

"We are the only company that can move workloads from any hyper-visor to any cloud and we guarantee the security of it - not just the connection to the cloud, but down to the virtual machine level," added Earle.

In the process, Cisco aims to provide both greater corporate or CIO control of the various cloud services that organisations will use according to the security and the policies that they establish.

Hence, it won't necessarily stop the marketing department from procuring services on the CMO's company credit card, but will provide the portal that will enforce corporate-wide IT security and other policies on the cloud services the CMO buys.

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