Blue Coat Systems has released a software plug-in that allows its PacketShaper appliances to tame bandwidth hogs like Spotify, the online music service that is swallowing large amount of enterprise bandwidth.

According to the company, the new plug-in can discover, classify and prioritise traffic associated with Spotify, a proprietary peer-to-peer streaming music application that utilises client computers to create a library of music. According to Spotify, the average listening times are over an hour per user per day and the recommended bandwidth requirement is 256Kbit/s.

"The issue for enterprises always has been the grey areas," said Nigel Hawthorn, VP EMEA marketing. "For example, eight years ago it was easy for us to say that we must block pornography on business networks, but nowadays everything else is different and not so clear cut for the network manager. For example we now have things like YouTube, as well as things like online shopping, sports news etc."

"New applications are appearing all the time, asking questions of senior management and IT departments of what is appropriate, and what isn't," he said.

"Spotify was in beta last year and launched in January this year," Hawthorn told Techworld. "It now has a million users." Spotify is also available in Finland, Sweden, Norway, France and Spain, and is expected to launch elsewhere, including in the United States.

"I use it at home but I don't use it at work," Hawthorn told Techworld. "It generates a constant stream to your PC at 256Kbit/s, and that is taking up a lot of bandwidth." Hawthorn says that Spotify differs from the likes of IM products, as it generates a constant flow. "Spotify is clearly a bandwidth issue," he said.

He pointed to the BBC's iPlayer and the way that it works, as it downloads content to the PC and can be played later. Therefore said Hawthorn, iPlayer traffic can be deprioritised, so that arrives at your PC more slowly.

"But the problem with Spotify is that it is a constant stream, so if you phone rings, you would usually just mute your PC, which is still generating that traffic," he said. "It doesn't require many users at a particular location, for the network manager to suddenly to realise his bandwidth is being swallowed by music."

Blue Coat has 650 plug-ins for other applications such as online radio, flash and peer-to-peer applications, right through to Oracle and Facebook. Hawthorn told Techworld that Blue Coat realised that Spotify had become a network bandwidth issue after clients began asking for a solution.

"The problem is with applications like this is that one person usually discovers it, and then emails his workmates, and then suddenly your bandwidth is swamped," he said. He pointed to the fact the death of Michael Jackson last week prompted many users to send each other playlists of his songs, which meant more people signing up to services like Spotify.

The new software plug-in for Spotify is available immediately and is free-of-charge to customers with a current maintenance agreement.