Blue Coat ready to execute new game plan in WAN optimization market

Blue Coat ready to execute new game plan in WAN optimization market

After having fallen behind in the WAN optimization market, Blue Coat has made changes to help take on a new strategy, including Monday's announcement of David Murphy as new president and COO.

After February's announcement that Blue Coat would be acquired by private equity investment firm Thoma Bravo, which both makes Blue Coat a private company and affords it more funding to work with, Murphy's appointment signals a step in a new direction for the company, says Enterprise Management Associates principal research analyst Tracy Corbo.

"This is really the final piece here," Corbo says. "I don't think I personally could have hand-picked someone that's more ideal, if you stop and look at what he brings to the table."

ANALYSIS: WAN optimization market shakeup predicted

BACKGROUND: New leaders emerging in WAN optimization market

Murphy joins Blue Coat after having served as the senior vice president for HP's LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions business unit, whose two-tier operating structure he says is similar to that of Blue Coat. Beyond that, Corbo says Murphy's operations and financial experience makes him a natural fit for a newly private company with a new source of funding, as does his experience as president and general manager of IBM Tivoli.

The latter may prove more relevant in the long term as Blue Coat begins to act on the strategy it has been crafting since September, when the company introduced new CEO Gary Clark. Blue Coat, which Clark says is now in its third consecutive quarter for growth and has "more ability to invest aggressively" as a private company, is no longer trying to compete with Cisco and Riverbed head-to-head. That's because Blue Coat has identified a new market in which it is prepared to get a significant head start, Clark says.

"Cisco is not really what keeps us up at night around here at Blue Coat. We are laser focused on playing our game, which is really around the asymmetric piece where really Cisco and Riverbed don't have a strong play, " Clark says. "We don't want to go back and be a 'me too' player in the data center-to-data center symmetric optimization game."

The main difference between the symmetric and asymmetric deployment of WAN optimization solutions involves the environment in which they are deployed. Symmetric optimization, as described in this F5 whitepaper, is deployed across two codependent devices in two different locations, such as the data centers where Riverbed's products are commonly found. Asymmetric deployment of WAN optimization is delivered from a centrally located device and focuses on performance at the user or application level.

Murphy says an important factor of this new step into the asymmetric acceleration market is integrating security features into its WAN optimization tools. With security as a differentiator in its asymmetric WAN optimization products, Blue Coat can capitalize on a window of opportunity that will remain open for "at least six to 12 months, if not longer than that."

Corbo believes the security push will be a successful differentiator for Blue Coat in the WAN optimization market, primarily because any other approach would simply fall flat against powerful market incumbents.

"Their approach from the security side is a better, stronger play for them rather than trying to go head-to-head in Riverbed's game," Corbo says. "That's really a difficult play for anybody, just in terms of the way Riverbed has cemented their position there."

According to a 2011 market study conducted by TheInfoPro, Blue Coat sits behind Silver Peak, Cisco and Riverbed in the WAN optimization market. Daniel Kennedy, the firm's research director for Information Security, says "something macro would have to happen to upset this balance going into 2013."

Blue Coat's new strategy is one of many developments to take shape in the WAN optimization market in 2012. Riverbed has announced a partnership with Akamai to help improve application performance for its Steelhead WAN optimization customers, while Silver Peak has released free, downloadable trial versions of its own products.

As IDC predicted earlier this year, the WAN optimization market is experiencing some significant changes as revenue comes pouring in. By the end of this year, the WAN application delivery sector will reach $1.3 billion in revenues, helping to drive 8.7% overall growth in the network equipment market, IDC says.

Colin Neagle covers Microsoft security and network management for Network World. Keep up with his blog: Rated Critical, follow him on Twitter: @ntwrkwrldneagle. Colin's email is

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

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