Cisco acquires Composite: implications

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In case you missed it, Cisco has announced the acquisition of Composite Software. As regular readers will know, I have been a long-time fan of Composite, especially for federated query – as opposed to Denodo, whose strength has been in the range of environments it supports – a broader product but arguably not as deep. The question is: what impact will this acquisition have on the market?

The first thing that you may not know is that Cisco currently embeds Denodo’s software in its Smart Services offerings. It will probably be some time before it is able to make its transition from Denodo to Composite so, for the time being, if you are licensing Smart Services then you’ll continue to be getting Denodo rather than Composite.

The first question here would be: well, if Cisco was happy with Denodo then why buy Composite? And the short answer is that Composite was largely funded by venture capitalists and was potentially for sale while Denodo isn’t and wasn’t. So the decision to acquire Composite should not be seen as a reflection on Denodo.

The required migration from Denodo to Composite has an important implication: it means that the relevant development teams at Cisco and Composite are going to be focused, at least for the next few months, perhaps as much as a year, on the integration between these two. This will necessarily detract from any other enhancements that Composite might otherwise have been planning, though short-term commitments will no doubt be fulfilled.

Of course, Cisco/Composite will tell you (and me) that they will be continuing to market Composite as an independent product. I’m sure they are sincere when they say this. But this is always what big vendors say when they make acquisitions like this and it rarely, if ever, happens. What does Cisco need with a company that generates a few tens of millions of dollars per year? As far as Cisco is concerned this is a fleabite. The obvious conclusion is that Composite will gradually disappear as anything other than a part of Cisco’s software stack. And even if this surmise isn’t true, users will certainly make the same assumption that I have – at least in the short/medium term – which will hurt Composite’s sales and make it even more likely that the product will disappear from the general market: a vicious circle.

That’s good news for Denodo but it’s also bad news. Bad because Bob Eve at Composite (among others) has been a great advocate for data virtualisation and his evangelism will be missed if this acquisition should diminish that role. On the other hand, this leaves Denodo as the only significant pure play data virtualisation vendor in the market. Also, there are signs that data virtualisation has reached an acceptance point so that proselytising its advantages is less necessary than it used to be. Further, it is likely that the Internet of Things will see a further upsurge in demand for data virtualisation – which is, of course, precisely why Cisco has acquired Composite, capturing information from routers and other network devices. On balance, I think this looks good for Denodo – it’ll eventually lose its Cisco business but this should be more than made up for by the new business it can acquire with Composite out of its way.