One of the most undervalued tools in the effort to provide ongoing security to end users is the frequently overlooked proxy cache. Used today by most organizations to accelerate the performance of Web sites, the proxy cache has the potential to become a command and control mechanism for every application running across the Internet.
In that capacity, the proxy cache could be used as a staging platform to inspect content for viruses, spyware and other forms of malware, in addition to looking for unusual traffic patterns that could signal some form of network attack. Furthermore, a series of rules could theoretically be applied against the proxy cache to give certain types of latency-sensitive applications priority, including anything that makes use of Web services, voice-over-IP or thin-client software.
Currently, there is no shortage of companies selling some form of a proxy server. But one that might be worth additional inspection is Blue Coat, based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Much like Cisco Systems and Network Appliance, Blue Coat has been selling proxy cache software to Internet service providers for years. But now the company sees an opportunity to apply that technology across the enterprise, because as applications continue to expand across the Internet, many IT organizations are finding themselves called upon to act as ISPs for rapidly proliferating intranets within their organization.
To help those organizations play that role, Blue Coat plans to roll out enhanced versions of its proxy server gateway that will include many of the command and control features needed to leverage the proxy server as a security and management platform.
To that end, Blue Coat acquired Ositis Software, a provider of antivirus appliances led by Vilis Ositis, who with the deal became Blue Coat's CTO. A longtime employee of Bell Labs, Ositis will be working closely with R. "Lynn" Nye Jr., session architect for Blue Coat, who brings a wealth of IBM System Network Architecture (SNA) experience to the company.
And that brings us to the point of the exercise. One of the things missing from the broadly deployed Internet was the network control features we use to have with SNA and DECnet back in the 1980s. So as companies like Blue Coat continue to evolve, maybe what we are about to see is a back-to-the-future type of journey that finally brings the command and control features that we had on proprietary network architectures to today's open Internet environment.