Akonixhas released a management appliance intended to help corporate IT gain a measure of control over the popular voice application Skype.

The Akonix L7 Skype Manager is an appliance that sits on the edge of the corporate network and detects Skype traffic. The appliance lets users choose between one of two policies: block all traffic or allow traffic only to certain IP addresses or subnets on the network.

According to Skype, which is owned by eBay, there are 13 million registered users of its software. The company says 30 percent of those are corporate users.

And just like instant messaging, Skype and similar VOIP communication applications present security and compliance issues for corporate IT. Akonix was one of the first vendors to offer policy controls for instant messaging when corporate end-users began taking the liberty of loading it up on their desktops and is now using that knowledge for voice communication.

Akonix is hoping to develop the appliance with a greater range of options for its centralised policy engine, which is similar to one it has for IM, but the challenge is that all Skype traffic is encrypted and looks just like HTTPs traffic.

The appliance, therefore, amounts to an on/off switch. It uses a combination of the packet signature and the volume of packets to determine if Skype is generating the packets. "The other thing is that Skype is a port seeker, it won't always flow through the same ports, and that in itself is a signature," says Don Montgomery, vice president of marketing for Akonix.

L7 Skype Manager sits at the network perimeter with what amounts to an internal packet sniffer. Besides the policy controls, the appliance supports logging and reporting on inbound and outbound Skype traffic, and flags blocked attempts to use Skype. L7 Skype Manager does not require users to deploy any agents on the desktop.