Blue Coat SG800 WAN accelerator boosts SSL traffic
Balance of flexibility, performance stacks up well against market rivals
I was a bit concerned about this man-in-the-middle decryption of secure traffic, but found that it isn’t nearly as dangerous as I first thought. For instance, IT can determine which SSL traffic will be decrypted and optimized, and which traffic will be passed through untouched.
For HTTPS connections to a backend HR portal, IT can decrypt and accelerate traffic while ignoring secure traffic bound for an external banking Web site. Nothing of a secure nature is entered into log files and no other information that someone could use to compromise the system is accessible. Blue Coat provides support for local certificates and also external Certificate Authorities, which makes integration easier.
Policy rules control all aspects of the appliance. The policy defines how and when traffic is accelerated, when to require user authentication, and even whether traffic information should be logged. I used Blue Coat’s Visual Policy Manager to create my policy and found the process to be relatively straightforward. IT can also import existing policies from other SG appliances to reduce setup time.
I also liked the SG800’s capability to provide URL content filtering through its own database or in conjunction with eight other popular filtering systems. It also works with ICAP-ready virus scanning servers, such as Finjan, Symantec, Trend Micro, and WebWasher to help remove Internet-based threats. IT can also apply some basic bandwidth management to traffic as it passes through the appliance, but it doesn’t integrate with existing QoS infrastructures, limiting its overall effectiveness.
Reporting is well done, with all traffic types broken out into individual real-time and historical graphs. I found the graphs to be easy to interpret at a glance, showing previous 60-minute, 24-hour, and 30-day periods on one screen. Other graphs display system statistics, overall efficiency, bandwidth management statistics, and system health. Event logging can be sent to a Syslog server or e-mailed to a user, but unfortunately there is no way to export the graphs to an external system.
Blue Coat SG800’s performance is right up there with the other top accelerator players, and raises the ante by adding support for SSL encrypted traffic. The level of configuration available in each proxy allows for great flexibility, while the Visual Policy Manager streamlines policy creation. Support for ICAP and content filtering is an added bonus. Even though its maximum throughput was only around 30Mbps, the SG800 does improve poorly performing links at roughly half the price of competing products.