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Evaluating Blue Coat Systems' WAN optimization

Blue Coat Systems distinguishes itself as a WAN optimization vendor with strengths in security and application visibility. Learn important facts about Blue Coat's ProxySG and PacketShaper products.

Blue Coat Systems started out in the late 1990s as the Seattle-based Web-caching business CacheFlow. In 2002, the company changed its name to Blue Coat Systems and shifted its focus to security. Blue Coat added WAN optimization to its solution set in 2006 with its ProxySG Mach5 solution. In 2008, Blue Coat acquired Packeteer and its PacketShaper technology, which provides a deep level of networking and application visibility and quality of service (QoS).

Building on its background in security and optimization, Blue Coat Systems claims that its current products "extend beyond what is available from point players in the WAN optimization market. Our products provide the visibility, acceleration and security to optimize and secure application delivery over a distributed network. This provides the comprehensive application and user control required to contain costs, enhance business productivity and respond quickly to changing business requirements."

Blue Coat differentiates itself by offering:

  • A broad set of application visibility and acceleration technologies to optimize the delivery of video, Software as a Service (SaaS) and a wide range of business applications.
  • Policy-based control of recreational traffic to optimize network bandwidth and prioritize the delivery of critical business applications.
  • A wide range of deployment options, including both a portfolio of appliances and a software client designed to optimize and secure application delivery across the WAN to the client.
  • Technical and marketing alliances with more than 30 companies, including SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, Brocade and HP.

Important facts about PacketShaper and ProxySG

Blue Coat's PacketShaper product has the ability to auto-discover more than 600 applications as they appear on a network. The product can apply QoS policies at the application level and at the meta-application level (managing groups of applications). It can also support shaping policies that protect bandwidth on a per-connection or per-call basis.

Blue Coat's ProxySG appliances provide multiple types of data reduction, optimization and acceleration technologies, including:

  • Compression -- this is best for first-pass traffic and real-time traffic-caching and/or data deduplication or reduction capabilities.
  • Byte-level caching -- this is disk-based caching, and it is best for repetitive, bulk applications like email attachments or file access.
  • Specialized, application-specific object caching -- this includes adaptive refresh that understands the actual application object and serves it locally to the user, after a lookup to assure fresh data.
  • Traffic management -- these capabilities include WAN QoS classification and enforcement and traffic shaping.
  • Integrated security -- this functionality offers direct-to-Net application optimization and further cost savings.

Blue Coat's ProxySG has a WAN-optimized protocol that accelerates TCP-based applications and mitigates the impact of loss. ProxySG also provides protocol acceleration for Common Internet File System (CIFS), Messaging Application Program Interface (MAPI), HTTP, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and video applications such as Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). When questioned by the author, Blue Coat stated that object caching makes video delivery possible and accelerates internal Web and SSL as well as SaaS applications. The company also stated that the Web technologies that it supports, such as object caching, adaptive refresh and connection pipelining, provide significant performance improvement for SharePoint, Oracle and SAP applications.

Blue Coat provides detailed central reporting of its devices across the enterprise, allows for long-term storage and trending, and provides detail on specific hosts.

For more, read all the sections in our guide:

About the author:
Dr. Jim Metzler, principal at Ashton Metzler and Associates, is a widely recognized authority on network technology and its business applications. In more than 28 years of experience, Jim has helped numerous vendors refine product and service strategies and has helped enterprises evolve network infrastructures. He has directed and conducted market research at a major industry analyst firm and run a consulting firm. Jim holds a Ph.D. in numerical analysis from Boston University. He is co-author of the book Layer 3 Switching: A Guide for IT Professionals (Prentice Hall).

This was last published in February 2010

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