F5: Security Stars Are Aligned

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

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F5’s contention is that in the era of applications -- using them, optimizing them, and making them as user-friendly and business-productive as possible, in other words -- cyberattacks will become more sophisticated and will more often target specific applications. McAdam says F5’s customers have steadily adopted products such as its Application Security Manager, which is part of its flagship Big-IP application delivery networking portfolio, and its Access Policy Manager for remote application access.

Security has been a focal point in several recent F5 product updates as well. The summer 2011 release, version 11, of TMOS, F5’s software architecture, had a range of security updates. And as of this month, F5’s Big-IP product family had been certified by ISCA Labs as a network firewall -- a hugely important step toward establishing Big-IP, and F5, as a legitimate security competitor.

The company will spend 2012 playing offense against a number of competitors that didn’t think they’d have to compete for security business with a “load-balancer company.” F5 in recent months began to formally market its Big-IP family as defending against more than 30 types of network and application-layer DDoS attacks, and as a firewall solution that offers more firepower and flexibility than competitive offerings.

“There are pretty sophisticated attacks aimed at Web sites and Fortune 500 companies that are bringing traditional firewalls down,” McAdam said. “When you’re talking about Internet-based applications open to denial-of-service attacks, it’s really about whether the performance of application delivery controllers can cope with that. We’ve internally identified the firewall space as a place we can go.”

Dean Darwin, F5’s vice president, worldwide channels, notes that F5 has more than 2,500 global solution provider partners, about 500 of which have significant security practices. F5 can not only build that existing footprint but also help the other 2,000 partners that are focused on ADC shape a security conversation with their data center customers.

“It’s a more profitable discussion for the partner,” Darwin said. “They need a differentiating technology, and you can take the TMOS you’ve lived and breathed for a while into an enterprise and say, ‘I can solve your traditional firewall problems by doing this.’ ”

NEXT: Security Always In F5's Sights

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