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Cisco acquires Skyport Systems to bolster its hybrid cloud positioning

News Analysis
Jan 24, 20184 mins
Cisco SystemsCloud ComputingHybrid Cloud

Skyport will bring some unique technology to Cisco, making it easier for businesses to secure and manage hybrid cloud environments.

hybrid clouds
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For today’s IT professional, hybrid clouds are a fact of life and will be for years to come. Digital businesses need to have an agile infrastructure foundation, which the cloud provides.

However, rarely does one size fit all when it comes to cloud options. Some workloads are ideally suited for public cloud services, while others make more sense to go in a private cloud. With some apps, though, part of it runs in the traditional data center and part runs in a public cloud, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. There are also apps that run in a private data center but then need to connect to a SaaS application.

Cisco wants to make hybrid clouds easier to manage 

Hybrid clouds are certainly the way of the future, but they can be confusing and difficult to manage and secure. Cisco has been on a mission to help its customers simplify the process of running hybrid clouds, including updating key technologies, such as its HCI product, HyperFlex. 

This week, Cisco added another key component when it announced its intention to acquire Skyport Systems. Similar to Viptela, Skyport is a startup in which Cisco Investments had a stake. It appears CEO Chuck Robbins and team like the technology so much that the company decided to acquire all of it and roll it into its Data Center – Computing Systems Product Group, led by SVP and GM Liz Centoni, as well as the Service Provider – Network Group, which is run by SVP and GM Jonathan Davidson. 

What Skyport brings to the cloud game

Skyport is one of the more interesting vendors that plays in the cloud ecosystem. The company has a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution that differentiates itself through its ability to secure the workloads. I believe Skyport is the only HCI vendor to design security into the solution instead of relying on policies or encryption. Skyport wraps a secure layer around each workload, making it significantly more difficult to breach.

Most of the HCI vendors focus only on software, and the hardware comes along for the ride. Skyport, however, has a full, turnkey product that has optimized software and hardware. Cisco takes a similar approach with its HyperFlex product, which may explain why it liked what Skyport was doing so much.

Skyport is managed from the cloud and has several features, such as secure boot, that enhance the security of the product. I haven’t been briefed by Skyport for some time, but the last time I was, the company was using the term “hypersecure,” indicating it was marrying HCI and security. 

The downside of what Skyport is doing is that very few workloads that run on HCI systems today require that kind of Fort Knox security. However, Cisco has an innate ability to catch markets at the right time, and I believe there’s an inflection point coming for HCI. The primary use case of HCI has been overwhelmingly desktop virtualization, which I wouldn’t think needs the security overkill of a Skyport. Recent conversations with IT leaders, however, indicate that they are looking at HCI more broadly and are likely to see it used for workloads such as databases, ERP systems, management tools and UC platforms. These can often contain sensitive information and would benefit from something like Skyport to ensure the data isn’t compromised.

Cisco’s vice president of corporate development, Rob Salvagno, wrote in a recent blog post, “This acquisition will enable Cisco to utilize Skyport’s intellectual property, seasoned software and network expertise to accelerate priority areas across multiple Cisco portfolios.”  

I suspect that means the Skyport appliances are going away, and Cisco customers will have access to these features in products such as HyperFlex and UCS.

Hybrid clouds are rapidly becoming the norm, and this creates new management and security challenges. Skyport has a unique solution, and in the near future, these should be made available across a number of Cisco products.    


Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, and provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.

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