Blue Coat Systems Inc has formed partnerships with two players in the emerging enterprise video provision market to enable integration between its appliances and their products for purposes of accelerating content across the WAN.
Chris King, director of strategic marketing for Sunnyvale, California-based Blue Coat, said the company incorporated the ability to handle video traffic to its ProxySG appliances back in the 2001/2002 timeframe, but said the market for it is really taking off now, as bandwidths grow on corporate networks and broadband connectivity to the home drives video content on web sites like YouTube.
On the enterprise side, video is being used for applications such as corporate communications, live videocasting, and training, said King. Meanwhile, on the internet side there is an explosion of Flash video content on social networking sites, as well as for advertising and on media sites like the BBC. For this reason YouTube has gone over the 100-million figure for daily downloads and represents as much as 2% of global internet traffic.
For the enterprise, this represents a challenge, in that while some video traffic will definitely be wanted, some definitely will not, both in terms of the type of content and its capacity for clogging the corporate network. But King said a third type may be tolerated, such as soccer clips during the World Cup or the equivalent in the worlds of baseball or American football.
Blue Coat proposes a three-pronged approach, which King described as accelerate the good stuff, block the bad, and mitigate the impact of the tolerable. Video content that an enterprise knows it wants on its network because it created it should be subjected to optimization/acceleration, unacceptable content should be blocked at the gateway, and the rest should be allowed to run but only in as much as it doesn’t impact business-critical traffic on the corporate WAN.
The two alliances, with Media Publisher Inc and Jubilant Technologies Inc, fit into the first of the three prongs. These companies provide the software that takes video feed from the camera and forwards it for editing, production, encoding, and publishing. We defined an interface within our Blue Coat Director management product so that they can put a button in their software labeled ‘publish to Blue Coat’ then we can optimize the traffic across a corporate WAN, said King.
There are approximately a dozen companies in the enterprise video provision space, and King said Blue Coat might strike another couple of partnerships in this market. He said the Media Publishing partnership also extends to Blue Coat reselling the ISV’s technology in Europe.
Blue Coat started life in caching for content delivery networks during the dot-com boom, when it was called CacheFlow. It changed names in 2002 as it shifted focus from caching to security, which enabled it to address the enterprise space. At the beginning of last year it expanded into optimization/acceleration with the announcement of its MACH5 technology, which it delivers on the same appliances, so while the first prong is addressed with that part of the product the second and third prongs, blocking the bad or unwanted video content and mitigating the rest, is the responsibility of the security side of the boxes.
We can cache both true streamed video and the progressive download variety, which is how Flash videos with the .FLV suffix work, said King. That means we can cache it locally in a branch office to avoid blocking the WAN, as well as applying policies such as limiting YouTube to, say, 5% of corporate bandwidth or blocking MySpace.
Blue Coat said this ability to address both internal (corporate) and external (internet) video is a differentiator from competing offerings. It expects to see other vendors in optimization/acceleration entering the fray in video handling as the requirement picks up in the market, with Cisco being an obvious candidate. However, it has until now offered its ACNS caching software as a blade in an either/or scenario vis-a-vis its WAAS optimization/acceleration technology for its networking gear, so until it offers both operating simultaneously, Blue Coat believes it has the competitive edge.
King said the video handling is not a separately chargeable item on the ProxySG boxes or on the Director console. It is a feature designed to enhance their appeal to customers in particular sectors. We find enterprise video is particularly used in sectors such as services and retail where there is high employee churn, as well as in industries like energy and manufacturing, where the presence of hazardous materials means they have a highly regulated training regime, he said.