Networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. announced an agreement today to acquire service control switching start-up P-Cube Inc. $200 million. P-Cube's platform allows broadband and mobile service providers to manage network resources on a per-application and per-user basis. In other words, it provides the ability to do useful things like prioritize IP voice, video or gaming traffic, or cap peer-to-peer application usage, at the IP layer.
The acquisition is a smart move for Cisco, though it amounts to a bit of an about-face for the company, as it had been trying to convince customers its routing products could provide this functionality. They cannot. The deal, and the valuation, also provides validation for P-Cube's competitors in the nascent service control sector, such as Ellacoya Networks and Sandvine. However, this is of little consolation, now that they'll have to compete against Cisco for business.
It will be interesting to see how Cisco positions its P-Cube products for the cable market. There is an effort underfoot by service control players to use their products as network-aware Application Managers (AM) in a PacketCable Multimedia environment. As the role of an AM is to communicate with a Policy Server (PS), which in turn applies QoS via DOCSIS CMTSs, Cisco is poised to offer tight integration with its CMTS and PacketCable NCS products.