Blue Coat PacketShaper 12000 review

Blue Coat’s PacketShapers are on every network administrator’s wish list as they deliver quality WAN traffic management features. We exclusively review the flagship 12000 appliance and see if it’s the one to beat.

Dynamic partitions take this a step further as the PacketShaper can automatically create sub-partitions as users become active. This allows bandwidth to be dished out fairly to all users and if permitted, it can borrow' spare bandwidth from other partitions.

Packet 3

Packet 3

Blue Coat offers a wide range of plug-ins for controlling BYOD users. Here we're monitoring Apple iTunes usage to see if it needs to be restricted

IPv6 and BYOD awareness

PacketShaper became IPv6 aware recently and can identify and control a range of protocols including HTTP-IPv6, FTP-IPv6, and CIFS-IPv6. Blue Coat also provides a heap of regularly updated plug-ins for managing new traffic flows and the latest include Google iCloud, Apple Updates and Microsoft Office365.

BYOD users come under the PackerShaper's remit as Blue Coat provides more plug-ins for apps such as Android Store, Spotify, iTunes and NetFlix. Usefully, you can create your own class folders containing multiple classes and apply a single bandwidth control policy to them all.

Overall, we found policies easy enough to create and deploy although you can only use the Sky UI for a basic set of tasks. A link is provided to swap over to the PacketShaper's legacy interface which you'll need to do for many tasks including creating dynamic partitions.

The legacy interface also provides suggestions to speed up policy creation. If the protocol or service you selected is supported by this feature, you just hit the suggest policy' button and apply it if you like what you see.

Packet 4

Packet 4

Blue Coat's legacy interface is required to configure the 83 URL categories provided by Blue Coat's WebPulse service

Policy testing

To test the efficacy of our policies we used the lab's Ixia XM2 and Xcellon-Ultra NP load modules to create FTP client/server loads across the PacketShaper. We applied a rate limiting policy to FTP traffic and changed the upper limits as we ran the test.

From the IxLoad statistics display we could see the FTP policy coming into effect immediately after it was applied. As we changed the limits we could see these being reflected in the IxLoad display showing its traffic was being controlled effectively by the PacketShaper.


Businesses can't afford to throw more bandwidth at their WAN problems so it's far more cost-effective to control its use. Blue Coat's PacketShapers are the standard setters in this field and our experiences with the 12000 have shown it to be a powerful and versatile WAN traffic management solution


The hardware platform could be more up to date considering the price but you won’t find superior WAN traffic management anywhere else. It’s annoying having to keep swapping between the Sky and legacy interfaces but the PacketShaper is easy to deploy and provides versatile category based web surfing controls.

Chassis: 1U rack

CPU: 3.33GHz Intel Xeon W5590

Memory: 6GB DDR3

Storage: 2 x 500GB Seagate SATA hard disks

Network: Silicom PEG2Bpi dual-Gigabit PCI-e with hardware bypass

Power: 2 x 650W hot-plug

Management: Web browser

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.