With eyes fixed on the red-hot application security market, Seattle-based F5 Networks will shell out $29 million in cash to acquire firewall specialist MagniFire WebSystems and fold it into a newly created security business unit.

F5 Networks, which markets server appliances to handle load balancing, said the new business unit will handle research and development, marketing, sales and services in the application security market.

The MagniFire purchase adds to F5's big push into the network security space, which was boosted in July with the acquisition of uRoam's FirePass SSL VPN product suite. Now, the plan is to add MagniFire's TrafficShield to the FirePass products to create an all-in-one offering for Web application (Layer 7) security.

The company said the new security business unit will be headed by Jeff Pancottine and will incorporate MagniFire's 20 employees in New York and Tel Aviv, Israel. It will continue to operate the MagniFire development facility in Tel Aviv.

''F5 is serious about the security business and we are absolutely committed to being the market leader in application security,'' F5 CEO John McAdam said in a statement.

The company said the latest move fits into a longterm strategy to provide enterprise clients with protection from malicious application level attacks. MagniFire's TrafficShield security appliance protects against attacks that can circumvent current network perimeter defenses and promises protection against ''zero day'' Web infrastructure attacks.

The product combines application-layer filtering with network and encryption technology and uses real-time software for analysis of traffic at near wire speed. According to F5, the TrafficShield product is the fastest application protection system available and ensures no impact on the user experience.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.