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Senior Editor

Blue Coat couples security, acceleration on appliance

Mar 20, 20063 mins

Blue Coat Systems this week is set to announce software that it will load onto its proxy appliances to let enterprise IT managers accelerate encrypted traffic, one of several technologies the company has added to the appliances to speed WAN traffic.

Multiprotocol Accelerated Caching Hierarchy (MACH5) technology is scheduled to become part of the operating system of Blue Coat’s Proxy SG appliance next month. The technology addresses five areas: bandwidth management, protocol optimization, object caching, byte caching and compression, and will augment the appliances, which perform Web filtering, spyware detection and secure content scanning.

Andrew McKinney, director of technical services at Richardson Partners Financial in Toronto, says last year he started to investigate acceleration tools from various vendors so he could better serve traffic from the company’s data center to seven distributed locations. Ideally, he wanted to invest in a product that addressed several technologies, such as caching, compression and SSL acceleration.

“Among other things, we wanted to incorporate caching, [Common Internet File System] acceleration and filtering out of unnecessary Web traffic,” he says. “We didn’t want a point solution. We considered a product that performed multiple tasks vital to supporting our customers and business.”

McKinney says he has two SG appliances installed at the centralized data center and intends to roll out more in the coming months at multiple locations to enable the acceleration technologies.

Blue Coat Proxy SG appliances are positioned between users on a network and the Internet and serve as a central point of control over Internet traffic. A termination point for Web communications on the network, the appliance can apply numerous policy-based controls to Web traffic and requests before delivering content to users.

With MACH5, Blue Coat will be able to incorporate acceleration prioritizations into the policy engine, and compress traffic and perform byte caching, which involves storing frequently used data locally and sending only changed elements over wide-area links.

To enable some acceleration technologies, such as compression, the appliances should be installed on both ends of a WAN link, Blue Coat says. To speed encrypted SSL traffic, Blue Coat creates two tunnels, one between an SG appliance and a server and the other between an SG appliance and a user.

“That means we can accelerate SSL without having a certificate at branch locations and without raising privacy issues about unencrypted traffic crossing the WAN,” says Chris King, product marketing manager at Blue Coat.

“It is critical we accelerate that traffic, but it’s equally vital that we don’t compromise data security or privacy in the process,” McKinney says.

The technology Blue Coat acquired with Permeo earlier this year helps with secure acceleration. The primary reason for that deal was to incorporate SSL VPN technology into the Proxy SG appliance, Blue Coat President and CEO Brian NeSmith said at the time.

Current customers with Blue Coat SG appliances can get the MACH5 technology as a software upgrade. For new customers, low-end SG appliances start at about $2,000.