Cisco to Acquire Networking and Security Startup Isovalent

Isovalent was founded by the creators of eBPF open source technology for greater cloud networking and security visibility

Cisco to Acquire Networking and Security Startup Isovalent
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Published: December 22, 2023

Kieran Devlin

Kieran Devlin

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

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

Isovalent’s Cilium is another open-source initiative that offers visibility into cloud-native applications. Tetragon further enhances the company’s commitment to open-source solutions in cybersecurity, creating security controls to protect workloads through building 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 Ambition Behind the Acquisition?

Gillis underlined that today’s environment of virtual machines, containers, distributed applications, and cloud assets means that modern networking and security management is complex and demands the kind of comprehensive 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 critical 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 minute 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?

In September, Cisco agreed to acquire Splunk for $157 per share in cash, representing around $28 billion in equity value.

Splunk provides an extensible data platform that parses data from any cloud, data centre, and third-party tool at scale, powering purpose-built solutions for security and observability. According to Cisco, the move will accelerate its mission to “securely connect everything to make anything possible.”

Additionally, Cisco may support its customers in bolstering resilience and extending their security strategies – as Chuck Robbins, Chair and CEO of Cisco, emphasized. “From threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention, we will help make organizations of all sizes more secure and resilient,” Robbins said.

Splunk enables teams to share data, assess these threats, and work together to solve and prevent future problems. The provider also hosts 2,400 applications on its marketplace, while clients can also build custom applications on the platform.

Mergers and AcquisitionsSecurity and Compliance

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