Cisco moved further into the file virtualization space on Tuesday by acquiring partner NeoPath Networks.
While block-based SAN virtualization has been slow to catch on, file-based NAS virtualization has been one of the hottest storage technologies in the last year, as companies struggle to turn far-flung file servers into a coherent whole.
In a statement, Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Cisco's Datacenter Switching and Security Technology Group (DSSTG), said, "Enterprise customers are asking Cisco how they can make better use of their existing IT infrastructure, and NeoPath is part of the answer. NeoPath's technology will enhance Cisco's Services Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) direction and vision by establishing tighter linkages between file-based data and network accelerated services."
Cisco said NeoPath will fit into its wide area file services (WAFS) offerings, part of its wide area application services (WAAS) portfolio.
"By acquiring the NeoPath technology Cisco, gets an in-depth knowledge of file level protocols such as NFS and CIFS," the company said in a statement. "We plan on leveraging this knowledge to enable future product developments to accelerate and enhance file systems based upon tighter integration with the network infrastructure. This is in alignment with our Service-Oriented Network Architecture, which offers network-based acceleration and APIs. We believe that this will be complementary to our current WAAS offering, and our customers and partners file-based solutions."
Cisco has been moving aggressively into the storage networking space since first acquiring Fibre Channel switch maker Andiamo in 2002, as the company's vision has evolved to encompass not just corporate networks but also the data that resides on them. Cisco's success in the storage switch market forced rivals Brocade and McData to merge earlier this year.
Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder of StorageIO, said Cisco is looking for the same file virtualization and management capabilities that Brocade picked up with its NuView acquisition.
"By expanding their portfolios, their partners and customers can reduce the number of different vendors that they have to deal with," said Schulz. "So with Rainfinty acquired by EMC a couple of years ago, NuView by Brocade, and now Cisco expanding their previous arrangement with NeoPath in the form of an acquisition, that leaves Acopia and their director platform along with Attune and their software solution as independents and possible acquisition targets."
Cisco and Brocade will have to make sure they add value to their OEMs and avoid alienating them as they move into file access and shared data management, said Schulz.
"Other than Cisco dabbling in some point solutions with their partner EMC to add value around some WAFS/WAAS solutions in the past, both Cisco and Brocade have steered clear of competing directly as a NAS vendor with their partners, instead looking to add value," he said. "Does this open the door for Cisco to acquire a NAS vendor and go directly into the crowded NAS space? Anything is possible, and there have been rumors on the coconut wire for years about Cisco and NetApp, Cisco and ONStor, Cisco and EMC, Cisco and BlueArc, Cisco and 'insert whoever you want,' so I'm sure the speculation will continue in the future as well."
Cisco expects the deal to close in its current quarter, which ends April 28. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
NeoPath was founded in 2002 and has 55 employees based primarily in Santa Clara, Calif. After the deal closes, the NeoPath team and products will be integrated into DSSTG and report to Ullal.