While wide area file service (WAFS) and WAN optimization has been making their way to branch and remote offices over the past few years, the growing legion of mobile workers have, for the most, part been forced to wait.
That should change soon, as WAFS/WAN optimization vendors are moving to broaden their target base. Blue Coat today said it will have client software early next year that extends its security, application acceleration, and WAN optimization beyond the branch to home offices and road warriors. (See BlueCoat Adds Security .)
Intelligent Compression Technologies (ICT), Packeteer, and Stampede already have file and application acceleration for mobile users. (See Packeteer Intros 6.0 and Stampede Intros App.) Those types of devices are just a trickle compared to a flood of branch office appliances, though. (See Users Rally Round Remote Solutions and Remote Access Advances.)
Blue Coat got into WAN optimization and WAFS last March, building the capabilities into its SG application acceleration and security appliances through a framework it calls MACH5. (See Blue Coat Puts On Acceleration.) It is broadening that offering to devices that aren't always connected to an organization's network -- laptops, BlackBerries, kiosks, home office PCs, and so on.
Its client software will provide those devices with features such as spyware protection, content filtering, and access management. Blue Coat product manager Chris King says security is especially important for those types of devices. "When a laptop leaves the four walls of an organization, it's no longer a managed laptop," King says.
Blue Coat's reach to devices outside those four walls comes from technology it acquired from SSL VPN vendor Permeo in January. Permeo used what it called an "on demand" architecture that lets administrators install it on devices outside the data center without agents. Blue Coat will make that part of its client software for mobile devices. Blue Coat competitor Stampede also offers on-demand acceleration for mobile users. (See Stampede Intros On-Demand.)
Blue Coat isn't the first WAFS/WAN optimization vendor to target laptops, and it won't be the last. Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa says mobile support will be mandatory for WAN acceleration. The question is, when will vendors have a complete WAN optimization package for mobile users? They are attacking it piecemeal, beginning with their strongest area.
"There are a few client implementations but Blue Coat has the strongest security story by far," Skorupa says. "All the WOC [WAN optimization controller] guys will have to address client code, we call them SoftWOCs. Each will focus on their area of strength and then build out. That is what Blue Coat is doing -- security first and richer acceleration later."
Brady Brown, network administrator at Houston-based Mustang Engineering, says security is a good place to start for laptop users. "We see laptops that will be fine as long as they're here connected to our LAN, but they travel and they come back loaded with spyware and malware," he says.
Mustang Engineering has been using Blue Coat in its headquarters since 2004 to keep out spyware and other threats, but isn't using its Mach5 WAN optimization. Brown says he uses Juniper's WXC WAN acceleration at seven remote locations around the world. But that could change when Blue Coat's SG client is available.
"We've only been able to use WAN acceleration in offices where size warrants it, with 25 people or more," he says. "In a smaller office or for people who work at home, we haven't had anything we could put in place."
Brown says about 10 percent of Mustang's 3,600 employees will be working from home by early 2007, and that number might expand rapidly. "Real estate's expensive," he says. "Paying for a DSL line is a lot cheaper."
Blue Coat's client software can be installed in two ways. One is the on-demand technology picked up from Permeo. Then, there's the old fashioned way of installing agents.
Brown says he would use the on-demand feature for employees using their own PCs or desktops because "while they're connected to our VPN, they're on our network, but they're not our responsibility when they're done." Computers owned by Mustang would install agents, he says.
Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch