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Cisco Acquires Data Analytics Company Truviso: Can It Execute?

Cisco recently announced that it had acquired Truviso, a data analytics business with a specific focus on real-time analytics. The immediate question is: Why?

At first glance, data analytics isn't part of Cisco's core business of networking, and it isn't related to one of the company's foundational priorities. Memories of previous business failures, like the Flip video camera, come quickly to mind as areas where Cisco picked the trend but failed in the execution.

Most of Truviso's product offerings are focused on Web analytics. Truviso also claims that it can provide analysis for video and mobile, as well as for advertising (including targeted placement). Given that most of the current market for data analytics is applied to extracting more advertising revenue from existing Web businesses, this seems like a solid application of the technology.

What can Cisco do with these assets? Where does data analytics with a Web-centric application fit into the Cisco product portfolio?

Truviso's offerings seem different, in that the company performs real-time analysis (unlike most other analytics tools, which are batched and near time). In my view, the concept of continuous analytics would be very useful for network management and operations. The immediate application of the software assets to NetFlow applications could improve the quality of the reporting and data. The limitation of NetFlow analysis is partly determined by the performance of the collectors, but, critically, the user's perception of product performance and value is determined by the NetFlow analyzer. Today's NetFlow analysis products are competent but rarely expose useful data metrics beyond simple analysis of voice and critical data. The amount of data processing needed to enhance the usefulness of NetFlow is beyond the current software developers--Truviso may be an answer to that.

But perhaps the most vital part is software-defined networking (SDN) applications. While many SDN controllers are looking to implement as configuration utilities, the longer-term value of the OpenFlow-enabled network is the ability to dynamically respond to packet flow events and change the network configuration. This concept would require massive data analysis of the entire network (a big-data problem if ever there was one) and is not easily implemented. Therefore, a "big-data engine" will be a vital part of any long-term SDN strategy.

Because Truviso already has an OEM model, the business unit could release products into other Cisco business units for use. Less repackaging and less change means faster adoption of technologies (Cisco is slow to integrate new acquisitions these days).

So, perhaps Truviso has a part to play in the Cisco portfolio. Here's the vision I see: The network of the future will be driven by software controllers that are fueled by big data. Truviso doesn't look like a networking product, but the fundamental change in networking to data requires new engines.

Given Cisco's execution track record after correctly identifying trends, we'll just have to see how this one plays out.