It has been a while since Cisco acquired Tail-F but no one seems to have noticed how this acquisition impacts Cisco’s competitors.
Tale of Two Products
Most people have focussed on Network Control System (NCS) that provides a network configuration toolkit and management platform for multi-vendor devices. The key aspect of NCS was that Tail-F was named on the AT&T Domain 2.0 list of vendors for it’s ability to configure multiple vendor equipment from a single interface.
This product is very cool and impressive – you can find a demo from a TechFieldDay video at http://youtu.be/DeeebDGjVnw. Sadly, the product is now part of the Service Provider Business Unit and its doubtful that we will see its technology in the Enterprise. Multi-vendor configuration isn’t a Cisco Enterprise feature.
Kicking Competitors in the Guts
Tail-F also has an OEM product called “Conf-D” which is software library purchased by networking companies for their network operating system to provide management features. Critical features like a Command Line Interface (SSH, Telnet), SNMP, NETCONF or custom XML APIs that are used for external management. You can find the blurb on the product here – Build On-Device Management Applications with ConfD | Tail-f Systems
These libraries are compiled into the operating systems on network devices and are absolutely critical to many vendors (whom I will not guess to name but most of the top 10 vendors use Tail-F in at least some products).
And now its owned by Cisco.
Cisco now owns these software libraries that are being compiled into the operating systems of its major competitors. One wonders what these big name competitors are doing now ? Are they forced to look for alternative software libraries from other vendors (there are several) and, if so, what is the impact to their product pipelines ?
Vendors who are partnered with Tail-F will be struggling to share their future product development needs with their main competitor.
The EtherealMind View
Cisco got two big wins in buying Tail-F. First, owning NCS product put them back on the map at AT&T and a way to make realistic promises on multi-vendor configuration in the carrier/service provider space. When you combine it with the Cariden acquisition and Cisco’s existing product you have a platform on which to build a dynamic carrier orchestration platform.
And second, I’m really confident that Cisco didn’t mind upsetting the product development road maps of its competitors. It gives the company some more time to try and catch up with competitors in the SDN market.