Isovalent, a cloud-native networking and security startup, will be acquired by Cisco

Isovalent, a cloud-native networking and security startup, will be acquired by Cisco

The cloud-native security and networking startup Isovalent should fit in nicely with Cisco’s core networking and security strategy, the company announced this morning that it plans to acquire it. The purchase price was not split between the companies.

Together with Cilium, another open source project the startup created, Isovalent has contributed to the development of eBPF, a critical open source technology that provides developers with deep insight into the operating system layer, typically Linux but also Windows. The open source security visibility component of the company is called Tetragon.

The combination of these three components was previously supplied by a hardware appliance, but in the cloud world, Tom Gillis, senior VP and general manager of Cisco’s Security Business Group, notes that this is becoming more and more software-driven. “In a cloud world, boxes are still present, but they are hidden behind numerous software layers. Thus, he told TechCrunch, “eBPF and Cilium provide that visibility for cloud world.”

That specifically entails being able to observe all that transpires during an application’s network interaction and judging whether or not that appears normal. “What this allows anyone to do is to provide a very high level of visibility into the inner workings of an application. So when one little container is talking to another container, Cilium can intercept and see that traffic, and it can also see the inner workings of the OS itself,” he said. “So this becomes a platform that allows us to provide connectivity, like should this particular cluster talk to that particular cluster, yes or no. But also security inspection, like what are they talking about? Does this make sense? Does this thing look logical?”

It should be noted that Cilium serves as Google Kubernetes Engine, Google Anthos, and Amazon EKS Anywhere’s default connectivity and security component. A who’s who of major corporations, including Adobe, Bell Canada, Capital One, Datadog, Palantir, IKEA, and Sky, are also using it.

Purchasing a startup founded on well-known open source projects like this is always problematic, and it may raise concerns in the community as well as among the larger businesses that have grown reliant on this software. Isovalent is a major code contributor and holds important positions at the eBPF Foundation and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). However, Gillis asserts that it is in everyone’s best interest for the open source components to succeed as a standard moving forward.

“In order for that to happen Cilium and eBPF need to thrive, and so the community needs to continue to embrace them because the ubiquity of the standard is what makes it so powerful,” he said. Gillis sees it a lot like Kubernetes, which Google created and then open sourced. “I oftentimes say it’s the Kubernetes of the data path. It allows it’s an open standard that all can participate in, allows everyone to innovate on top of this platform, and build amazing products,” he said.