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F5 Enhances File Virtualization Storage, Management

F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) expanded its file storage and management portfolio with new software to give storage managers greater insight into file usage patterns and trends, and expanded its ARX hardware line with a product that offers support for 10-Gigabit Ethernet.

Known mainly as a networking and WAN optimization vendor, F5 jumped into the storage market last year when it bought storage hardware company Acopia and its ARX platform for $210 million. Acopia's high-end ARX 6000, a switch that competes with NuView from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and Rainfinity from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), among others, in the file virtualization market, can handle more than 2 billion files and up to 24-Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The new ARX4000, introduced today, is a smaller and less expensive unit that can handle around 2 billion files and be provisioned with 12-Gigabit Ethernet ports or 2 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports. The company said it is the first system to support 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Prices start around $185,000. It offers more capacity than the company's smaller, entry-level ARX500 and mid-market ARX1000 products.

To help companies handle the growing amounts of unstructured data they're storing, the company introduced Data Manager software that looks closely into storage environments and analyzes usage patterns and trends and then uses "intelligent file virtualization" technology to automate tiering, simplify backup processes, and aid in capacity planning. The software is designed to help storage managers understand what types of data the company has, how much capacity it's consuming, who is using it, and the age of the files.

"The joke among storage managers is that they love their first NAS box but they aren't as fond of their 20th NAS box," said Renny Shen, product marketing manager for F5. "Data Manager software installs on a Windows PC and monitors file storage from various vendors and shows it on a single pane of glass so storage managers can craft better file management policies. It is a very cheap and lightweight tool for the people who manage the SAN or NAS and provides the tools to forecast capacity growth and monitor usage."

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