Cisco Tackles Enterprise IT’s Wireless Tangle

Cisco on Wednesday unveiled a new hardware platform and four applications it said will help enterprise IT departments effectively manage their mobility services across a broad spectrum of mobile networks.

The core component of Cisco Motion is the Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE), a single appliance-based platform with an open application programming interface (API) for consolidating and supporting mobility services across wireless and wired networks, according to Cisco.

“Specifically we’re delivering an open way for our customers to work with partners and in some cases even internally to develop mobility applications and mobile applications,” said Chris Kozup, senior manager, Mobility Solutions, Cisco.

Cisco’s goal with the new offerings is to simplify the life of IT, making it easier for them to take advantage of mobility; making it easier to unify mobile networks — think Ethernet networks, WiFi networks, cellular networks and RFID networks — and provide a consistent way in which their partners can develop applications, Kozup continued.

A Wireless World

The Cisco 3350 MSE, the first model in the series, will enable enterprise-class businesses to certify new mobile devices on the network and distribute applications as well as updates to those devices.

“It is an open canvas businesses can use to deploy multiple types of software and also allows for the development of applications,” Kozup told TechNewsWorld.

Cisco has created four software components to accompany the MSE, each of which delivers a different services onto the network, he continued.

The industry average for knowing where a company’s inventory is located is about 80 percent, Bill Hughes, an analyst at In-Stat explained. That means that if an auditor asks a factory head where a particular bag of bolts is, for example, or where to find a wing for a 747 in that factory, the object can be found about 80 percent of the time.

“Some industries are better, such as banks holding bins of money. Others are worse, like a storage warehouse. Usually the stuff is not where it was last left, and they send some poor soul to find it,” he said.

The good news, according to Hughes, is that wireless tools can make inventory accuracy over 99 percent.

Cisco’s Context-Aware Software attempts to solve the problem of missing or damaged inventory. The application captures contextual information from a variety of sensors, mobile devices and RFID tags over the Cisco Unified Wireless Network.

“Context-Aware refers to the ability to deliver information like location, like time of day, motion, pressure, temperature, so we have the ability to detect these changes within specific assets and to some extent users themselves connecting to the network. This context information can be made available to applications,” Kozup explained.

The benefit is that the organization can reduce safety stock, Hughes told TechNewsWorld. “They can also avoid the time that poor soul needs to look for stuff,” he added.

Wireless Security and Roaming

The other software offerings include Mobile Intelligent Roaming, Adaptive Wireless IPS and Secure Client Manager.

Adaptive Wireless IPS is designed to enhance security across the network, Kozup noted. For businesses with multiple types of networks, the goal of the software is to provide a common security framework across all the networks for consistent monitoring and threat detection.

“Cisco sells a great deal of WiFi equipment to consumers and business. Businesses want users to be able to roam within their proprietary network and to keep outsiders from gaining access to their systems via WiFi. [The Adaptive Wireless IPS] helps that,” Hughes noted.

Cisco’s Mobile Intelligent Roaming tool allows workers with a dual-mode device to roam seamlessly between in-house WiFi and cellular networks outside the workplace. The application provides intelligence from the network allowing for the hand-off of a device from WiFi to cellular to done much more effectively, Kozup said.

The final application for the MSE platform, Secure Client Manager, centralizes the security and management of provisioning various mobile devices using the Cisco Secure Services Client 802.1X solution over wired, WiFi, cellular and other wireless networks. It addresses the challenge many IT departments face in terms of managing the connectivity and security of WiFi and other mobile devices, the company said.

“What we’re doing here is centralizing delivery across a variety of different networks. From a management perspective it becomes much easier for IT to manage the delivery of these services,” Kozup concluded

The Cisco 3350 MSE will begin shipping in June with prices starting at US$19,995. Cisco Context-Aware Software will also be available in June, while the Cisco Adaptive Wireless IPS Software and Cisco Mobile Intelligent Roaming Software are scheduled to ship in the second half of 2008. Cisco Secure Client Manager Software will not be available until the first half of 2009.

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