This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

This morning, Cisco agreed to acquire JouleX, a software company that helps IT organizations power the management capabilities of their IT infrastructure from the data center to the desktop and everywhere in between. The purchase price is reported to be $107 million, which is just a drop in the hat for the cash-rich company that has acquired a veritable cornucopia of software companies this year.

The first and most obvious fit for JouleX is complementing Cisco’s “EnergyWise” initiative. EnergyWise has been increasingly important for Cisco as it raises the value of the Cisco network and opens up new buying centers. Earlier this year, after Cisco Live Europe, I posed this slideshow looking at some of the more interesting Cisco partners at the event and several of the vendors were specifically related to energy management.

To understand how EnergyWise might work, consider the example of when an employee coming to the office in the morning. Typically, buildings are set up to have the air conditioning, lights, printers and other office equipment power up at some pre-determined time, say 6 am. But what if no one comes in? Or, even if a certain employee does not come in, why power up his or her office? Most of these systems are connected via a network, but not a common network.

By connecting the facilities networks to the data network, buildings can be smarter and more power-efficient. Using the example above, all the power systems would stay off until the first employee swipes the badge to enter the office. When this happens, the system should know to power up the printers, air conditioners and other building systems in that user’s office or zone. When the employee leaves, then the network can power everything off.

To date, Cisco’s EnergyWise project has been limited to building facilities, but did not have control over broader IT infrastructure. JouleX gives Cisco vendor-neutral control over any IT device with an IP stack. Printers, access points, PCs, servers, mobile devices or anything connected to the data network. One of the appealing factors of JouleX is that it allows the monitoring and control without having to install hardware meters or software agents.

The acquision also supports Cisco’s broader Internet of Things campaign that works off the fundamental concept that when we live in a world where everything is connected, it will change the way we work, live, learn and play. The Internet did that almost 20 years ago, and the Internet of Things will do that again. JouleX will help Cisco connect and manage IT infrastructure to the Internet of Things.

Lastly, Cisco has articulated a goal of becoming a more relevant IT vendor, and not just a relevant network vendor. While the company has had great success with its Unified Computing System (UCS), it didn’t have much to offer the rest of the IT community. I really couldn’t see Cisco getting into broader applications or a dying PC market, but JouleX allows Cisco to have some control and management over IT infrastructure without having to own it. Obviously, this isn’t the only missing piece that will give Cisco instant IT relevancy, but it certainly helps.

As Cisco gets further down the path of Internet of Things and EnergyWise, I would expect to see the company acquire more companies to bring this vision to a reality. JouleX is a good move for Cisco, but it’s certainly not the last.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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