What Lies Behind the Blue Coat

eWEEK gets inside Blue Coat's bold move into the security market in an interview with CEO Brian NeSmith.

When CacheFlow Inc., one of the better known names in the caching and content-delivery markets, last summer changed its name to Blue Coat Systems Inc. and decided to focus on security, it seemed like a risky move. Blue Coat stepped onto a playing field crowded with other security appliances, but the company has partnered with a slew of top security companies—including Symantec Corp., Trend Micro Inc. and Finjan Software—and continues to add new capabilities to its SG800 port 80 appliance. Senior Editor Dennis Fisher sat down with CEO Brian NeSmith recently to discuss the companys strategic shift, the competitive landscape and his plans for Blue Coats future.

eWeek: What was the motivation for the name change and the move to become a security company?

NeSmith: Wed been evolving in this direction for a while. Internally, we realized that the security end of things was where our future was. We got pushed into adding features, and eventually we realized that we didnt build the right product for the enterprise market.

eWeek: How is your product different from some of the other appliances out there?

NeSmith: What we have is optimized around content handling and inspection. All of the policy control is done through the GUI. And we can control the outbound traffic as well as what users bring back. Companies have invested millions of dollars in virus scanning, but as soon as you log into Yahoo Mail, thats useless. Now people block that, but long-term, that wont work. We make Web-based AV scanning possible.

eWeek: What kinds of things are you looking at for inclusion in the appliance down the road?

NeSmith: Were investing a lot of energy in the instant messaging protocols, because they have a lot of the same problems as the Web protocols do. Well have the IM control in early 2003. Well act like a TiVo for IM and log all of the conversations and watch for trigger words. And, even though our security business is growing 10 percent per quarter, the caching business doesnt go away. We use it to mitigate some of the worst degradations associated with the security infrastructure. Theres more policy flexibility coming, like an accounting-based policy that could allow people to do personal Web surfing for X number of hours each day.

eWeek: There are a ton of start-ups out there building appliances, too. Are you concerned about the competition in this market?

NeSmith: I think theyre going to see what we saw, which is that its very painful to do this. Im not bullish on those companies ability to find a big market share. SSL is going to be the downfall of a lot of these companies in the future. With our box, you can create an SSL tunnel between two boxes and to pass Web and other traffic to headquarters and eliminate the need for a frame relay.