F5 & Acopia vs. Cisco & NeoPath

F5's purchase of Acopia raises questions about when Cisco will produce a full-fledged optimization product

August 7, 2007

2 Min Read
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6:00 PM -- F5 Networks' announced plan to buy Acopia for $210 million calls into question the state of the market for wide area file services (WAFS) and WAN optimization. It also prompts comparisons with Cisco's purchase of NeoPath last March. (See Cisco Nabs NeoPath and F5 Acquires Acopia for $210M.)

According to Gartner, the market segment F5 rules with a 33.5 percent share (as of 1Q07) is application delivery controllers (ADCs). Cisco ranks second with a 30.1 percent share in this segment, and Citrix (with Netscaler), Radware, and Foundry are the only other notable participants.

ADCs, in Gartner's taxonomy, are devices that work from the data center to improve the performance or availability of IP- or Web-based applications. ADCs grossed $250 million in worldwide revenue last quarter, according to Gartner, and they're worthy of note because, like WAN optimizers, they enable better performance of remote site data. And we all know how important that's getting to be.

The question is, Who can move fast enough to wed the disparate functionality of ADCs with WAN optimization?

Cisco's ACE module for its Catalyst 6500 routers -- which is marketed alongside its WAAS -- is included in Gartner's ADC count. So are Cisco's Content Services Switches (CSSs) for Web insfrastructures and the Content Switching Module (CSM) for the Catalyst 6500.But Cisco ADC revenues for the first quarter of 2007 dropped 13.9 percent, according to Gartner, while F5's rose 9.2 percent.

At the same time, Cisco is pushing its WAN optimization story hard, and spokespeople say Cisco will integrate NeoPath file virtualization into its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) wares at an unspecified future date. So far, there's no real sign of that happening anytime soon. (See What Cisco Left Out and WAN Optimization Forges On.)

Acopia, meantime, has been sniping away at Cisco's NeoPath acquisition for months, accusing Cisco of lagging in support for an integrated solution. (See Acopia Plans NeoPath Buyback.) But now that it's part of F5, there's a fresh integration challenge for the acquirer.

It's time for the rubber to meet the road. Drooping sales for both WAN optimizers and ADCs, by Gartner's estimates, indicate there's room for improvement all round. Users want and need better remote-site solutions, and they're tiring of the piecemeal delivery of key features. It's time for unified products.

The F5/Acopia merger indicates that someone's paying attention. If Cisco mobilizes aggressively, we could be presented with some interesting new wares. Hopefully, they'll come faster than they have so far.Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Acopia Networks Inc.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV)

  • Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY)

  • Gartner Inc.

  • Radware Ltd.

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