May 30, 2013
Last week Blue Coat came out of hiding after going private in late 2011. Complete with a new logo, the company is re-launching itself by redefining the role of security within IT. Prior to going private, Blue Coat had spent months trying to establish itself in the WAN optimization space, and, while it accomplished that goal, it could never catch the leading vendors such as Riverbed and Silver Peak. Also, I think the company lost some of its identity as one of the leading security vendors. While WAN Optimization does remain a focus area for Blue Coat, security is what the company wants to be known for first.
Blue Coat’s positioning of security is an interesting one. Historically securing the enterprise has always been a bit of a Yin versus Yang for security professionals. The tighter the security, the more protected the company is, but the more intrusive the security is to the workers. Looking back on my days in IT, I remember that every security purchase was highly scrutinized and thought of as a necessary evil — we knew we needed it, but everyone hated it.
But why does it need to be this way? Blue Coat challenges the status quo and is positioning security as an enabler of the business. Security can be used to power business initiatives rather than hinder the progress of organizations. Blue Coat’s “Business Assurances Technology” is a security architecture that is used to move the company forward instead of holding it back.
The architecture is segmented into the following five technology centers:
Security and policy enforcement – This delivers business continuity by protecting against threats and data loss. The concept here is that by providing a safe Internet, workers will feel empowered to do more.
Mobility empowerment center – By extended protection and policy to users in any location on any device, companies can be more aggressive with mobile business initiatives. Blue Coat gave an example where airlines could replace emergency flight manuals with iPads for pilots reducing costs and enabling up to the minute information to be provided to the aircrew.
Trusted application center – This center allows companies to deploy and consume applications while maintaining the highest levels of security. This can have a significant impact on B2B relationships. As an example, insurance companies could accept photos to speed up claims processing.
Performance center – The performance center aligns IT infrastructure with business priorities to provide a higher level of network performance to optimize user experience.
Resolution center – This center uses deep security intelligence and analytics to provide organizations with advanced threat protection. The analytics allow security professionals to adjust policies on the fly to quickly recover from a data breach. Resolution center will give IT organizations deep visibility into the context and content of advanced targeted attacks with the goal of making security a proactive discipline rather than a reactive one.
The analytical capabilities in Resolution Center come from the acquisition of Solera Networks, which was announced along with the new positioning. Solera also gives Blue Coat forensic capabilities that compliment the analytics. Blue Coat also announced an SSL visibility appliance, due to be released in the summer, which provides application classification capabilities to detect what’s running on the network and then automatically adjust security settings.
The concept of security as an enabling technology may take some time for more security professionals to wrap their heads around as its counter to conventional wisdom. However, if organizations are to realize the level of agility and flexibility that IT needs to have to respond to business unit requests faster, then this shift needs to happen.
It’s good to see Blue Coat go back to their roots and establish themselves as a security vendor first. That’s how it established itself initially and it will be how it differentiates itself moving forward.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and with long term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to the following constituents: End user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.