F5 To Buy File Virtualization Vendor


WAN acceleration vendor F5 Networks plans to expand its technology for increasing the availability, security and performance of data center applications to storage with the acquisition of Acopia Networks.

The $210 million cash deal is expected to close in September. Acopia is a Lowell, Mass., file virtualization technology vendor.

Dan Matte, senior vice president of marketing for F5, said his company feels that the storage tier of the enterprise data center can benefit from F5's application delivery technology, and found Acopia to be the right company for expanding into the storage tier.

"If you can control what is going in and out of the data center, and where storage sits and how it is accessed, you can take advantage of both," he said. "So F5 is entering a new, very high-growth market.

Acopia's solutions serve to aggregate NAS-based data storage into a single heterogeneous pool by putting multiple NAS appliances behind a single switch. As a result, customers can get non-disruptive migration between heterogeneous storage devices, automated storage tiering according to the value of the data and the cost of the storage devices, dynamic load balancing across multiple devices, and the ability to replicate files between multi-vendor storage platforms.

Solution providers said that Acopia has the right technology to help a company like F5 improve application availability and performance in the data center.

Mike Adams, storage practice leader at Lighthouse Computer Services, a Lincoln, R.I.-based solution provider, said he likes the Acopia technology for his company's banking customers and other customers with a lot of file servers or NAS appliances.

"A lot of our customers are interested in virtualization," Adams said. "We do a lot of SAN-based storage virtualization. But with ILM [information lifecycle management] and policy-based storage, you need access to data at the file level. For example, to replicate to another site and take data out of the backup policy, Acopia works well."

Acopia is the only company to completely address a couple of key data center issues, said Steve Bishop, CTO of VeriStor Systems, an Atlanta-based solution provider.

For instance, Bishop said, it's the only vendor that addresses NAS clustering from a hardware perspective. "It appears to be a very clean implementation," he said. "It fits in how network managers deal with things. It's very simple to understand, implement and make work. You just aggregate the NAS devices behind the switch, and it's ready to go."

Nigel Burmeister, director of product marketing for Acopia, said that details about how the Acopia technology will be implemented with F5 are not available, as the acquisition has yet to close.

However, Burmeister said, the technologies look very complimentary. "We can provide file virtualization between the application level and the device level," he said. "In the past, applications were tied to specific storage. Now we can break they tie between storage and the application, and more easily implement thin provisioning."

F5 is a channel-centric vendor, with a strong partner community, Matte said. Acopia has a mix of direct and indirect sales, with direct sales focused mainly in the Fortune 500 clients, Burmeister said.

Last week, F5 Networks named Steve Hale as its vice president of channel sales for North America. Hale came to F5 following a 17-year career at Microsoft, where he most recently served as senior director of worldwide field sales operations for Microsoft Dynamics. He also previously was the general manager of Microsoft's U.S. Enterprise Partner organization.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Hagendorf Follett.