21st February 2024

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Technology and Computer

Cisco to Acquire Networking and Security Business Isovalent

Cisco is set to acquire the cloud networking and security startup Isovalent.

Isovalent played a pivotal role in the advancement of eBPF, an open-source technology that allows developers to assess the operating system (OS) layer, both for Linux and Windows.

Isovalent’s Cilium is another notable open-source initiative that provides visibility into cloud-native applications. Tetragon further enhances the company’s commitment to open-source solutions in the area of cybersecurity, creating security controls to protect workloads through accruing detailed data about the application’s internal processes and their network behaviour.

Tom Gillis, Senior VP and General Manager of Cisco’s Security Business Group, wrote in an announcement blog:

Today, Cisco is excited to announce our intent to acquire Isovalent, Inc., founded by creators of eBPF and the team behind the creation of Cilium and Tetragon, the leading cloud-native solutions leveraging eBPF technology.”

Cisco has been an investor in Isovalent since 2020 and put forward further investment in series B funding in 2022 alongside other strategic investors such as Microsoft, Google and Grafana Labs. Neither company disclosed the acquisition price.

What was Cisco’s Motive Behind the Acquisition?

Gillis said that today’s environment of distributed applications, virtual machines, containers, and cloud assets means that traditional networking and security management is complex and demands the kind of solution that eBPF delivers.

“It is an open source technology that allows sophisticated software programs to program the heart of the operating system – known as the kernel – without actually changing the heart of the operating system,” Gillis wrote. “This is incredibly powerful because it unlocks security, observability, and networking functionality at the kernel level that was not possible before.”

Particularly, the combination of Cilium and eBPF provides key visibility for the cloud era into the “inner workings” of an application. It allows Cisco to build a platform that offers connectivity as well as close security inspection so that every minor detail is logical.

Notably, Cilium is the default connectivity and security solution for Google Kubernetes Engine, Google Anthos and Amazon EKS Anywhere. It’s also leveraged by prominent businesses, including IKEA, Palantir, Sky, Adobe and Capital One.

Cilium and Tetragon, on paper, align well with Cisco’s other security assets and services, as underpinned by Cisco’s Security Cloud. Cisco also promises that it is “committed to Cilium and Tetragon as open source projects and intends to create an independent advisory board to help steer Cisco’s contributions to these important efforts in a way that is aligned with the needs of the open source community”.

What Else Has Cisco Been Up To Recently?

Last month, Cisco’s collaboration sales grew for the first time in a year.

As recorded in its earnings call for Q1 FY24, Cisco posted a three percent rise in collaboration sales, crediting an increase in calling and contact centre revenues, which compensated for the ongoing decline in sales produced by its meetings business.

There were brief allusions to Webex’s operational quarter, with Cisco CEO and Chairman Chuck Robbins stressing Webex’s new AI-powered features as well as the hybrid workspaces captured at this year’s WebexOne conference: “In our Collaboration portfolio, we recently introduced a range of truly game-changing AI capabilities spanning the entire Webex suite, as well as new devices for reimagined workspaces at our WebexOne event.”

Earlier this month, Cisco launched the Cisco AI Assistant for Security to support decision-making, integrating existing tools, and automating complex tasks.

Trained on one of Cisco’s comprehensive security data sets, which assesses over 550 billion security events every day across the internet, email, endpoints, networks, and applications, Cisco anticipates the AI assistant to “reframe how organisations think about cybersecurity outcomes”. The Cisco AI Assistant for Security is being deployed across the entire Security Cloud, Cisco’s unified, AI-powered security platform.