Cisco to Buy Tail-f in Cloud Virtualization Push

Tail-f's software is designed to make it easier for cloud service providers to manage physical and virtual networks in multivendor environments.

cloud virtualization

Cisco Systems is continuing to build out its portfolio for cloud service providers with plans to buy Tail-f Systems, a small Swedish company whose software makes it easier for operators and enterprises to manage multivendor networks.

Cisco officials announced the $175 million deal June 17 and said they expect the acquisition to close by the end of the current quarter.

Tail-f's network service orchestration products, including its Network Control System (NCS), are designed to make it easier and less costly to automate the provisioning and management of both physical and virtual networks, a key issue at a time when service providers are trying to deal with the rise of cloud computing, software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV), and the oncoming Internet of things (IoT), or what Cisco calls the Internet of everything.

"Every day our world becomes increasingly connected," Hilton Romanski, senior vice president and head of business development at Cisco, wrote in a post on the company blog. "And as the Internet of Everything (IoE) continues to develop, service providers who provide us with video, voice, and data services are faced with managing explosive growth of demand on their network, including the number of applications and platforms needed to improve the way we live, learn, work and play."

The results are networks that are increasingly complex and expensive to manage, Romanski wrote.

"At the same time, increased competition is driving service providers to introduce new services more rapidly," he wrote. "While Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and network programmability both help improve scale and functionality of networks for service providers, they do not solve the bottleneck caused by operational complexity."

Tail-f's technologies will give Cisco tools to help service providers simplify and automate network management, which in turn will lead to greater innovation and services being delivered to market more quickly. The move dovetails with other efforts by Cisco to build out a cloud virtualization strategy around open and standards-based software that can help manage multivendor environments, Romanski wrote.

A key part of Tail-f's product strategy revolved around its embrace of the Network Configuration (Netconf) protocol—developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)—for network and device configuration, and the Yang data modeling language that supports it.

"This acquisition demonstrates Cisco's commitment to open standards including the NETCONF protocol and the YANG data modeling language, and provides an unprecedented opportunity for lasting change in the way our industry designs, builds and maintains programmable networks," Tail-f CEO Fredrik Lundberg said in a post on the company blog.

Cisco officials noted that Tail-f's solutions not only can be used for next-generation networks that rely on NFV and SDN, but also for current environments that are dealing with current networking issues, such as Layer 2 or 3 VPN provisioning.

Once the deal is closed, Tail-f employees will become part of Cisco's Cloud and Virtualization Group, which is led by Gee Rittenhouse, vice president and general manager.

"Tail-f’s talent and technology, when added to our existing offerings, will enhance how Cisco addresses network orchestration and will help simplify and automate how physical and virtual networks are both provisioned and managed," Cisco's Romanski wrote.

The giant networking vendor has been building out its product offerings for cloud service providers. In February, Cisco unveiled its Evolved Services Platform and two virtual service modules around video and mobility, all of which are designed to help service providers expand the use of virtualization in their networks. The platform is part of Cisco's Open Network Environment (ONE) strategy to make networks more programmable, flexible and automated.