CacheFlow takes on security

CacheFlow Inc., a caching pioneer when it was launched in 1996, is exiting the caching market to focus on selling security appliances intended to secure enterprise networks against Web-based threats.

CacheFlow this week introduced the SG800, its first server designed handle security processing. It also announced that it was changing its name to Blue Coat Systems Inc. to finalize its shift into the security market, which it began earlier this year.

CacheFlow follows other companies such as Inktomi Corp. and F5 Networks Inc., which have ditched caching because of lagging demand. CacheFlow, in fact, has seen revenues from its security products grow 10 per cent to 20 per cent during the last few quarters as its caching business stagnated. In the fourth quarter of 2002, CacheFlow reported that sales of security products accounted for more than 64 per cent of its revenues, compared to just 16 per cent of revenues in the fourth quarter of 2001.

“The growth of our business as we move forward is around extending our proxy caching functionality to what enterprise customers are looking for, which is Web security appliances,” says Charles Dauber, vice-president of marketing at Blue Coat Systems.

CacheFlow is not scrapping its caching technology altogether – instead it is using it as a foundation of its security product, which is designed to filter and scan Web traffic, which may contain viruses, worms and other illicit content that can move undetected through corporate firewalls. By incorporating caching, the appliance can scan content once and then serve up the clean content to multiple users.

The appliance sits behind the corporate firewall, enabling it to hand off traffic that enters through what’s known as port 80, the primary gateway for incoming and outgoing Web data. The SG800 runs a custom built operating system called Security Gateway, which is optimized for multiple Web security functions, including antivirus detection and content filtering. The company is partnering with antivirus vendors Symantec Corp. and Trend Micro Inc., as well as URL and content filtering companies Websense Inc. and Secure Computing Corp.

The SG800 also includes a policy-processing engine that gives customer tight control over how content is secured and delivered. For example, the SG800 could be directed to secure content based on browser type, network address, or time of day. In addition, the SG800 hooks into existing authentication systems to allow or deny users or groups based on Radius, LDAP and Microsoft Corp.’s NT LAN Manager (NTLM).

The Salt River Project, a water and power supplier based in Phoenix, is integrating Blue Coat’s security features into its CacheFlow proxy caches in order to protect the company’s network from viruses that were entering via e-mail attachments from sites such as Yahoo and Hotmail.

“We had to close that completely down and block all of those sites because they were bringing viruses in,” says James Heyen, principal network analyst at the Salt River Project. “With this product, what we’ll be able to do is allow that again because everything coming in from the Web servers will be examined for virus content.”

CacheFlow’s shift is a natural evolution for the company, analysts say.

“Where their previous appliances sit in a network design is the same place where a security gateway sits,” says Michael Hoch, senior analyst Internet infrastructure at the Aberdeen Group Inc. “They really understand that point in the network. That gives them an advantage. They know particularly how port 80 traffic works and that’s something that’s not as thoroughly addressed by other security vendors.”

That makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly who Blue Coat’s competitors are, analyst say, although firms such as Fortinet are also selling devices that include multiple security capabilities.

The SG800 comes in a variety of models and pricing ranges from US$5,995 to US$29,995.