F5: Security Stars Are Aligned


Timing is everything, as the onetime 'load-balancer' company makes its move


It wasn’t all that long ago that F5 Networks was “the load-balancer company,” a niche-based supplier of load-balancing technologies for enterprise customers looking to get more performance out of their data centers.

But a funny thing happened as F5 began to grow in the early 2000s: Load balancers gave way to application delivery technologies and F5 not only grew its position in that niche market, it flat-out crushed the field. By most analyst estimates, it is the runaway dominant player in application delivery controller (ADC) technology and controls about half the market share for Layer 4-7 switching, having long since eclipsed Cisco, Citrix, Radware and a number of other ADC competitors.

And the timing was perfect: The market for application delivery -- catalyzed by the industrywide embrace of data center optimization and virtualization, and interest in cloud computing technologies -- transitioned out of niche status and became a full-fledged focus area for some of the country’s most powerful solution providers, almost all of which, in the security, infrastructure and data center spaces, F5 now counts as partners.

The proof is in the numbers: F5 crossed the $1 billion mark for revenue as it exited its fiscal 2011 in September and finally has a seat at the channel vendor big kids’ table. Now, F5 is charting an ambitious course to link its data center solutions to solving major security and infrastructure problems and position itself as a security vendor in the process.

The groundwork for that image transformation was laid a while ago, but F5’s recent activities kicked it into high gear. F5 in late October pried away Manny Rivelo, a 19-year Cisco veteran, to be its senior vice president, security and strategic solutions. It’s a newly created role at F5 and Rivelo, who reports directly to F5 CEO John McAdam, is responsible for driving F5’s deeper push into security and other technology areas that complement its application delivery dominance.

“We see adjacent market drivers that will augment the ADC market, which we think is going to grow anyway,” McAdam told CRN. “I think the key is going to be that we have a focus and an executive team focused specifically on this market.”

The security focus has been top of mind at F5 for some time. McAdam said F5 created an internal “tiger team” early in 2011 to examine how F5’s various business units and data center functions could best align with its security ambitions. Specifically, the team looked at how to market F5, which already partners with some of the country’s biggest and best-known security-focused VARs and integrators, as a security vendor.

NEXT: The Application Era