Cisco targets data integrator Composite Software in $180 million deal

Jack Vaughan

Networking giant Cisco said Thursday it will buy long-time data virtualization provider Composite Software Inc. for $180 million. The move is part of Cisco's effort to build out a cloud-based platform for software services and is intended to help provide customers with a centralized view of data for analytics and business intelligence applications.

Cisco's network and cloud know-how, with Composite's understanding of data access … creates a nice opportunity as more [firms] look toward cloud-based analytics.

Ted Friedman,
analyst, Gartner Inc.

In recent years, Composite has placed its data virtualization software in a variety of business and government organizations. It's worked to improve its basic technology, which supports virtual -- or logical -- views of data instead of requiring physical data integration. The company has further worked to develop its software for use with cloud computing, mobile and analytics applications.

"This is an interesting play by Cisco to capitalize on the increasing movement of data to the cloud," Gartner analyst Ted Friedman said. "Cisco's network and cloud know-how, with Composite's understanding of data access and provisioning, creates a nice opportunity as more organizations look toward cloud-based analytics."

Late last year, Cisco CEO John Chambers said the company -- which is known mainly as a provider of networking technology -- would increase its software industry footprint by moving forward on multiple fronts. Cisco's growing interest in cloud-based integration software turned to action in April with its purchase of Austria-based SolveDirect. Like others, Cisco predicts that changes in application architectures will be required over time to accommodate the growing influx of all types of data.

Today's relational data warehouses may not be sufficient going forward to meet new data requirements, said Mike Flannagan, general manager of the Integration Brokerage Technology Group at Cisco. He said Composite's support of a logical, rather than a physical, data warehouse architecture helped drive Cisco's interest in buying the company.

Composite has been a major player in a narrow data virtualization field that includes such vendors as Informatica Corp. and Denodo Technologies Inc.

"By connecting Composite's software to the network infrastructure, you give the software the ability to tell the network what it needs to do to move, for example, a big chunk of data," Flannagan said. "That is beyond what Composite can do now."

Gartner's Friedman cautioned that following the Composite purchase, Cisco will continue to have other cloud integration issues to face. In addition, he noted that Cisco has had mixed results with software forays in the past.

"We think Cisco will need to do more to round out any kind of an [information management] or big data strategy -- for example, Composite's data federation/virtualization capability alone is not enough, and other styles of data integration involving bulk and physical data movement will also be needed," Friedman said.

The Cisco-Composite deal is expected to close in the first quarter of Cisco's next fiscal year, which begins Aug. 1. A decision on whether to retain the Composite name will be made at that time, according to Flannagan. The pending $180 million purchase agreement includes added incentives aimed at retaining key Composite personnel.

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