Catch the cache

Blue Coat is reorienting itself towards the WAN optimisation market with its Mach5 operating system; NME looks at the technology on offer from the new system and speaks to the vendor’s CTO.

  • E-Mail
By  Eliot Beer Published  June 25, 2006

|~|alagu200.jpg|~|Periyannan: Rather than just focusing on the internet, we’ve moved our products inside the network.|~|Proxy appliance vendor Blue Coat has released a new operating system for its boxes, aimed at increasing the efficiency of enterprise wide area networks, building on its experience as an internet caching firm. The company’s chief technology officer, Alagu Periyannan, flew in to Dubai from Blue Coat’s California base to launch the new system in the Middle East. He explained how the firm hoped its understanding of internet optimisation would give it an edge when dealing with the WAN market. “Today, about 80% of our sales are sitting on the internet gateway; we’ve been extremely successful there,” said Periyannan. “What we want to do is take that technology and help you inside your enterprise, not only to protect and control, but also accelerate your internal applications. So rather than just focusing on the internet, we’ve moved our products inside the network. “We’re bringing our strengths from the internet proxy side to WAN optimisation; a lot of the other vendors in the market have come from a layer 2 or layer 3 background to add things like compression and bandwidth controls – layer 3 to layer 4 technologies. We’re bringing our layer 7 – proxy technologies – experience to the WAN optimisation market.” Blue Coat’s vision for its new Mach5 system is that enterprises with distributed offices, such as banks, hospitals or retailers, would be able to deploy a Blue Coat appliance at each branch office. Organisations can also install the appliances at the head-office end of the WAN in order to take advantage of the increased efficiency of communication between two Blue Coat boxes, according to Periyannan. Mach5, which is an operating system update to Blue Coat’s existing appliances, rather than new hardware, consists of a number of techniques to reduce WAN traffic. While other vendors offer compression techniques and bandwidth throttling, Blue Coat claims to bring more advanced systems for reducing the amount of data which flows over distributed networks. “What we’re adding to our platform is five different techniques to help with enterprises’ internal application performance problems,” said Periyannan. “We’ve got our basic caching technology which we’ve been working on for around eight years for web, streaming media, FTP caching; what we’ve done is to add a file services caching proxy – it’s a full object-caching proxy for when you mount your Windows file server from a remote location; we’ll be able to cache and accelerate that.” Periyannan said that by focusing on Windows file server protocols, which tend to be ‘chatty’, having been designed for higher-bandwidth local area networks, it was possible to reduce not only the amount of data, but also the latency of file transfers, which he claims has a major impact on speed. And by caching commonly used files – object-level caching – Blue Coat claims to save a lot of wasted bandwidth in situations such as when a single file is accessed multiple times across a WAN. This also applies to email attachments, according to Periyannan. For situations where object caching is not possible, Mach5 offers byte caching, where it works to recognise contiguous areas of data being sent back and forth – Periyannan gives the example of a Word document stored on a file server, which is edited repeatedly; the areas which remain unchanged will be substituted with tokens for transmission over the WAN. Because of the token-based nature of this system, byte caching would seem to need two appliances, one at each end of the WAN link. The other two techniques – bandwidth management and data compression – are common across most WAN optimisation appliances, but Periyannan commented that they are included to make the WAN data as efficient as possible. The CTO said he could see a lot of potential for Mach5 in the Middle East, due to the cost of high-bandwidth links in the region, such as DSL. At the launch event, one invited IT manager from a UAE bank, who had used Blue Coat systems in a previous role but asked not to be named, said he thought the system would do well, and did by and large deliver on its promises.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code