The deal suggests that CEO Chuck Robbins is dead serious about Cisco’s future as a software company. Containers are hot, but they aren’t a networking element. Rather, containers are all about the standing-up of applications and the ability to copy them to different environments.
Cisco is in the throes of shifting its business toward software and services as opposed to traditional equipment sales. That’s the backdrop to the layoffs of 5,500 announced earlier this month. Now, to explore this new frontier of software, the company is getting into the mechanics of deploying applications in the cloud.
ContainerX‘s Elastic Container Clusters, which reached general availability in June, offer a production environment for containers. The software is analogous to VMware’s vSphere, in that it connects containers to resources such as pools of storage.
Startup Rancher Labs similarly offers a container environment; Rancher has also been around longer (ContainerX incorporated last year) and is arguably a better-known name in container circles. Other options for container environments include Docker Datacenter and VMware Photon.
Speaking of which — the acquisition opens a new rivalry between Cisco and VMware, as both are now angling to use containers to modernize the data center.
In fact, containers are going to come up during the keynotes at VMworld in Las Vegas today. CEO Pat Gelsinger told the media yesterday that the rollout of vSphere Integrated Containers — containers built for the vSphere environment — is going to be announced. It’s a program, announced last year, to bring containers into VMware’s flagship vSphere environment, which until now has been all about virtual machines.
The ContainerX team will join Cisco’s Cloud Platform and Services Group, reporting to Vice President Kip Compton.