Blue Coat, the company that used to be Cacheflow, has gone back to its roots by developing WAN application acceleration software. Blue Coat claimed the software - called Mach 5 - can improve application response times seven-fold and will be free to its existing customers.

Mach 5 builds on the company's expertise in content caching by adding application prioritisation, protocol optimisation and data compression, said Nigel Hawthorn, Blue Coat's marketing and business development VP. He added that it specifically supports the Microsoft file-sharing protocol CIFS, MAPI for Microsoft Exchange, HTTP and HTTPS.

"You have some hugely inefficient protocols being used," he said. "We had solved the problem for HTTP before, so we though we'd do it for CIFS and MAPI, and also add techniques to save on bandwidth and improve response time."

He claimed that the support for HTTPS, which requires the device to intercept, decrypt and re-encrypt SSL, means that Blue Coat's technology can accelerate applications which its rivals cannot.

"People asked us to do it because spyware and phishing are now coming in over SSL," he said. "Then we can marry it with our security infrastructure and warn the user if SSL is going to an unknown address."

Hawthorn said that Mach 5 will be a free upgrade for existing Proxy-SG users, or can be bought as part of a new appliance. Blue Coat boxes start at just under €2000, he said - a key price point that several appliance vendors are currently reaching for.

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He admitted though that application acceleration requires a rather different implementation model to web security: for a start, the former uses a box at each end of the WAN link, while the latter only needs one, on the incoming Internet connection.

That, combined with differences in the chain of command between security and application acceleration, could make it tricky for web security devices to also be used for WAN acceleration.

Hawthorn added that Mach-5 currently lacks support for both NFS and WAFS, arguing that Blue Coat's caching should make up for that.

And he said that the need for acceleration boxes at both ends of a link should enable him to sell extra boxes to customers who will now want them in branch offices too, not just at headquarters.