The recent wave of market consolidation continued today when F5 Networks announced a deal to acquire file virtualization vendor Acopia Networks for $210 million.

F5’s switching, security, and software products speed up secure application access and lower bandwidth requirements over distances. The addition of Acopia’s file-level virtualization portfolio will allow the company to apply the same principles to data storage, according to John McAdam, president and CEO of F5 Networks.

“File virtualization is an exciting and largely untouched market opportunity. Like Internet traffic growth, file data, especially unstructured data, is exploding and our customers are faced with the problem of optimizing the costs and complexities of managing this high growth,” McAdam said in a conference call Monday.

Noting that F5 already has more than 10,000 customers, McAdam says the combined solutions of F5 and Acopia will “take that presence to another level.”

Acopia’s file virtualization software decouples file access from physical file location, enabling data migration, replication, tiering, and load balancing without disrupting applications. Acopia’s ARX products integrate into legacy NAS, Windows, Unix, and Linux environments and are managed by the company’s FreedomFabric software, which automates management tasks using pre-defined policies.

F5 isn’t the only networking company getting into the file virtualization market. In 2006, Brocade purchased file management software vendor NuView and has integrated NuView’s StorageX technology with its own Tapestry WAFS solution for managing and consolidating files across branch offices and data centers. Cisco entered the fray shortly thereafter when it bought file virtualization vendor NeoPath for its network file management technologies.

F5’s acquisition of Acopia is expected to be finalized by mid-September.

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