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F5 picks up Watchfire's app firewall biz

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F5 Networks has acquired the web application firewall business of security firm Watchfire for an undisclosed sum. The two firms said that they would work together to migrate AppShield customers to F5's TrafficShield application firewall product, a technology F5 acquired when it bought MagniFire WebSystems last year.

The deal, announced Thursday, gives F5 access to over 250 AppShield customers. By divesting AppShield to F5, Watchfire can concentrate on its core web application security scanning business, AppScan, and online risk management platform, WebXM.

Phil Crocker, F5's director of marketing in Europe, said components of Watchfire's technology would be brought into F5's TrafficShield. He said that F5 has created a dedicated professional services team to manage the transition for AppShield users and partners over to TrafficShield. Appshield users will continue to receive support from Watchfire for the duration of their current maintenance agreements.

App attack

Application firewall technology inspects traffic before it reaches application servers, guarding against threats such as SQL injection and buffer overflow attacks that conventional security defences sometimes let through. Firewall vendors, such as Check Point and Netscreen, are adding application intelligence features to their firewalls. Standalone application firewall vendors such as Kavado, Deny All and (until this week) Watchfire argue that their technology is tuned to protect applications. Intrusion prevention vendors also claim to provide defences against application attacks.

The acquisition of Watchfire's technology is part of F5's strategy to move out of its application traffic management heartland into adjacent markets, such as security. Its long term goal is to move application firewall technology onto its BigIP traffic management platform, Crocker explained. The application firewall market is in its early stage of development (specialist vendors typically reports revenues of less than $10m) but market watchers predict it will become a key component in enterprise security defences over coming years. ®

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