Intel has acquired Sensory Networks for $20 million to further extend its security capabilities.

Sensory Networks, based in Palo Alto,  was founded in 2002 as a hardware company, providing high-performance technology that maps networks by looking for patterns such as spam, malware and other types of intrusions, said Matt Barrie, one of the company’s co-founders who is now chief executive officer at Over time, the company moved from a hardware to a software model. Today, the technology runs at 160 gigabytes per second on Intel processors.

Barrie said the challenge with a startup in the high-performance networking space is getting the attention of a company like Cisco that could get considerable value in integrating the security technology. Intel, though, has long-term credibility that would help in forging a relationship with such a networking giant.

The company’s clients include McAfee, which Intel acquired for $7.7 billion. In that light, the acquisition by Intel makes sense when considering the chip maker’s focus on security. In May, the company acquired Stonesoft, a firewall company for $389 million.

Intel has made some big bets on security technology. But often overlooked is the company’s focus on software. Software helps Intel differentiate and be more than just a chip provider. That’s important as software increasingly does what was once required of hardware.

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