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Unlocking WAN Optimization Security

A wide area network (WAN) has to be efficient, cost-effective and built to deliver the best quality of service (QoS), given the growing demands placed on it, but above all it has to be secure. In this second installment of a three-part series on WAN optimization (the first examined visibility and part 3 will look at the issue of application performance), Network Computing looks at the security tools that protect a network so it can deliver data, video, voice, cloud applications and all the other traffic it needs to send on its way.

The research firm Gartner highlights the importance of security in a January report on the WAN optimization space, including the acceleration of encrypted protocols such as hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) and the security of data stored on WAN optimization controller (WOC) systems.

“Ensure that your vendor provides timely support for new versions of applications and protocols and that data in flight and at rest is protected by strong encryption,” Gartner advises its clients in the report.

Among the vendors with the best security tools are Blue Coat Systems, Websense and Palo Alto Networks, says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research. Blue Coat underwent a reorganization since it was acquired and taken private by Thoma Bravo to narrow its focus to Web security and WAN optimization. It is addressing security in the latest version of its PacketShaper 9 appliance, which watches for 'shadow networks', in which IPv6-based network device traffic is traversing IPv4 networks and isn’t recognized by by IPv4-based security tools.

Websense specializes in security that provides Web, e-mail and mobile security as well as data loss prevention (DLP). Palo Alto Networks, which recently announced plans to do an initial public offering (IPO) of stock, is known for its next-generation firewall products.

The security features of WOCs (WAN optimization controllers) increasingly have to be tuned for wireless networks, which are becoming predominant in the enterprise. “The network edge has become predominantly wireless, consumer mobile devices reign supreme, and the lines are blurring between internal and external networks,” says Kerravala.

IDC research, meanwhile, looking at the growth of wireless mobility, says IT needs to rethink networks. The company says that 83% of IT users say tablets are going to be an integral part of how they do their work in the future and that 79% of executives have given their 'blessing' to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend.

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