F5 networks on Tuesday announced that it would acquire Massachusetts-based start-up Acopia Networks. Why would application-layer networking leader F5 delve into file virtualization? Because more and more enterprises are moving toward centralized file services to cut capital and operating costs. These financial benefits ignore the fact that accessing a 10MB PowerPoint file over the WAN can be as slow as molasses. Like other areas of WAN optimization, deploying intelligent networking devices to cache files or limit chatty file protocol on both sides of the pipes can speed up access and keep users from going insane.
Adding file virtualization to WAN optimization isn't a new idea. Back a few years ago, Cisco Systems bought Actona while Packeteer acquired Tacit Networks for this very reason. Market leader Riverbed and upstart SilverPeak have also married file and network acceleration in their WAN optimization products, resulting in loads of success in the marketplace. With its broad installed base, aggressive sales force, and marketing prowess, F5-Acopia will be visible in lots of deals soon.
Other WAN optimization vendors will likely react to this merger soon. Expect Citrix, Juniper, A10 Networks and others to ramp up homegrown file virtualization functionality or open corporate wallets to acquire other start-ups.