F5 Networks plans to extend the reach of software-defined networking to improve application performance by acquiring software startup LineRate Systems.

The company didn't disclose how much it will pay for LineRate, which is based in Boulder, Colorado. It bought the privately held company for its technology, intellectual property and engineering talent and will incorporate those into its development efforts for software-defined data centres, F5 said yesterday.

SDN (software-defined networking) centralises control of the movement of packets around a network, taking many functions of dedicated networking hardware such as routers and switches and placing them in a controller. F5 believes the way SDN in its current form can't scale up to the performance it needs to carry out application-level functions such as load balancing, security, fault tolerance and isolation and application performance enhancement. LineRate's technology will help make that possible, F5 said yesterday.

The planned acquisition would help to bring F5 into SDN, an area that has been most associated with traditional networking equipment vendors and with startups hoping to disrupt that business. F5 has built its business around load balancing and application delivery, which involve different technologies at a higher layer.