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Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins

Cisco took its first step into the software container market today, announcing plans to buy ContainerX, an early-stage startup focused on helping manage and integrate containers. Terms weren’t disclosed.

ContainerX, of San Jose, Calif., offers a management product that it says controls containers running under Linux or Windows, on bare metal or in a virtual machine, in a private or public cloud. It released its first beta version in November 2015 and made it generally available in June.

The move marks an attempt by Cisco to enter a market that’s young but is already seeing competition. Developers love containers, which house applications, parts of the operating system, and other run-time essentials, simplifying deployment and increasing portability. Administrators have been less enthusiastic, lacking a way to easily control them. Container darling Docker in June added built-in administration and “orchestration” capabilities with Swarm, which competes with Google’s Kubernetes and several other offerings.

Sales at Cisco, traditionally a hardware maker, are jeopardized by intense competition and the movement toward cloud computing. Earlier this month Cisco reported a 2 percent decline in revenue for its fourth FY2016 quarter ended June 30 and said it would lay off up to 5,500 workers, or 7 percent of its workforce. No doubt it is eager to diversify.

“The ContainerX team  has demonstrated strong technical expertise in developing enterprise-class container-management technology that works across a range of platforms,” Cisco said in its post about the purchase “With today’s announcement, the ContainerX and Cisco teams will work together to continue to develop a comprehensive cloud-native stack for our customers.”

Kiran Kamity, co-founder and CEO of ContainerX
Kiran Kamity, co-founder and CEO of ContainerX

“I write this note with a feeling of unfettered excitement coupled with gut-wrenching anxiety,” wrote ContainerX CEO and co-founder Kiran Kamity in an unusually candid post. “As with any acquisition, there are a few things we need to figure out as we join forces with Cisco.”

The ContainerX team, which consists of eight people, will join Cisco’s Cloud Platform & Services Group, led by Vice President Kip Compton. Cisco’s distribution channels and reach will help ContainerX build its team and begin “an accelerated evolution,” Kamity wrote. Meanwhile, the company has discontinued product downloads, webinars and tech support.

ContainerX is backed by Caffeinated Capital, General Catalyst and Greylock. It claims to have had “a few hundred downloads” of its product.

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