Blue Coat WAN Optimization Aimed at Video Floods

Beware the video floods.

Some IT shops may view such dire warnings the same way an earlier generation scoffed at that Noah guy. But network service provider Blue Coat Systems (NASDAQ: BCSI) is convinced video floods are, or soon will be, a very real threat to enterprise networks.

The company points to a recent Telegeography study that said streaming media now accounts for 18 percent of worldwide Internet traffic. Combine that with other video-heavy applications and video now makes up over half (52 percent) of worldwide Internet traffic, the research firm said.

“We know for a fact that video represents a sizable portion of corporate traffic. Not as bad as 50 percent, but it’s significant,” Steve Schick, Blue Coats’ director of communications, told

Schick points to several recent developments for the increase in video traffic. For example, in July the popular YouTube video-sharing service increased the time limit on videos by 50 percent, letting users upload videos up to 15 minutes long. He also noted advances in live streaming, making videos easier to launch from mobile devices.

“We believe people’s behavior has changed when it comes to video,” he added. “They look to video on the Web for event-driven reasons like the recent rescue of the Chilean miners. It’s a constant issue for corporations.”

Significant live and ad hoc video broadcasts are particularly challenging for IT teams, because they can’t necessarily prepare for them, which threatens access to other key enterprise resources on the network from ERP systems to email.

Joe Boyle, Blue Coat’s manager for WAN optimization, said one customer at the company’s recent partner conference, positioned the issue well. “He noted that with email, even if it’s something important, a PDF attachment will probably just get a quick look and it’s a few hundred kilobytes,” said Boyle. “But a video link is far more likely to be clicked on and watched for several minutes. The cost of that on the network is several megabits per second.”

Minimizing the impact of video on the network

Blue Coat competes with a variety of vendors, including Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and others, that offer Wide Area Network (WAN) optimization solutions.

But Blue Coat says the latest version of its ProxySG WAN appliance is optimized for video delivery.

“It’s a point of differentiation for us because we handle video natively in the product, it’s not a separate offering,” said Boyle.

The Blue Coat Optimized Video Delivery uses a combination of stream-splitting and caching technologies it said minimizes the impact of video floods as breaking news and other events increase video traffic. The system’s “optimize but control” approach uses caching to reduce bandwidth and stream splitting. Quality of Service (QoS) controls are designed to further contain traffic and ensure the performance of mission critical applications.

Of course, even video transmissions that are scheduled or expected can affect network performance. Boyle said videos sent, for example, to different branches of a global corporation, are reduced to a single stream per branch and “split” at each branch to additional users without burdening the network.

“The first person in each branch connects to his serving point and our proxy detects any outward connections beyond that,” said Boyle. “Each user will get an extremely high quality feed.”

Gartner research vice president Joe Skopura said video caching and stream-splitting can help IT manage the impact of video on a company’s WAN or Internet gateway and it’s an issue of increasing importance.

“Companies want to use more live video internally and also need to contend with video from the Web, but both can undermine networks,” Skorupa said in a statement.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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