Blue Coat Puts On Acceleration

Turns security and caching into WAN acceleration

March 23, 2006

4 Min Read
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Blue Coat Systems is the latest entry into the WAN acceleration space. By adding WAN optimization to its appliances that secure content and accelerate application delivery over the Web, the startup hopes to get customers to add its wares to remote and branch offices. (See BlueCoat Enters WAFS Fray.)

Blue Coat calls its approach MACH5 (multiprotocol accelerated caching hierarchy), which refers to an optimization framework consisting of bandwidth management, protocol optimization, object caching, byte caching, and compression.

Is the latest WAN optimization vendor too late? A bunch of contenders have moved into this space over the last two years, including networking and storage switch companies Brocade, Cisco, Juniper, and McData. And startups Availl, Certeon, DiskSites, Expand, Orbital Data, Packeteer, Riverbed, Signiant, Silver Peak, and Tacit Networks have also launched products. (See Remote Access Advances.)

Blue Coat product manager Chris King says MACH5 goes beyond any of the current offerings by handling more types of applications.

We think the industry’s developed a knee-jerk response,” King says. “We handle a full range of applications, not just file and email.”Besides handling files and email, Blue Coat also accelerates traffic that deploys Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, streaming and on-demand video, and any TCP-based application. Accelerating SSL applications is something only Certeon has done until now. (See Certeon Asserts Accelerator.)

Analyst Joe Skorupa of Gartner says that, though Blue Coat is “a little late to market” and users normally take a while to get comfortable with new security products, nobody has a lock on functionality in the WAN acceleration space yet.

“If you did a matrix, no one can put an X in every box,” he says. “Blue Coat has some interesting plusses.” For instance, Blue Coat has already mastered license management, from its seven years selling appliances when it was known as CacheFlow.

“Management and troubleshooting capabilities could be more important than the acceleration,” Skorupa says. “If you have to upgrade software in each of 2,500 boxes at remote sites, or manually have to buy and push new keys out, that takes a lot of time. They have an important piece of the management structure that other people will have to buy or acquire. And they’re leveraging a lot of technology from their security and caching.”

Robert Whitely of Forrester Research agrees. “Blue Coat has application-layer credibility, some caching, and now they’re entering acceleration,” Whitely says. “They have the stuff that’s hard to get right -- security and caching.”Blue Coat claims to have 5,000 customers using its appliances, and the company will try to sway as many as possible to add smaller boxes in remote sites now that the WAN acceleration is built in. Blue Coat’s smallest branch office appliance starts at $1,195.

Andrew McKinney, director of technical services for Toronto-based Richardson Partners Financial Ltd., says the SSL encryption was the selling point when he bought a Blue Coat appliance for the main office of his firm last year. He was looking for a way to accelerate performance of applications that were mostly provided by Application Service Providers (ASPs).

McKinney became a Blue Coat customer because the supplier planned to add WAN acceleration, and he expects to add smaller boxes in most or all of the financial services firm's seven branch offices this year.

McKinney says he considered WAN optimization products from Riverbed, Expand, and Cisco before settling on Blue Coat. “Riverbed was the other one we looked at closely, and we even did a big test of their product,” he says. “But Riverbed didn’t have the SSL piece, so the amount of content they could handle of ours was pretty low.”

McKinney says SSL encryption is an important feature for financial services firms or any company where “keeping client data safe is key.”For all of Blue Coat’s management features, McKinney would like one more in future products: “I’d like to see proactive monitoring of performance levels. If performance and response times are dropping, I’d like to be notified automatically so I don’t have to wait for calls from disgruntled users.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)

  • Availl Inc.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • DiskSites Inc.

  • Expand Networks Inc.

  • Forrester Research Inc.

  • Gartner Inc.

  • McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA)

  • Mimosa Systems Inc.

  • NSI Software Inc.

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

  • Orbital Data Corp.

  • Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • Signiant Corp.

  • Silver Peak Systems Inc.

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