Blue Coat Internet Appliance Fits Snugly

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2003-09-15
 
 
 

Blue Coat Systems Inc. is back in the web proxy business, and eWEEK Labs tests of the ProxySG 400 show that the hardware appliance is ready for even the toughest high-traffic enterprise networks.

The hardware-based ProxySG (for Second Generation) 400 and the other members of the product line, including the ProxySG 800 and ProxySG 6000, are easy to deploy and now support several third-party filtering products.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
ProxySG 400

This second-generation Web proxy from Blue Coat Systems (www.bluecoat.com) controls access to the Internet while also governing hard-to-manage instant messaging traffic. New failover and load balancing capabilities are good additions to the product. However, at $4,000, with annual maintenance fees of roughly $1,000, ProxySG 400 will require in-depth cost-benefit analysis.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY EXCELLENT
CAPABILITY EXCELLENT
PERFORMANCE EXCELLENT
INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY GOOD
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Easy installation; strong failover and load balancing capabilities; good IM control.
  • CON: Ongoing maintenance costs can be high.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    IMlogics IM Manager Novell Inc.s Volera Radware Ltd.s Content Inspection Director
    However, the initial $4,000 cost, along with maintenance fees that are likely to be around $1,000 per year, mean that, as with previous versions, IT managers will need to do thorough cost calculations to make sure the ProxySG 400s functionality is worth its price.

    We liked ProxySG 400s small form factor (less than 1U, or 3.5 inches), its ease of use and its integration with best-of-breed Web filtering tools. The ProxySG 400 device sits in the wiring closet and acts as a Web proxy for PC clients that require access to the Internet.

    The appliance is designed for use with Blue Coats higher-capacity platforms, including the ProxySG 800 and ProxySG 6000. The ProxySG devices can be used in hot-standby mode or in a load-sharing configuration so that the IT managers can be assured that Web proxy functions continue even if one ProxySG device goes down.

    The ProxySG family can now be configured in a load-sharing mode without additional third-party hardware. (Previously, we needed high-availability switches, such as those from F5 Networks Inc., to achieve hot standby with Blue Coat appliances.)

    ProxySG 400s failover functionality is impressive, but the administrative interface is somewhat confusing. However, setting up other aspects of the product, including applying filtering policies and downloading filter updates, couldnt be easier. The Web-based interface is clean, easy to navigate and eminently sensible (see screen), and it should minimize IT training costs and help reduce some of the operational costs associated with the ProxySG 400.

    In an interesting move that should provide an effective way for IT managers to block certain URLs, ProxySG 400 supports Websense Inc.s access control software directly on the appliance. It was remarkably easy to set up our ProxySG 400 to download the data set of forbidden URLs—this also means IT administrators can take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to managing Web access. The box also supports content filtering from SurfControl plc. that we found to be as effective as the Websense product in our tests.

    ProxySG 400s instant messaging control features should help IT managers get a handle on messaging traffic, and we didnt have to install software or make changes to the client systems. We used Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and America Online Inc. IM clients on machines in the test network and could easily log and block usage of these products.

    There is a lot of activity in the IM management market, with products such as IMlogic Inc.s IM Manager. (See and hear the eWEEK eSeminar on IM at www.eWEEK.com/ labslinks.) However, we think it would be practical to put IM controls in ProxySG 400 because it makes sense to concentrate Internet access controls in one appliance, even for large corporations.

    Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.

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