Feb
25
2021
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Why F5 spent $2.2B on 3 companies to focus on cloud native applications

It’s essential for older companies to recognize changes in the marketplace or face the brutal reality of being left in the dust. F5 is an old-school company that launched back in the 90s, yet has been able to transform a number of times in its history to avoid major disruption. Over the last two years, the company has continued that process of redefining itself, this time using a trio of acquisitions — NGINX, Shape Security and Volterra — totaling $2.2 billion to push in a new direction.

While F5 has been associated with applications management for some time, it recognized that the way companies developed and managed applications was changing in a big way with the shift to Kubernetes, microservices and containerization. At the same time, applications have been increasingly moving to the edge, closer to the user. The company understood that it needed to up its game in these areas if it was going to keep up with customers.

Taken separately, it would be easy to miss that there was a game plan behind the three acquisitions, but together they show a company with a clear opinion of where they want to go next. We spoke to F5 president and CEO François Locoh-Donou to learn why he bought these companies and to figure out the method in his company’s acquisition spree madness.

Looking back, looking forward

F5, which was founded in 1996, has found itself at a number of crossroads in its long history, times where it needed to reassess its position in the market. A few years ago it found itself at one such juncture. The company had successfully navigated the shift from physical appliance to virtual, and from data center to cloud. But it also saw the shift to cloud native on the horizon and it knew it had to be there to survive and thrive long term.

“We moved from just keeping applications performing to actually keeping them performing and secure. Over the years, we have become an application delivery and security company. And that’s really how F5 grew over the last 15 years,” said Locoh-Donou.

Today the company has over 18,000 customers centered in enterprise verticals like financial services, healthcare, government, technology and telecom. He says that the focus of the company has always been on applications and how to deliver and secure them, but as they looked ahead, they wanted to be able to do that in a modern context, and that’s where the acquisitions came into play.

As F5 saw it, applications were becoming central to their customers’ success and their IT departments were expending too many resources connecting applications to the cloud and keeping them secure. So part of the goal for these three acquisitions was to bring a level of automation to this whole process of managing modern applications.

“Our view is you fast forward five or 10 years, we are going to move to a world where applications will become adaptive, which essentially means that we are going to bring automation to the security and delivery and performance of applications, so that a lot of that stuff gets done in a more native and automated way,” Locoh-Donou said.

As part of this shift, the company saw customers increasingly using microservices architecture in their applications. This means instead of delivering a large monolithic application, developers were delivering them in smaller pieces inside containers, making it easier to manage, deploy and update.

At the same time, it saw companies needing a new way to secure these applications as they shifted from data center to cloud to the edge. And finally, that shift to the edge would require a new way to manage applications.

Dec
20
2019
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F5 acquires Shape Security for $1B

F5 got an expensive holiday present today, snagging startup Shape Security for approximately $1 billion.

What the networking company gets with a shiny red ribbon is a security product that helps stop automated attacks like credential stuffing. In an article earlier this year, Shape CTO Shuman Ghosemajumder explained what the company does:

We’re an enterprise-focused company that protects the majority of large U.S. banks, the majority of the largest airlines, similar kinds of profiles with major retailers, hotel chains, government agencies and so on. We specifically protect them against automated fraud and abuse on their consumer-facing applications — their websites and their mobile apps.

F5 president and CEO François Locoh-Donou sees a way to protect his customers in a comprehensive way. “With Shape, we will deliver end-to-end application protection, which means revenue generating, brand-anchoring applications are protected from the point at which they are created through to the point where consumers interact with them—from code to customer,” Locoh-Donou said in a statement.

As for Shape, CEO Derek Smith said that it wasn’t a huge coincidence that F5 was the buyer, given his company was seeing F5 consistently in its customers. Now they can work together as a single platform.

Shape launched in 2011 and raised $183 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors included Kleiner Perkins, Tomorrow Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Baseline Ventures and C5 Capital. In its most recent round in September, the company raised $51 million on a valuation of $1 billion.

F5 has been in a spending mood this year. It also acquired NGINX in March for $670 million. NGINX is the commercial company behind the open-source web server of the same name. It’s worth noting that prior to that, F5 had not made an acquisition since 2014.

It was a big year in security M&A. Consider that in June, four security companies sold in one three-day period. That included Insight Partners buying Recorded Future for $780 million and FireEye buying Verodin for $250 million. Palo Alto Networks bought two companies in the period: Twistlock for $400 million and PureSec for between $60 and $70 million.

This deal is expected to close in mid-2020, and is of course, subject to standard regulatory approval. Upon closing Shape’s Smith will join the F5 management team and Shape employees will be folded into F5. The company will remain in its Santa Clara headquarters.

Feb
25
2014
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Ex-Googler-Founded Shape Security Picks Up Another $40M To Build Out Its “Botwall” For Businesses

Shape Security — the enterprise startup that emerged from stealth last month with an enterprise product that fights automated malware and bots by way of a firewall (or ‘botwall’ in its words) that shifts its shape depending on what is trying to scale it — has picked up another $40 million in funding. Read More

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