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As Cisco swoops on Cilium, community efforts look critical

CNCF governance should avoid a "Hashicorp" situation, but increasingly broad community contributions to the important open source project would be welcome.

Image credit: Hypnotica Studios Infinite. CC BY 2.0.

Networks, in a world of cloud services and containerised apps, are evolving fast. OSS project Cilium has become a big part of how such workloads are connected and secured – tapping eBPF to insert bytecode into the Linux kernel to help rethink not just networking but security and visibility across increasingly heterogeneous infrastructure environments.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that Cisco would swoop on Isovalent, the company behind Cilium; agreeing what has been reported as a $650 million deal to acquire the startup and its talent  just before Christmas – and getting direct access to what is arguably the future of both networks and cloud-native security: Highly programmable eBPF-based capabilities. 

Cilium, founded in 2016 and maintained primarily by the team at Isovalent (as an Apache 2.0-licensed OSS project), provides an abstraction on top of the eBPF API that lets users connect, secure, and load-balance workloads without needing to write brow-moppingly complex eBPF code.

The acquisition (predicted byThe Stack in November, although it hardly took a Nostradamus to see it coming) means Cisco lays its hands on the talent and technology team behind an emerging but influential threat/complement to its established networking and security stack.

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