Is Cisco Eyeing HashiCorp Again?


By: Mary Jander

HashiCorp, one of the Futuriom 40 top private companies to watch, has taken another step in an ongoing relationship with Cisco (CSCO), which could herald the young company's next big move.

On March 24, the infrastructure-as-code startup became Cisco’s preferred partner in supplying a key element of that vendor’s hybrid cloud automation solution, dubbed Cisco Intersight Service for HashiCorp Terraform.

This is likely to once again raise suspicions that Cisco might be interested in acquiring the private company, which has become one of the hottest names in cloud software. It’s no secret that in Cisco has eyed HashiCorp as a potential acquisition in the past. Cisco reportedly got serious about this in 2019, but may have been put off by price. And it's more likely that the price has gone up, rather than down, given the frothy market conditions.

Specifically, Cisco has integrated HashiCorp’s Terraform Cloud Business software-as-a-service (SaaS) with its Intersight Services for managing IT operations. The two products will now be available as a package supported by Cisco.

The move signals Cisco's efforts to support trends toward managing hybrid cloud resources, not just for network operators but for their increasingly active developer partners. “With the Intersight Service for HashiCorp Terraform, we’re bridging ITOps and DevOps teams, as well as bridging on-prem and public cloud, with the same automation methods and a common cloud operating model,” wrote Kaustubh Das, VP and general manager for Cisco’s Cloud and Compute business, in a blog post.

Terraform Agents and Cisco Appliances

Recall that HashiCorp offers open-source Terraform infrastructure-as-code software to give developers a fast and efficient way to represent data center and cloud elements in management applications. Its Terraform Cloud Business software-as-a-service (SaaS) adds a range of enterprise capabilities, including single sign-on via Okta (OKTA), the identity management company that just bought another Futuriom 40 company, Auth0, in a deal worth $6.5 billion. Terraform Cloud Business also integrates audit trail capabilities via Splunk (SPLK).

Cisco has built a “bridge” to link Terraform Cloud Business to its Intersight Services for managing IT operations. That product, also offered as SaaS, includes configuration and management of servers that are acting as interconnects in networks equipped with Cisco routing and switching hardware. Customers will be able to use Terraform representations to manage various elements of hybrid cloud “estates.”

“This integration delivers simplicity [emphasis Cisco's] by having Intersight manage the end-to-end lifecycle (deployments, upgrades, scaling, networking) of Terraform Agents on the Intersight Assist Appliance,” wrote Cisco’s Das. The Assist Appliance is a virtual element in Intersight that controls the addition of endpoints to the system.

All of this stresses Cisco’s ongoing efforts to define itself as a major participant in the move to cloud networking and in the automated management of hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. Given the vendor’s persistent identity crisis, it could be a direction well taken, since it’s an increasingly popular segment. Still, competition is fierce. Players include nearly every vendor with a hand in cloud networking, as well as Futuriom 40 company Itential and Apstra, now part of Juniper.

Another Step in an Ongoing Partnership

This isn’t Cisco’s first effort with HashiCorp. Back in September 2020, Cisco integrated HashiCorp Terraform Cloud with its Cisco ACI, the software-defined networking software for environments based on Cisco switches. And then there was the talk of potential acquisition.

Is this latest integration a hint at renewed interest? That may depend on the subsequent success of this endeavor, as well as on other prospects HashiCorp may have to merge with another firm or go public. And given HashiCorp’s growing ecosystem of over 500 partners, potential scenarios are plentiful.