F5 Fires Up File Virtualization

WAN optimization vendor fleshes out its storage roadmap

November 3, 2007

3 Min Read
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NEW YORK CITY -- WAN optimization specialist F5 unveiled the roadmap for its $210 million Acopia acquisition during its analyst meeting today, describing its plans to gain a foothold in the storage market.

"I know that [the Acopia acquisition] wasn't well received, but I am mega, mega, excited about it," said F5 CEO John McAdam, alluding to skepticism about the vendor's ability to integrate the file virtualization specialist.

F5 execs outlined a major overhaul of Acopia's flagship ARX hardware during this morning's call. "In the next 12 months we will start to do migration to the new platform," said Karl Triebes, F5's CTO, explaining that this will involve the launch of three new devices: the 1G, 4G, and 10G.

Acopia's current high-end device is the ARX 6000, a switch that competes with Brocade's NuView and EMC's Rainfinity in the file virtualization space. The ARX 6000 is capable of sustained throughput of 2.6 Gbytes per second, F5 says, and Triebes promised that the new hardware will offer up to eight times that performance.

The series will start with the 1G and 4G next year, with the 10G following sometime in 2009. The high-end 10G will use F5's next-generation chassis, code-named Montreal.The exec also described F5's intention to build Acopia's file virtualization offerings into F5's other products. "Going forward, WANJet is the first place to start integration," he said, without providing a specific timeframe.

F5 does not have the best track record for integrating its acquisitions, and analysts have already pointed to F5's difficulties integrating Swan Labs, which it bought for $43 million in 2005.

Acopia's CEO, Chris Lynch, who is now senior VP of F5's data solutions division, attempted to downplay any suggestion of discord today. "We're still in the honeymoon period," he admitted, noting that Acopia has not lost any of its key employees or its customers in the aftermath of the acquisition.

The recently acquired company is one of a number of vendors, including Attune, NetApp, and NeoPath (which was acquired by Cisco for an undisclosed sum in March 2007), that offer file-based virtualization technology. This field can also be subdivided between network-based products that run on a switch, such as Acopia's, and offerings that run on the storage device itself, such as NetApp's Ontap GX.

At least one analyst expects this corner of the market to become increasingly busy over the coming months. "Competition could be stiff in file virtualization," wrote Lehman Brothers analyst Inder Singh in a note last night. "While this is a new market for F5, we believe that the M&A activity underscores a meaningful market opportunity."Another analyst on today's call grilled McAdam about F5's recently announced partnership with EMC, which will resell WANJet as part of its SRDF replication product.

In response, the exec denied that the EMC deal places F5 in an awkward position, given that EMC's Rainfinity is a direct competitor to Acopia's products. "It's not uncommon in our industry to have competition and be in partnership," he said, adding that F5 will be "aggressively" pushing Acopia's file virtualization products out to customers.

Besides outlining the Acopia integration plan, F5 execs also detailed a raft of coming product announcements, including a software-based version of its FirePass SSL VPN product, which will be available in the first quarter of next year, and two new WAN optimization devices, the WJ600 and the WJ800.

"These will be for higher-end applications," said Triebes, explaining that the new WANJet devices will be launched sometime over the next six to eight months.

F5 will also start a refresh of its family of Big-IP Web acceleration products next year, unveiling three devices code-named Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. "We have a roadmap that keeps us going up and to the left in terms of performance," said Triebes.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Acopia Networks Inc.

  • Attune Systems Inc.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV)

  • Lehman Brothers

  • NeoPath Networks

  • Network Appliance Inc.

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