Cisco to Buy Tidal Software

Cisco's $105 million deal to buy Tidal will bring application management and automation to the networking giant, key ingredients for Cisco's Unified Computing System data center strategy. Cisco users will be able to see how applications are working on the network, and will be able to automate many of the operation practices around the applications, which will lead to greater efficiencies. The move comes just days after rival HP enhanced its automation capabilities within virtualized environments.

Cisco Systems is bringing application management and automation capabilities into its data center strategy by buying Tidal Software.

The addition of Tidal will enable Cisco customers to see what is going on with their growing number of applications, as well as the ability to automate many of the operational application management tasks that currently are being manually performed, said Bill Ruh, vice president of advanced services at Cisco.

Cisco announced the $105 million cash acquisition April 9, and the deal is expected to close in the third quarter. Once the deal is closed, Tidal will become part of Cisco's Advanced Services group.

Tidal offers Cisco a host of capabilities, including job scheduling, automation for business intelligence, virtualized infrastructure management, and application performance management.

The Tidal acquisition comes less than a month after Cisco officials unveiled their Unified Computing System data center initiative. The strategy is being driven by trends within the data center toward greater use of virtualization, the rise of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and the need to link the disparate parts of a more distributed environment.

Cisco's plan will include a foray into the hardware space, with new UCS B-Class blade servers powered by Intel's new quad-core Nehalem EP processors, and partnerships around storage and virtualization with such technology stalwarts as VMware, Microsoft, EMC, NetApp and BMC Software. At the center of it are Cisco's networking capabilities.

Ruh said that Cisco offers products that give customers visibility into what its happening on their networks. However, the vendor has seen a rapid rise over the last two years in the number of requests from businesses to give them better visibility into their applications, he said. That has been fueled by the increase in the use of distributed applications, the move to SAAS (software as a service) environments and the fact that these applications are now being opened up to a greater number of users.

"That demand [for application visibility] has increased as [enterprises move to] unified computing," Ruh said. Enterprises want to "look and see how applications are working on the network."

For example, if the deployment of a new firewall results in all but one application working, the software from Tidal will enable customers to determine which applications isn't working, whether the problem is with the application or firewall, and how to fix it.

"That's a simple problem," Ruh said.

It gets more difficult when you need to look at multiple applications running with myriad middleware problems throughout the network.

Tidal's application visibility capabilities includes applications from SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, as well as custom applications built on Java and Microsoft's .NET platform, which Ruh said coveres about 95 percent of requests Cisco receives from customers.

In addition to the applications management and visibility features, Tidal will also bring automation capabilities to Cisco, an important aspect of Cisco's data center strategy. Data centers-with a greater distributed nature to them and more use of virtualization tools-are becoming increasingly complex, and the ability to automate many of the routine tasks involved in application management will help IT departments become more efficient, particularly given that the global recession is leading to cutbacks in IT spending.

"Everybody is realizing that a lot of what they're doing is repetitive practices and best practices," Ruh said. "The ability to automate those practices is just becoming to get [realized]."

Hewlett-Packard, a key competitor to Cisco in the data center, on April 8 released new automation capabilities aimed at making virtualized environments more efficient. HP officials and Glenn O'Donnell, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that as data centers move forward, virtualization and automation technologies will become inextricably linked.

Looking at the industry, Cisco's Ruh said there weren't many companies that offered all the capabilities that Tidal does. System management has gotten a high profile, but application management to the degree that Tidal offers is rare, he said.

Ruh also said the deal will be a boon for Cisco partners, who will be able to build upon the application management and automation capabilities for their customers.