Unified Wired, Wireless Access Comes to Cisco

 Cisco Prime, Identity Service Engine and new 802.11ac technology debut.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 4, 2012
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In a modern network environment, there doesn't have to be a division between wired and wireless access. That's an area where Cisco's new Unified Access solutions are aiming to play, delivering borderless wired and wireless network access.

"This is all about bringing everything that we have together in a way that is simplified and secure," Inbar Lasser-Raab, Senior Director Enterprise Networking Marketing at Cisco told InternetNews.

At the core of the Unified Access solution are improvements to a trio of existing Cisco products. The Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE) is being updated to version 1.1 with a new Secure Group Access (SGA) capability. Lasser-Raab explained that SGA is a way to set role based policy across groups of people on both wired and wireless networks.

Getting devices onto the network in the first place is now being expedited with the new self-provisioning portal capability called My Devices, in ISE 1.1

"So when employees bring new devices to work, they go to the portal to register their device," Lasser-Raab said. "Users get automatic connectivity and policies propagate to the new devices based on the user's profile and IT doesn't have to spend time updating device information."

Cisco Prime

Back in April of 2011, Cisco announced its Prime network management platform. The original Prime release however was not a completely integrate solution for both wired and wireless network management. That's now changing with the new release.

"For the first time Prime is now truly one application, with one GUI and one interface that manages wired and wireless networks as well as policy configuration from one tool," Lasser-Raab said.

Going a step beyond just network visibility, the Prime Assurance Manager, looks at application visibility. Prime Assurance Manager was first announced in March of this year and is now being extended for wireless.

"We've now added the application visibility to the controllers on the wireless network so they see applications," Lasser-Raab said. "So with Prime now it's also one application assurance platform for both wired and wireless networks."

Cisco's wireless controllers are also getting a boost with an update that will deliver subsecond stateful failover. So if a controller is down, another controller will takeover in less than a second.

"Our customers are used to subsecond failover on some of our high end switches, and we're now brining that to the wireless portfolio," Lasser-Raab said. "So we're delivering more consistent behavior across wired and wireless networks.

802.11ac

One area where the wired network is still vastly different is performance. With the new 802.11ac wireless standard that gap is going to narrow.

The 802.11ac standard is the successor to 802.11n and it can deliver wireless throughput of 500 megabits per second or more. Cisco is enabling 802.11ac on its Aironet 3600 seriesmodular access points that were first announced in January of this year.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of The IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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