F5 buys Magnifire for $29 million

F5 Networks has bought MagniFire Websystems, a maker of Web application firewall hardware, for US$29 million in cash, F5 said Tuesday.

The company will add MagniFire's TrafficShield security appliance to its Application Traffic Management architecture, allowing companies to spot attacks on Web-based applications, F5 said in a statement.

TrafficShield is a rack-mounted security appliance that scans incoming HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) Web traffic for evidence of attacks or suspicious activity. The product can spot a long list of potential threats to Web-based applications and services, including denial-of-service attacks, buffer overflows and invalid user inputs, according to MagniFire.

That focus meshes well with F5's existing products, including its BIG-IP line of appliances, which manages and directs traffic to applications on LANs based on customer policies, network performance and availability to prevent service outages and overloads.

The acquisition of MagniFire gives F5 ready-made technology for applying those same traffic management principles to the issue of application security, allowing companies to ensure that legitimate traffic reaches Web applications and that illegitimate or harmful traffic is weeded out, F5 said.

The MagniFire purchase is not F5's first foray into the IT security space. In July 2003, the company acquired SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) VPN (virtual private network) company uRoam, maker of the FirePass SSL VPN product.

In related news, F5 on Monday unveiled a new version of the FirePass Controller. The new version of FirePass adds support for clients running on Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh operating system and on the open-source Linux operating system.

F5 is not alone in focusing resources on security. Leading competitors in the network equipment space, including Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, are devoting more resources to building and acquiring security products.

In February, Juniper said it was acquiring firewall and VPN maker NetScreen Technologies in an all-stock deal worth approximately $4 billion.

And at the recent Networld+Interop 2004 show in Las Vegas Cisco Chief Executive Officer John Chambers said that security needs to be built into networking architectures, allowing users to access software applications from wherever they are.

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