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F5 Networks yesterday snapped up SSL Virtual Private Networks (VPN) firm uRoam for $25 million in a deal that marks the first signs of consolidation in the hotly-tipped SSL VPN remote access market.

F5 has acquired the rights to all of uRoam's technology which it intends to integrate into its core secure application traffic management products over the next 18 months. F5 has hired "substantially all of uRoam's employees, including core founders, key development and sales personnel".

uRoam's principal product is its FirePass server, a range of SSL VPN appliance which enable secure Web-based access to any network application from any remote client - including wireless devices - without the hassle of installing software on client machines or modifying back-end applications.

F5 will continue to develop, sell and support the FirePass product, and over the next 12 - 18 months plans to integrate uRoam's technology into its own existing application security kit.

F5 expects uRoam's products to generate revenue in the range of $8 million to $12 million next year.

uRoam is focused on the lower end of the SSL VPN market with four per cent market share, according to the latest figures from analyst In-Stat/MDR. Major players in the fledgling market include Neoteris, Netilla and Aventail. Major vendors such as Nortel, Cisco and Check Point are expected to address the market more aggressively this year.

Vendors are jockeying for position in a market segment which, although still small, is expected to grow strongly over the next three years. According to Infonetics Research, the SSL VPN market will swell from around $25 million last year to $1 billion by 2005/6.

Meta Group forecasts SSL-based technology will be the dominant method for remote access, with 80 per cent of users utilising SSL, also by 2005/6. ®

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