Why is Acopia, which virtualises file storage through its ARX resource switch, being bought lock, stock and barrel by application delivery networking company F5 Networks?

F5 Networks says Acopia's file virtualisation fits right in with the company's strategy of optimising the application infrastructure from the datacentre to the edge of the network, and sure enough, is paying $210 million cash for 100 percent of Acopia's equity.

"When we were looking at various solutions in this space, Acopia was the clear winner due to its performance, scale, and feature richness," because it optimises the file data storage layer in the application infrastructure, reasons John McAdam, president and CEO of F5 Networks.

The deal is being presented as a way of ensuring Acopia's future viability. Steve Warner, VP for Quest Diagnostics, says: "Acopia's intelligent file virtualisation delivers tremendous value by creating a Global Name Space and allowing us to automate and enforce data management policies in the network. This deal ensures Acopia's future viability from a company perspective and will ultimately enhance the breadth of their data management capabilities."

However, this seems quite unrealistic. Acopia was doing very well on its own and there hasn't been any suggestion that its future viability was threatened in any way. It has no competition in the space it occupies at all.

What seems likelier is that Acopia's VC backers were looking for a sale to take advantage of the storage market's IPO-led respectability. F5 has got itself a good fitting product line extension.

Acopia serves a large, high-growth market, which is directly adjacent to F5's existing core market. With this move, F5 will increase its total addressable market to include storage solutions and technologies comprising one of the largest IT budget items for organisations worldwide.

It smacks of an astute tactical-level purchase by F5. It's got some IDC research to backup the prospects for Acopia product sales and help justify the purchase.

This found that, according to Richard Villars, an IDC storage systems research VP, "IT executives are increasing their deployments of file-based storage by 50 percent to more than 200 percent a year as they consolidate existing datacentres and roll out new fixed content applications. These companies need solutions like intelligent file virtualisation to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs associated with creating, organising, protecting, and retaining exploding volumes of business critical, file-based information."

Acopia CEO and president Chris Lynch provided a somewhat anodyne comment: "F5's global channels and powerful brand will accelerate Acopia's ability to address the growing worldwide demand for our products. Our technologies and strategies are very complementary and will enable the combined companies to offer customers an optimised end-to-end solution from the client to the storage layer."

There are some odd aspects to the purchase though.

Why didn't an existing storage company buy Acopia? Was $210m too rich?

Secondly, an all-cash transaction is unusual in that it lets Acopia employees with stock walk away whereas a part-cash, part-stock transaction would give them a continuing stake in the business. Why the all-cash route was chosen is puzzling.

It all seems to be characteristic of a take-the-cash-and-run approach. It will not be surprising to see Acopia senior management taking off for pastures new. It may be unconnected that Chris Lynch recently joined the board of Ethernet product supplier Woven Networks. Unconnected? What do you think?