Blue Coat Systems adds acceleration to its secure content appliances

* Security is key differentiator among application acceleration vendors

A few weeks back Network World hosted an online forum that discussed the technologies needed - and available today from vendors - to securely accelerate application traffic across the WAN. One vendor, Blue Coat Systems, chimed into the discussion then, and this week is announcing it will augment its suite of secure proxy appliances with application acceleration technologies.

According to Blue Coat, security is the key differentiator among application acceleration vendors and customers. In Network World's online forum, network managers noted the lack of tools to speed encrypted traffic over the wide area. And according to statistics from Blue Coat, nearly 50% of all corporate Web application traffic is SSL, 70% of all mobile and teleworkers use SSL for secure application delivery and 68% of Blue Coat customers depend upon externally hosted Web applications.

A second key differentiator is video acceleration, the company says. More and more companies are streaming video and providing video on-demand for internal and external customers. Company representatives say their new acceleration technologies can address these two concerns for enterprise IT shops.

Blue Coat's MACH5 (Multiprotocol Accelerated Caching Hierarchy) framework of acceleration technologies will accelerate key enterprise applications, the company says, including secure Web applications such as SSL traffic. MACH5 incorporates bandwidth management, protocol optimization, object caching, byte caching and compression technologies into Blue Coat's operating systems, which is loaded onto appliances.

"We create two separate SSL tunnels to accelerate SSL traffic, one between us and the server and us and the user," says Chris King, product marketing manager at Blue Coat. "That means we can accelerate SSL without having a certificate at branch locations and without raising privacy issues about unencrypted traffic crossing the WAN."

The technology Blue Coat acquired with Permeo earlier this year helps with the secure acceleration. The main reason for the deal was the desire to incorporate SSL VPN technology into Blue Coat's Proxy SG appliance that filters Web traffic in and out of businesses, Blue Coat President and CEO Brian NeSmith said at the time of the deal.

As a proxy appliance, Blue Coat is positioned between users on a network and the Internet and serves as a central point of control over employee Internet use. A termination point for Web communications on the network, the proxy appliance can apply numerous policy-based controls to Web traffic and requests before delivering content to end users. To enable some of the acceleration technologies, appliances should be installed on either end of a WAN link, Blue Coat says.

MACH5 technology is expected to be generally available on Blue Coat SG appliances by April. Current customers with Blue Coat appliances can get the technology as a software upgrade. For new customers, appliances start at about $2,000 and pricing scales depending on the appliance and customer network.

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