F5 has traditionally been associated with Application Front End (AFE) technology, which is also sold by the likes of Cisco and Citrix. AFEs are appliances that offload networking and I/O processes from Web servers in an attempt to boost the performance of Internet applications.
AFE technology is typically deployed in an "asymmetric" fashion, meaning that users need only deploy one device at their central site in order to speed up Web traffic going to remote locations.
F5 is now looking to extend its reach into the WAN optimization space, where vendors such as Riverbed and Silver Peak offer "symmetric" systems, which require devices to be deployed in both central and remote sites.
Built on technology acquired when F5 bought Swan Labs two years ago, F5 today unveiled the WebAccelerator software module for its BIG-IP system, which enables users to deploy its technology at both ends of an Internet link. (See F5 to Acquire Swan Labs, F5 Completes Swan Buy, and WAFS Goes Into Orbital.) "We want to offer users the ability to not be locked into one technology for acceleration," says Joe Hicks, F5's product manager for Web acceleration.