By Zeus Kerravala
This week Blue Coat Systems (NASDAQ:BCSI) and Brocade Communications Systems (NASDAQ:BRCD) announced the industry's first health monitoring solution specifically targeted to Web caching. The joint solution is designed to help communication providers manage the increasing bandwidth demands and costs due to Web 2.0, video and other multimedia traffic. This can be particularly meaningful in developing nations where the cost of bandwidth can be orders of magnitude higher than in the developed, more mature markets. In these regions CDN providers and service providers struggle to be profitable. The joint solution between Brocade and Blue Coat will have its biggest impact in these types of emerging areas.
The solution uses the Brocade ServerIron ADX application delivery controllers (ADC) to be an intelligent front end to the BlueCoat CacheFlow appliances. The Brocade ADCs can direct all inbound subscriber requests to optimize performance. For example, the ADC could send all iTunes traffic to one particular caching engine to isolate it from other traffic. This can be particularly useful for high bandwidth applications such as streaming video to ensure that the performance of that service stays high while not disrupting other applications.
Additionally, the Brocade ADC continually monitors the network load, health of the CacheFlow devices, available capacity to improve network efficiency. If a problem is detected, the ADC can redirect traffic to ensure service consistency. This will help keep performance high while continually optimizing costs.
The concept of “application delivery” has been talked about for a few years now and no single vendor can deliver an end-to-end solution. This joint solution includes joint development and is a good example of how two vendors in adjacent markets can work together to deliver a better solution. The two companies have historically had a strong working relationship but this is the first joint development that has been done. Frankly, I’d like to see more solutions like this come to market — ones that are past just joint press releases and partnerships in name only.
This partnership presents some interesting upside for both organizations. For Blue Coat, the focus on service providers is a relatively new initiative and this partnership can be used to bring the company into many telcos that Brocade has a footprint in already. Brocades telco strength has been with operators in the parts of Asia, Middle East, and Latin America where the cost of the bandwidth is a significant barrier to telco evolution. The joint solution can help the operators there handle bandwidth costs better and kick start BlueCoat’s service provider initiative.
For Brocade, this adds to the “end-to-end” value proposition that the company has been trying to develop over the years. Brocade can make a strong end-to-end case in corporate data centers buts its success in telcos has point product driven. A strong application delivery portfolio should drive sales of its layer 2/3 product line which is Brocades biggest revenue generator within its networking portfolio.
Looking into the future, I’d like to see more joint work done by the myriad of vendors the play in the application delivery market. This includes well known companies such as F5, Riverbed and Citrix but also many smaller niche vendors like Silver Peak, Zeus, Certeon, Crescendo, Coyote Point, Radware and many, many others. This would add to the value proposition of all of these companies and make application delivery an “industry” thing versus a bunch of individual vendor initiatives.