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Microsoft buys VPN specialist

Whale Communications' tech to broaden software giant's expertise in secure remote access, Web app firewalls.

Microsoft has agreed to acquire Whale Communications, a specialist in secure remote access and Web application firewalls.

The takeover is meant to broaden Microsoft's security offerings and give its customers more options in providing secure access to their networks from more locations and devices, Microsoft said in a statement Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Microsoft declined to comment on an Israeli news report that it paid $75 million for Whale, which has engineering operations in Israel.

Whale, based in Fort Lee, N.J., makes technology including Secure Socket Layer Virtual Private Network (VPN) software and appliances, which let businesses give secure remote access to their networks. Rivals in the space include Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Aventail and Citrix Systems.

Microsoft doesn't currently have an SSL VPN product, but does have some security access technologies. "That's what this announcement is about; we are trying to bridge the gap between security and access," Steve Brown, a director of product management at Microsoft, said in an interview.

Analyst firm Gartner rates Whale as "visionary" in the SSL VPN space because it has gone further than other vendors in developing special optimizations for applications, including Microsoft's SharePoint and Outlook Web Access, as well as IBM's Domino products, according to a Gartner report published in December.

The Whale products will be complementary to Microsoft's existing secure access technology in Windows Server and its Internet Security and Acceleration Server, the Redmond, Wash., software giant said.

Microsoft has been building a security business. The software giant has made several security-related acquisitions, including ID management company Alacris last September and hosted e-mail security provider FrontBridge last summer. Next month, the company is slated to start selling Windows Live OneCare, its first consumer antivirus product.

Whale has been a Microsoft partner since 2002, and the company started reselling ISA Server in December 2005. Whale will maintain all current operations until the close of the transaction, Microsoft said. The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Microsoft hopes to close it in the "next couple of months," a company representative said.