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Cloud management deals validate enterprise adoption

As enterprises look to maintain consistency across multiple platforms, legacy vendors see cloud management as a way to remain relevant.

Cisco's latest acquisition punctuates a string of deals by legacy vendors that see a future where IT shops rely on multiple public clouds.

Cisco said it will spend $260 million to acquire San Jose-based CliQr Technologies Inc., which provides a central platform to deploy and manage applications across cloud environments, including bare metal, virtual machines and containers. Cisco said it plans to incorporate this technology, as part of its Insieme business unit, to help its customers who are increasingly turning to a mix of public, private and hybrid cloud models.

Large public cloud vendors aren't particularly interested in becoming experts at managing other proprietary platforms, which has created a void in the market for these types of services, often filled by independent startups, such as RightScale. Increasingly, however, large legacy vendors are stepping into this role to help existing customers on their journey to the cloud.

"Traditional infrastructure vendors are now recognizing the public cloud is really happening, and in order for them to remain viable and competitive, they're going to have to embrace the cloud, and drive some innovation and differentiation," said Mindy Cancila, research director at Gartner.

This market is seen as having huge potential, evidenced by Dell's acquisition of Enstratius in 2013, although things quieted down for a period, noted Paul Miller, senior analyst at Forrester Research. This latest series of cloud management deals -- including IBM's acquisition of cloud brokerage company Gravitant last November and Oracle buying nesting provider Ravello just last month -- further validates this market and raises interest again. Forrester has fielded a number of customer calls about CliQr in the week since the deal was announced, Miller said.

Enterprises are running a whole range of applications -- which are increasingly mission-critical -- in the cloud, and they require additional security, automation and consistent policy enforcement, according to Miller.

"The reality for most enterprise use of cloud is most of the usage is multicloud," he said. "There are very few that are saying, 'We will go 100% to one cloud.'"

CliQr partners with all the major vendors in this space to manage their environments, including public cloud giants Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google and IBM, and works with VMware private cloud environments and multiple OpenStack providers. CliQr already integrates with a number of Cisco services, including Application Centric Infrastructure and Unified Computing System. Analysts expect CliQr technology to supplant another Cisco tool that was largely built through acquisitions: Intelligent Automation for Cloud, which is based more on scripting and not as agile as CliQr.

Legacy, neutrality and competency in the cloud

There are two approaches to find the right vendor for multicloud management. IT shops wanting an autonomous or platform-neutral approach to managed and brokered cloud services likely will go for an independent startup, such as RightScale, while those with considerable investments in existing systems from a legacy vendor might find it more beneficial to extend that existing relationship.

"The fact that this is someone you already know is good," Miller said. "Trusting them will be important, as will the belief that they have a set of capabilities that can work with you on the journey you're going on."

Cisco has a vast ecosystem and partner network that will be a ready source of target customers, but it remains to be seen how it -- or other legacy vendors -- can extend these services beyond its own customer base.

Analyst firm 451 Research in New York tracks about 80 different independent vendors, and expects many of them will be acquired by legacy vendors or rolled into larger companies as the market heats up, said William Fellows, co-founder and research vice president. These companies are aware of the transition around them, but what's less obvious is how to incorporate those tools with their existing technologies.

"My gut feeling is that [legacy vendors] are acquiring components," Fellows said. "They don't know what they're going to do with it, but they know they need to have it."

Multicloud management introduces a whole new set of challenges for enterprises, but it can also be a struggle for legacy vendors, Cancila said. Often, these newly acquired technologies flounder or sit in different lines of business while these large corporations figure out where they fit. Legacy vendors are also more accustomed to slower packaged software releases, and not the constant release cycles and rapid pace of innovation at which most public cloud vendors operate.

"The way organizations consume the public cloud is different than how they manage [infrastructure]," Gartner's Cancila said. "I don't know that those traditional vendors have made that paradigm shift yet."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected]

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