When Cisco Systems (CSCO) announced plans to buy ClearAccess today, the move signaled Cisco's latest step to help service providers manage residential and mobile devices. ClearAccess is not a pure mobile device management (MDM) play, but it could help big service providers to monitor and manage bandwidth usage across homes, small offices and mobile devices.

Cisco has a strong position in the service provider market. CEO John Chambers in February 2012 even suggested that Cisco was taking share from Juniper in the service provider market. Most of the Cisco vs. Juniper battle involves big service providers that need expensive, complex routers and networking hardware.

But Cisco's buyout of ClearAccess is a software play. Indeed, Cisco plans to blend the ClearAccess TR-069-based software with Cisco Prime -- a network management software portfolio. The ClearAccess hardware business, called Smart RG Gateways, will remain an independent company called SmartRG Inc.

In a prepared statement, Cisco VP James Lerner suggested that ClearAccess will help service providers to march forward with more mobility, cloud, and video services. And naturally, Cisco wants those services to flow over Cisco infrastructure.