In a move that has left many industry observers perplex, Cisco has announced their intent to acquire Composite Software, a well-respected vendor in the information management space primarily known for its data virtualization technology (a.k.a. EII). And since this announcement, every observer in the industry is wondering, why is Cisco buying Composite?  After all, Cisco is primarily a networking and telephony systems manufacturer. Where does information management fit in?

The way I see it, this deal can go any of three directions:

  • Like Dell with their acquisitions including Boomi or Quest Software, Cisco may be trying to create a new/bigger software division, expanding their footprint in enterprise accounts. They have recently taken over SolveDirect, a business process integration provider. Composite would probably be a good addition to this growing portfolio. The synergy with network and communications is not obvious, but neither is Quest’s BI stack with Dell’s hardware business. What they create, however, is a bigger vendor that can sell more stuff to their clients.
  • Maybe Cisco needed technology for their monitoring and management solutions. With zillions of devices producing megazillions of measures about their traffic, performance, health, failures, etc., data management becomes critical to systems management. That would be an interesting use of Composite’s technology, but not one that would allow it to strive in the information management space. I hope this is not the plan.
  • Or, a more interesting alternative might be that Cisco is realizing the strategic value of data and is going up in the stack. Way up the stack. After all, what transits as zeros and ones on network routers, is data. In the term “data center,” you find “data.” However, transitioning from selling networking hardware to information management is not the simplest of challenges. The good news is that with the Composite team, they are getting very talented individuals who know that market. Let’s hope they listen to them.

One thing is certain: If you search for “data” on Cisco’s website, the results that come up all relate to data center or packet data. Cisco does not define itself as a data company today. But it’s always interesting to witness a market shift. Cisco investing in information management is certainly one. Let’s see where this is going – and what’s next. 

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