Constellation Insights

Cisco buys Broadsoft for $1.9 billion: Shortly after reaching its 200th-acquisition milestone, Cisco is plunking down $1.9 billion to acquire Broadsoft, a maker of communication and collaboration software with broad inroads to the telecom carrier industry.

Broadsoft sells hosted software for SMBs through service providers and has existing relationships with 450 telcos in 80 countries, representing a 19 million-plus user base. Its offerings will complement Cisco's on-premises and hosted collaboration software products for large enterprises. Here's how Cisco measures the value proposition:

By combining BroadSoft's open interface and standards-based cloud voice and contact center solutions delivered via Service Provider partners, with Cisco's leading meetings, hardware and services portfolio, the combined company will offer best-of-breed solutions for businesses of all sizes and deliver a full suite of collaboration capabilities to power the future of work.

The acquisition of BroadSoft reinforces Cisco's commitment to Unified Communications and enhances its ability to address the millions of aging TDM lines poised to transition to IP technology and cloud native solutions over the coming years. 

POV: The deal will close early next year. While Cisco's characterization of the deal as complementary is basically expected, there do seem to be some overlaps in the companies' product portfolio, chiefly between Team-One, the unified workspace application Broadsoft rolled out last year, and Cisco Spark. The jury is out on exactly how Cisco will merge the products, or if it will in a meaningful way at all. 

"Cisco continues to broaden its portfolio of capabilities using acquisitions to move into new areas and add new customers as the definition of networks and networking shifts into 'connectivity,'" says Constellation VP and principal analyst Andy Mulholland. "People, devices, and computers are all merging into a ubiquitous infrastructural capability supporting not only new software demands, but new business ways of working and interacting. The result is reshaping the market and and merging previously separate segments in such a way that previous partners are becoming competitors, driving Cisco to extend its portfolio to compete in new areas."


Microsoft brings Cray supercomputer access to Azure: IaaS vendors have been working to provide HPC (high-performance computing) options for some time now, but Microsoft is hoping to stand out from the competition with the help of the most venerable brand name in the space, Cray.

The company's supercomputers will be available in certain Azure data centers, giving customers the ability to tap a Cray's power without making the massive investment in owning one themselves. Here's how Cray's official announcement puts it:

Cray in Azure will open up the power of supercomputing to a broad new cross-section of businesses and organizations with growing mission-critical, scalable applications needs. The dramatic growth in AI, machine and deep learning, and data analytics is driving the need for scalable simulation capability — and vice-versa — in a virtuous cycle where companies and organizations will vie for competitive advantage.

We’re thrilled to be able to offer the performance and scale of an on-premise supercomputer in the Azure cloud.

POV: Cray and Microsoft foreshadowed this announcement last year, when they worked together to scale Redmond's Cognitive Toolkit deep learning framework on Cray machines. Microsoft also recently acquired Cycle Computing, a startup specializing in hybrid HPC deployments. It's not immediately clear when access to Crays on Azure will be available, but in the meantime, they've been integrated with Azure VMs, Data Lake Storage and Azure Machine Learning, according to a statement.

While it's obviously been possible to run high-end workloads on Azure already, particularly with NVIDA GPU-powered instances, the addition of dedicated Cray supercomputer access looks to serve the most demanding needs, such as for pharmaceutical research. Overall, the partnership seems like a win for all parties, as Microsoft can offer existing customers painless access to Crays, while Cray gets more exposure with Azure's installed base.

Linux Foundation unveils open-source big data licensing proposal: The Linux Foundation is hoping to do for data what its work has accomplished for open source software, through a new family of Community Data License Agreements unveiled this week. Here's how the nonprofit describes the licenses' goals:

The growth of big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has allowed people to extract unprecedented levels of insight from data. Now the challenge is to assemble the critical mass of data for those tools to analyze. The CDLA licenses are designed to help governments, academic institutions, businesses and other organizations open up and share data, with the goal of creating communities that curate and share data openly.

For instance, if automakers, suppliers and civil infrastructure services can share data, they may be able to improve safety, decrease energy consumption and improve predictive maintenance. ... Self-driving cars are heavily dependent on AI systems for navigation, and need massive volumes of data to function properly.

Similarly, climate modeling can integrate measurements captured by government agencies with simulation data from other organizations and then use machine learning systems to look for patterns in the information. ... This knowledge may help improve agriculture or aid in studying extreme weather patterns.

The Linux Foundation has proposed two CDLAs. The Sharing version follows copyleft doctrine, in that while those who use data are allowed to use and modify it without restriction, they are also compelled to share back changes to the community. A Permissive version carries no such obligations.

POV: As the Linux Foundation notes, developers who use the licenses must figure out local legal issues concerning data on their own. The CDLAs merely provide a framework. However, the Foundation's prominence gives the CDLAs an inprimatur that should help spark a healthy discussion around open-source data sharing. Still, it's important to put the licenses in proper context, notes Constellation VP and principal analyst Doug Henschen.

"Linux is widely used and the operating system of the cloud, but it's hardly the be-all-and-end-all of data destinations," he says. "Data consumption, analysis and delivery happens on many platforms, including iOS, Android and Windows devices, so Linux isn't everything. They seem to be talking about high-scale systems and sources, so Linux is a good starting point for a license discussion, but it's just that—a starting point."