Saturday, January 06, 2024

Cisco, Isovalent Acquistion

Well it has happened, I have followed Isovalent/Cilium for a while now and have always been impressed by the company and what they have been doing with eBPF. In the past several months in conversations with associates we have discussed Cilium and its future/exit strategy and the one company I always came back too was Cisco. Though I thought is also might make sense for one of the pure play security companies to acquire them, especially Fortinet as that would help plug their major public cloud gap, especially as Cilium's Tetragon product is such a good security play. The combination of networking and security that Isovalent has pioneered with eBPF is a good fit for Cisco - they are both plumbers :-).

I see this as a big plus for Cisco if they manage it correctly, they get an instant footprint in most if not all public cloud vendors, where they are not as strong as they could be. They will also have additional opportunities in service providers and mobile where they are strong and Kubernetes is gathering stream. The other big play for Cisco is the amount of observability data that Cilium/Tetragon makes available. Data is the life blood of AI/ML and the data generated by Cilium/Tetragon is structured, close to realtime, and common across cloud vendors. The opportunity for Cisco/Isovalent is to provide almost realtime AI/ML powered security across clouds, and also enterprises.

Moving forward I see an opportunity for Cisco/Cilium to expand Tetragon beyond Kubernetes, especially in public cloud where deploying eBPF infrastructure as a part of a standard image would be possible enabling deeper visibility and security, and broadening the security boundaries. Once again data is the life blood of AI/ML and getting a large footprint into the infrastructure layer provides Cisco and the public cloud vendors to provide better and more realtime security.

The only downside of the acquisition, I see, is that the pace of eBPF/Linux development may slow. Isovalent as a nimble startup could push changes into the kernel with minimal corporate overhead, now as part of Cisco I would worry that the focus and speed of innovation of eBPF/Linux will slow down. However time will tell.

So congratulations to the Isovalent team and it will be interesting to see where this goes.

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