Juniper Networks is rolling out a program aimed at helping enterprises handle the rapidly growing numbers of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are coming into their IT environments, causing not only management headaches but also security issues.
The company this week unveiled IoT Assurance, the latest offering in its collection of network management software that leverages Juniper’s Mist AI machine learning capabilities. The new IoT program joins existing assurance offerings around the WAN and wired networks.
It also comes the same day Juniper rolled out a pair of wireless access points (APs) aimed at the Wi-Fi 6E wireless standard and that will be released in the first quarter of 2022.
With the IoT Assurance cloud service, Juniper is addressing challenges enterprise face from the growing numbers of IoT devices, but also the ongoing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend that has been accelerated by the expansion of employees working remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Managing and Securing IoT
Organizations not only have to onboard and manage all these devices, but also must do so securely.
“IoT is becoming increasingly problematic,” Jeff Aaron, vice president of enterprise marketing at Juniper, told Enterprise Networking Planet. “Given the number of devices, it’s very hard to manage and it’s especially hard to onboard IoT devices securely, especially when you can’t use a RADIUS server. What we’ve created is a very unique and clever solution that lets folks use a self-service portal to onboard devices [and] share that without having to bother IT users all the time to set that up.”
The number of IoT devices continues to grow. According to market research firm IoT Analytics, the number of connected IoT devices worldwide this year will hit 12.3 billion, a year-over-year jump of 9 percent. By 2025, there will be more than 27 billion IoT connections, the analysts said.
Aaron noted that officials at a hospital told Juniper that before the pandemic, there were about 75 different IoT devices in the building. Now there are almost 500 devices.
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Safe Device Onboarding
With IoT Assurance, Juniper is delivering cloud-scale management and onboarding capabilities. Central to that is the use of private pre-shared keys (PPSK), which are similar to passwords. Many IoT devices – from cameras and HVAC systems to wearable technologies, sensors, hospital systems, and digital displays — don’t support 802.1x, which means they can’t be onboarded using traditional network access control (NAC) solutions.
A key to the IoT Assurance service is that Juniper also is tying traffic engineering and policy management as well, according to Christian Gilby, senior director of product marketing for Juniper’s AI-Driven Enterprise solution. As connected appliances and devices come into the IT environment, the service will assign policies and then apply them to the device.
Many data breaches have come via IoT devices, so being able to automatically assign policies is an important security step, Gilby told Enterprise Networking Planet. For example, some IoT devices in a retail environment aren’t able to access point-of-sale systems, ensuring that the data in those POS systems are secure.
In addition, the service enables organizations to assign bandwidth policy to devices. For example, cameras might need more bandwidth than other systems, but the service will ensure that doing so won’t overload the rest of the network, Gilby said.
“The drivers for this have really been from the customer side, especially in the retail space and warehousing, where they’re starting to see a lot of IoT devices coming on,” he said. “They were having pains with how to actually scale this. That’s what drove us to develop this. Higher ed has been another one for this, where in the dorm environment you’ve got some students bringing devices on [to the network]. It’s a burden to IT to have to manage those manually. They can set up a portal so the students can go and add their devices themselves.”
Entering the Wi-Fi 6E Space
With the new APs, Juniper is making a foray into the Wi-Fi 6E space. Within the 6GHz band, Wi-Fi 6E expands the available bandwidth — bringing another 1,200MHz of bandwidth, where the 5GHz band offers 500MHz — and support for up to 14 80MHz channels or seven 160MHz channels; almost twice the number of high-bandwidth channels of 5GHz
The extra bandwidth is important for such applications as 4K and 8K video streaming, virtual reality gaming and high-definition video conferencing, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance.
Wi-Fi 6E also will bring more capacity and speed, offering more room for wireless traffic that currently is creating oversubscribed networks. More devices will be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks without stealing bandwidth from other systems.
The tri-band AP 45 and AP 35 are aimed at 6E. The AP 45 is designed for high performance, while the AP 35 targets the midmarket. The new access points will complement the current APs that support the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum and likewise including Juniper’s virtualized Bluetooth LE or omnidirectional BLE antenna. Both will offer four spatial streams.
Location Services and Contact Tracing
The AP 45 also includes a 16-element antenna array, which is key to enabling location services without overlay battery beacons, Gilby said. That’s important for such services as helping people navigate retail stores or track assets in a warehouse. It also will be important as the pandemic begins to lift.
“That’s been big for us, especially this past year,” he said. “Contact tracing has been a use case where a lot of our enterprises are looking to see how they can reduce risks because people come back into the office.”
Most Wi-Fi devices currently use either Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), running on the 2.4GHz or 5GHz spectrum. Wi-Fi 6E is in that 802.11ax designation, but can support only those systems that can exclusively leverage the 6GHz band. Because of that, it will take time for new client devices for Wi-Fi 6E to come to market, Gilby said.
That said, organizations are asking for it, so it’s important that vendors like Juniper need 6E capabilities in their portfolios.
“I’ve been doing Wi-Fi for 20 years or so and the thing you’ll see is [that] it’s the clients that are going to drive mass migration,” he said. “We’re starting to see some customers looking for this. Higher ed tends to move a little sooner on this. Some enterprises, some retailers want to start testing it just so they’re ready as the devices come out. It’ll really ramp in a big way in probably 2023. Even next year, it’ll be a little bit tempered just as we see clients come out.”
Like Juniper’s other APs, the new ones will be managed by the vendor’s Mist cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) engine. Juniper in 2019 bought Mist for $405 million, a move designed to bring greater intelligence to the company’s offerings. Mist AI has since become a central part of Juniper’s strategy and roadmaps.