Cisco bolsters its cloud automation technology with Cloupia acquisition

Cisco deal for Cloupia will expand its cloud automation portfolio. Cloupia's orchestration technology may position Cisco as a major cloud player.

Cisco Systems has been boosting its position as a leading cloud player, with its pending acquisition of cloud-based network vendor Meraki Inc., its new OpenStack distribution channel, and support for the Citrix-backed Apache CloudStack.

Cisco's cloud spending spree continued in the days leading up to Black Friday as the vendor announced intent to acquire Cloupia, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based cloud automation software provider, for $150 million.

Cloupia's software automates converged data center infrastructure for both enterprises and service providers by controlling the deployment and configuration of physical and virtual infrastructure from a single management console. Cloupia will add greater control and orchestration capabilities to Cisco's cloud portfolio -- potentially boosting the vendor's rank as a cloud management vendor of choice, said Dave Bartoletti, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

Cloud players must offer cloud automation

Cloupia technology -- which will be rolled into Cisco's Data Center Group -- will help the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) Manager and UCS Central to manage server, network, storage and virtualization resources outside the UCS stack, said Hilton Romanski, vice president and head of corporate business development for Cisco in a blog post. Cisco also plans to integrate Cloupia's software into its Nexus switches.

The acquisition of Cloupia will compliment Cisco's Data Center strategy by providing a single "pane-of-glass" management capability across both Cisco and partner solutions -- including FlexPod, VSPEX and Vblock -- and provide open application programming interface (APIs) for integration with a broad community of developers and partners, Romanski said.

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"Cisco is trying to put value-added software layers on top of its hardware to make their cloud offerings appealing, and it’s absolutely necessary to stay competitive," said Colin McNamara, director of data center practice for Nexus IS, a Valencia, Calif.-based managed services provider and value-added reseller of Cisco products.

Cisco has networking and server products, but not its own storage arrays, unlike Dell and HP, its competitors in the converged infrastructure space, McNamara said. "Cisco needs to be able to configure assets that they don't make [like its EMC and NetApp storage components]. That’s where Cloupia comes in for better management for [Cisco] customers, and it will be a powerful offering to customers."

"With the addition of Cloupia's technology, Cisco will have a better strategy for provisioning complex applications in the cloud," said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp.

By acquiring a third-party management software company, Cisco is also acquiring its built-in integration efforts with other virtualization, storage and networking platforms, Forrester's Bartoletti said. He said other companies also recognize, noting that these benefits are not lost on Cisco's competitors.

Dell recently acquired infrastructure automation company Gale Technologies, and VMware acquired automation vendor DynamicOps for resource management on Hyper-V- and Xen-based hypervisors, and Amazon EC2 earlier this year.

"Vendors are buying heterogeneity -- buying the capabilities to manage more than just their own gear," Bartoletti said. "Cisco realized their converged infrastructure tools and networking equipment might be a significant part of a cloud solution, but it's not going to be the whole solution."

"Cisco knew they needed to either buy or build integrations with other platforms, and this acquisition will help [Cisco] get their foot in the door with cloud automation and management," he said.

Will Cisco build its own alternative to OpenStack?

Cisco may choose to integrate Cloupia technology into its OpenStack distribution channel to manage its Quantum API technology for programmability of both virtual and physical networks, giving Cisco's version of OpenStack differentiation, CIMI Corp's Nolle said.

As a second option, Cisco could also use its Cloupia technology to build another proprietary cloud stack, he said.

"Cisco can present the same APIs as OpenStack does along with its new Cloupia management tools, and the resulting cloud stack would look the same to the user as OpenStack, but instead would be Cisco's stack alone," Nolle said, noting that a Cisco cloud stack could be more profitable for the vendor.

"Cisco has the possibility to turn the cloud market on its ear. It's a question of how aggressively Cisco will develop the acquisition, and whether Cloupia will be used simply in a DevOps environment or to develop a future cloud platform."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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