Tail-F Systems….Another one Bites the Dust?

I want start off by saying congratulations to the team at Tail-F Systems! I have been in this business for a long time and I have seen some great companies come an go. When I was was at Network FieldDay 7 I was thrilled with Tail-F’s Presentation. These guys have amazing tech. There two core products are ConfD and NCS. I will let you dig into them on your own but the long and short of it is as follows:

ConfD: Is an OEM platform for enabling management systems and CLI inside of vendor hardware and software.

NCS: Is as one of the other NFD delegates put it “The Rosetta Stone” of network configuration. Essentially if your a Junos CLI head you and use NCS to configure your Arista, Cisco or whatever CLI gear with Junos. Or just flip any of that the other way. It is powerful for people looking to migrate or move to a multi-vendor environment.

So with all that said….really Cisco….you had to buy another great mulit-vendor tool….

I am not thrilled with this for a bunch of reasons. The biggest is that Cisco has a long history of buying people then either letting them rot or rolling them into existing platforms and doing a really poor job of carrying the vision of the original product forward. In the case of Tail-F though I have a much bigger concern than the survival of a startup once it has been assimilated by the borg. While I don’t have a list of who their customers were Tail-F indicated that all the big players were using ConfD as their embedded network management. This was great for the industry that a flexible and forward looking management plane was being shared across vendors. The more I think about it, quite possibly ConfD is responsible for some of the automation options that have been popping up in networking for the past few years.

So now that Cisco, a vendor who has a solid track record of erasing vendor interop in acquired products has Tail-F the OEM product ConfD and they customer list of who is using it what could possibly go wrong. Well they could just dead end development on the Mult-Vendor Version and move forward with a Cisco specific ConfD and NCS as far as that goes. They could also use their newly gained knowledge to take anti-competative actions against vendors by canceling contracts or other punitive actions. All in all I don’t think its a good thing at all.

But I need to be fair in all this as well. This could be AMAZING for the industry. If Cisco leaves the Tail-F team alone, lets them do what they are good at, invests in them and does not drag them into the BU wars then we could have a new level of interoperability and automation on the horizon. Also this is nothing but good for all of you dyed in Cisco Blue customers. I was talking to Ethan Banks the other day about Cisco moving back to one OS and that would most likely be NX-OS or some variant of it. His take on this was that Cisco could not afford to do this because the legacy client base on IOS and the lack of skill transfer and processes that would break if they moved away from IOS. If that is true then it is no longer a problem with this acquisition as the NCS product could be bundled with all products that are not legacy IOS as the interpreter platform for legacy engineers and processes.

Time will tell and I hope Cisco gets this right. If this FAQ on the purchase is accurate then they could already be going down a good path…but again there are lots of skeletons in the closet lets hope Tail-F does not become another one.


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