Blue Coat Improves Packet Acceleration

Networking acceleration vendor Blue Coat is adding a new layer of application visibility to its network acceleration offerings. Blue Coat is now providing a plug-in for deep integration of the Packeteer PacketShaper appliance with the Blue Coat ProxySG acceleration hardware in an effort to improve overall network performance for all applications.

Earlier this year, Blue Coat acquired Packeteer in a deal worth $268 million and has been working toward integration since then. Even with the new integration further work to integrate Packeteer technology into Blue Coat’s portfolio remains.

At stake is an increasingly competitive market for WAN acceleration that is projected to hit $1.2 billion by 2010 as enterprise aim to do more with less.

“Hitting the class of real-time applications really completes Blue Coat’s portfolio to not only see and monitor performance but to really accelerate and optimize the delivery of all the applications required in an enterprise environment,” Mark Urban, senior director of product marketing for Blue Coat’s Application Delivery business, told

Urban, who previously worked for Packeteer, argued that one of the things that had been missing from Blue Coat’s lineup was the ability to classify all traffic. That’s where the PacketShaper technology fits in.

Urban explained that the PacketShaper provides visibility into what’s going on in a network. It reads all the traffic and classifies it, defining all the applications on the network and then taking measurements on each of those application classes. The measurements include items such as bandwidth utilization and response time to help understand how applications are affecting networking performance and vice versa.

Urban noted that prior to the new plug-in for integration, the PacketShaper and the ProxySG were able to work with each other, albeit with some limitations. Urban explained that without the plug-in, from a visibility perspective, a PacketShaper would just see one big chunk of traffic from a ProxySG, with all the accelerated traffic as one application class.

“Now what you have is the ability for the PacketShaper to get much more granular,” Urban said. “So that it can see rather than one big bucket it can see the actual application traffic.”

Even though PacketShaper and ProxySG are now getting more integrated, Urban admitted that there is still work to be done. On the management side, the PacketShaper and the ProxySG are currently managed independently. Moving forward, Urban commented that the management consoles for the two platforms.

The other issue is the fact that today, an enterprise would still be required to own both the PacketShaper appliance and a ProxySG appliance in order to realize the full vision of network visibility and acceleration. That’s also something that Urban noted will change over time.

“We’re consolidating the functionality over time into a single appliance,” Urban said. “We’re going to take the technology that makes the PacketShaper so good and integrate into the ProxySG platform and that will take about 18 months.”

Consolidation of hardware is a key selling point for network acceleration vendors overall. Cisco has a Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) offering that enables an enterprise to run Windows Server 2008 on its appliance.

Riverbed recently announced they would be VMware enabled such that virtual services can run on top of Riverbed’s Steelhead acceleration appliances. For example, a local branch could run a local print server from their acceleration appliance. The general idea being that with local virtualization, servers can be consolidated.

Urban argued that running virtual servers at the local appliance level for a branch isn’t the same approach that Blue Coat takes. He argues that the Blue Coat approach is to
be able to fully consolidate servers and make them work from a central location.

Overall, Urban claimed that other acceleration vendors are not the key challenge that is facing Blue Coat.

“Our problem is not necessarily a competitive technology problem,” Urban stated. “It’s getting a broader understanding in enterprises to see how visibility can help them to choose the right acceleration technology.”

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