F5 Networks has been ramping up its strategy in the security market over the last few months. It has also launched several new products and added new security features to its existing products. Traditionally more focused on application delivery, F5 recognized the opportunity in the security market to provide solutions that would bridge the gap between the application and security.
As a next step, F5 recently announced a channel program, VAULT, aimed specifically at its existing partners. In other words, VAULT incentivizes F5's existing partners to sell the security solutions. VAULT, a program which focuses on F5’s security solutions, is part of the company’s UNITY channel-partner program. Through participation in VAULT, partners will receive targeted incentives, lucrative rewards, and technical training resources to support the joint sale of F5 security solutions. This is a multi-phased program that gives partners two significant offerings:
- Expanded Sales Incentives: With this program partners sell designated F5 security products, including F5’s datacenter firewall and a new security bundle that includes F5’s BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM), Application Security Manager (ASM), and Access Policy Manager (APM).
- F5 Elevate: This includes new incentives and rewards for F5 Unity Platinum, Global, Gold, and Silver partners. Partners can earn F5 loyalty points for initiating and closing F5 security deals and for completing specific sales and business development activities. These points may be redeemed and assigned to the partner’s F5 Elevate prepaid MasterCard. F5 Elevate also offers immediate payouts to partners that achieve joint sales engagements.
The VAULT program is currently available, as part of phase I in the following countries in the Asia/Pacific region — China, ASEAN, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. Other countries will join in phase II, sometime in end of this year.
The program defines a new level of a relationship designed to build the business with channel partners that have the required skills, expertise, and desire to lead with security-related business opportunities. The new partner program is important for F5 because it conveys to the industry, as well as partners/channel and customers, that the F5 strategy is here to meld application, data, and security into one unified platform.
Security technology is moving up the stack from the packet layer up into the application layer where F5 solution sets are uniquely qualified. F5 brings a new recipe for network-and-application security integration. With all the industry talk about next-generation firewalls or UTM, F5 is now ready to capture a part of this market. Additionally, F5 BIG-IP Solutions can be configured for security and customized with iRules to offer strong network-and-application security integration. However, this concept is relatively new in the market and application firewalls are not well understood; therefore, market awareness is required.
IDC believes that F5 has the potential to compete in the firewall or UTM market; however, there is still a lot of work ahead. The industry still recognizes F5 as an application delivery vendor; hence, for F5 to succeed, it must first demonstrate its network security capabilities. This means convincing its customers that it is committed to security and that its product is as strong on security protection as it is on performance. Additionally, services have become an increasingly large portion of revenue over the past several quarters for F5. It is no wonder if F5 also expanded its addressable market in areas like security services.
F5 will face close competition from established vendors as it pursues this market segment. It is still too early to determine how successful the firm will be in its efforts to expand its footprint in security space. However, it is clear that the company is aggressively pursuing this addressable market. Finally, the introduction of security offerings has made F5 an even more attractive acquisition target. One has to wait and watch.