The new model

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology has deployed a raft of upgrades to the web appliances protecting its network. NME reports.

Tags: Blue Coat Systems IncorporatedKing Abdulaziz City for Science and TechnologyMalwareSaudi Arabia
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The new model Since we upgraded to the latest version of Blue Coat’s appliances, we haven’t had any problems managing our bandwidth, says KACST’s Abbas.
By  Imthishan Giado Published  September 15, 2010 Network Middle East Logo

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology has deployed a raft of upgrades to the web appliances protecting its network. NME reports.

The network infrastructure for your average university is one of the harshest environments to manage.

Think about it – while a normal administrator might have to deal with 200 or 300 users, a run-of-the-mill university will be looking at a nightmarish scenario of several thousand users logging in and out each and every day; not to mention, hundreds of guests workers with their Wi-Fi connections as well.

In a region where bandwidth isn’t cheap, this situation demands the utmost efficiency in managing data usage, while simultaneously ensuring that malware and other web-based threats are kept at bay. Faced with such a challenge a decade ago, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) decided to opt for Blue Coat’s range of web appliances and has recently completed an upgrade which has brought IPv6 functionality into the mix.

As Hesham Bin Abbas, director of the Internet Services Unit at KACST explains, the university had very specific requirements when it first implemented the devices: “We need to have both proxy filtering and caching for the website, but we specifically needed it as a hardware appliance, not as a software product.

“We always monitored the traffic and took care for the future, but the demand kept increasing. Last year in October, we responded by upgrading the entire system, and we haven’t had any problem since,” he continues.

Abbas has been with the university for the past 16 years, and when Blue Coat first entered the picture, he vividly remembers how it bested rival products.

“We choose it based on a range of technical evaluations. We had some demos performed and several evaluation criteria. After trying a range of different solutions that were available, we decided that Blue Coat was the best. With the new upgrade, we didn’t look at any one else – we went straight to Blue Coat for our new systems because we already had so many of their their boxes in our branches,” he recalls.

With the latest round of upgrades, Abbas says that the existing SG8000 devices were unable to keep with the rapidly scaling needs of the university. Accordingly, they upgraded 15 boxes in two locations – Riyadh and Jeddah – to the new ProxySG and ProxyAV devices. The new devices were received by the university in October 2009 and took one month to implement with no issues to report.

While the ProxyAV devices are tasked with filtering out spam, malware and viruses, the ProxySG boxes are tasked with a more difficult role – acting as a guardian to prevent viewing of undesirable web addresses, while simultaneously speeding up internet access through intelligent caching.  Interestingly, it also supports IPv6 – something which Abbas notes was no accident.

“It’s not the main driver but one of the requirements. We need to have our machines supporting IPv6 because we migrated two years ago from IPv4. So we needed boxes that supported everything through to IPv6,” he confirms.

The upgrades have already begun having significant effect at KACST. The ISU has already recorded a 50% improvement in the speed of filtering out malware, while the new proxy appliances have enabled a doubling in existing bandwidth. Abbas also reports a 35% drop in CPU utilisation, coupled with a 50% smaller memory footprint.
For the future, Abbas plans to look at ways of combining the Blue Coat appliances with its newly-installed load-balancing system from Foundry Networks.

“We are a non profit organisation but consider ourselves as part of this achievement because this is a new technology. Many will benefit from this combination of BlueCoat with Foundry products,” he concludes.

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