Souped-up Clients: There to Guard Networks

No matter what business they’re in, enterprises face the same challenge: providing users with the fastest and most secure network access possible, at a good price.

For many, meeting that challenge (at a good price) often includes acceleration appliances inside each office to improve the end user’s experience. Some companies and their customers are taking that approach a step further these days by putting a software acceleration client on the user’s desktop itself.

Take the example of Blue Coat Systems and its new ProxyClient software.
Blue Coat claims its new offering is different because ProxyClient integrates by default with the provider’s WebPulse cloud based security service. This helps ensure that endpoints are secured even when they’re not connected directly to the enterprise WAN.

Blue Coat’s ProxyClient joins a competitive marketplace of acceleration vendor offerings from Citrix, Cisco and others keen on a slice of the booming WAN acceleration market.

“It’s basically for employees that are working remotely where they don’t have acceleration and filtering features,” Carrie Oakes, vice president of product marketing for Blue Coat Systems, told “The ability is to be able to not only accelerate file shares or applications across the WAN link but to protect them from malware and ensuring compliance with policy for company owned laptops.”

The ProxyClient is a software proxy that essentially builds a secure tunnel to a Blue Coat ProxySG appliance that is sitting within an enterprise. The way it works is a user accesses files or an application on the enterprise network and then the ProxyClient creates a TCP tunnel that allows the file to use compression and byte caching technologies, which help it get pushed down the network faster.

Additionally, only the delta changes go back and forth from the remote location to the enterprise network, which further minimizes the time required for data transport. Oakes claimed that with the ProxyClient in place with Blue Coat has seen remote workers get acceleration of 10 to 40 times faster transport than without the ProxyClient.

The notion of using a software client to help remote workers experience the speed of acceleration is not entirely new. Cisco, for example, offers a WAAS (Wide Area Application Services) Mobile client, which it announced back in January.

Citrix also provides a similar offering in the market designed to benefit remote users.

Blue Coat claims a difference. Oakes said WebPulse currently analyzes more than 150 million requests a day to its service, blocking access to end user requests for malware. With ProxyClient, the WebPulse service integration is not just limited to when users are trying to access corporate assets either.

“Let’s say they {users} don’t start up their VPN connection and they want still want to go out to the Internet. With ProxyClient they are still protected,” Oakes said. “You don’t have to start up your VPN to get access to the Internet with ProxyClient.”

As such, regular Internet traffic that meets with the policy of the enterprise doesn’t necessarily have to be backhauled through the enterprise network either in order to ensure compliance and end point security.

This all sounds workable, and certainly offering a software client on an endpoint for acceleration makes sense for Blue Coat, but at least one WAN acceleration vendor isn’t entirely convinced.

Bill Kish, CEO and CTO of WAN acceleration vendor Coyote Point, told that Coyote Point concentrates on optimizing the most rapidly growing segment of application delivery platforms: via the Web.

“The great thing about Web applications is that we can optimize application performance without installing any software on the client,” Kish said. “We consider this to be a definite advantage.”

Kish argued that if an application is Web based, you can leverage the GZIP and Deflate compression technology built into modern Web browsers.

“Then all you need is an optimizing load balancer appliance like our Equalizer series at your data center to compress and accelerate traffic between clients and servers,” Kish said. “It’s a significant improvement in TCO as well as being much easier to manage.”

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