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Unified Access: 50 Shades of Gray

Okay, maybe networking isn’t quite as hot as the best-selling book.  But figuring out what “unified access” means is definitely not straight-forward.  So how do you sift through the many claims around “unified” solutions, to find out which one really is?

First, start by reading the Gartner Magic Quadrant report on wired/wireless networking. As we’ve discussed earlier, Cisco is a leader in this report.  It just came out, and it’s the first time Gartner has combined LAN switching and Wireless LAN – a good indicator that it’s time to get serious about evaluating unified access layer connectivity solutions.

Next, ask your vendor these questions to see how unified their solutions really are — “one network” or several silos.

1. Do you truly have one policy interface to manage guests and context-aware network access across wired, wireless and VPN?

  • You should have one single source of truth for policy, else you’re prone to inconsistencies that can lead to security holes, and your IT staff spends too much time manually entering policies for VPN client, guest access, wired access and wireless access.  Most vendors claim “one interface” for a narrow piece of functionality, like guest access, but can’t claim integration with VPN and management.
  • Cisco offers the Identity Services Engine , that converges policy administration across the organization, for wired, wireless and remote access – no other vendor offers that level of unification.

2. Does one security infrastructure support wired and wireless?

  • Some architectures treat wireless as a pure overlay, with separate firewall and VPN capability. This approach does not scale well, burdening the wireless controller with firewall transactions and requiring additional controllers to support the wireless traffic.  You should extend the same security from the core of your network to the WLAN seamlessly, with the power to scale up to enterprise-class demands.
  • Cisco offers the SecureX framework, with 802.1x, VPN client and context-aware firewall with massive scalability.  The always-on AnyConnect client requires no user intervention and works across the industry’s broadest client platform, not just iOS.  At the head end is a context-aware ASA firewall, capable of fine-grained control down to the application level.

3. Can you track and troubleshoot end user experience end to end, across any network?

  • Both from a user satisfaction perspective and from an IT productivity standpoint, the BYOD era requires management tools to quickly identify issues a user may have in access networked resources.  With so many diverse platforms on the network, IT has to have visibility and diagnostics at a new level of efficiency and completeness.  When a problem arises, the fastest way to resolve it is a single source of truth.
  • Cisco offers Prime Infrastructure, a single entry point into converged wired/wireless monitoring and troubleshooting, with integrated policy information from ISE.  Not only do IT managers have a simple dashboard view for application performance across the entire network, they have a one-click troubleshooting tool based on user ID (or IP address or any other piece of information) to work backward from the client to find issues – be they wired or wirelessly connected.

4. Is there a strong track record of innovation and excellence in both wired and wireless networking?

  • The list of network vendors is long if you include anyone who has made a switch or access point.  When you look at companies that have years of research and support invested in the largest networks in the world – both wired networks and wireless networks—the list shortens considerably. To scale your infrastructure into the future, to support evolving 802.11ac throughput and burgeoning mobile device density, you need solid technology on both wired and wireless.  To ensure both platform stability and reliability, look for companies that have industry-leading innovation, a track record of years of investment and customer success across both enterprise and Service Provider and have participated in and helped develop and support global industry standards  in both wired and wireless .,
  • Cisco leads the switching industry with decades of experience, unsurpassed network scalability, and innovations that offer real business value for customers –such as Power over Ethernet, Secure Group Tagging, and integrated wireless modules.  In parallel, Cisco has delivered wireless industry firsts like hardware-based CleanAir spectrum intelligence, mobile client acceleration with ClientLink, and an alphabet soup of standards delivered first (including 802.11n, 802.11u, 802.11r and now 802.11ac). There is no compromise on wired or wireless.

If your networking vendor can answer Yes to all of these, congrats — it means you’re on solid footing for the future, because you’ve got a truly unified infrastructure with no “gray areas”.  Oh, and it means you’ve got “One Network” from Cisco.

Cisco leads 2012 Gartner Wired Wireless Magic Quadrant

Cisco leads 2012 Gartner Wired Wireless Magic Quadrant

This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Cisco.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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Management and the Gartner Magic Quadrant

As we’ve been discussing this week, Gartner just came out with their Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure Magic Quadrant report. If you haven’t had an opportunity to read the report, you should.

We address the subject of the report—the converged wired/wireless network—through a “One Policy, One Management, One Network” approach. “One Management” is made possible with Prime Infrastructure which provides the “best-of-breed” management for end-to-end wired and wireless lifecycle management. That means one place to manage, design, deploy, monitor, optimize, and administer your entire network—regardless of whether the connection is wired or wireless.

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Cisco Positioned as A Leader in the Gartner Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure Magic Quadrant

Gartner has released their 2012 Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure Magic Quadrant.  Cisco is recognized as a leader in this highly anticipated publication.

Our industry is going through dramatic changes. The rapid growth of cloud, mobility and business collaborations has put more and more pressure on the network. Disparate wired and wireless networks architected and managed separately are no longer sufficient to meet the new demand. This is the first time that Gartner covers wired and wireless LAN infrastructure together in one Magic Quadrant. It is a clear sign that the time has come to evolve the network infrastructure to address the rapid growth of cloud, mobility and business collaborations with a unified approach.
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Technical Rehearsal 2: The Final Hurdle Before The Games

In a few months, thousands of athletes will face the biggest tests of their careers at the Olympics. But, before all that, they need to qualify. It’s the final hurdle before all the years of dedication and hard work are put to the test. It’s also crunch time for us at Cisco, as we go through the final preparations for the Olympics. And there’s a fair amount of pressure on us to get it right too. The IT systems for London 2012 will process 30% more information than any other games in history and Cisco networking is at the heart of it. We’ve supported BT and Atos on a Games Network that connects all competition and event-critical sites.

The numbers

30% more information than any other games doesn’t really give you an idea of the scale, but hopefully a few quick numbers will. Our borderless network infrastructure will run at 94 sites. We’ve set up 1,800 wireless access points and installed 16,500 IP telephones. That’s not to mention the 65,000 active connections and 80,000 data ports. And it all needs to be tested. We need to make sure that, come the Games, we perform to the best of our ability because the network infrastructure is behind everything from big screens at the live sites to information for organisers, competitors and fans. Critically, it’s also behind the results process. It makes sure the venue results system feeds into central information systems and the Internet.

Working together

You can see why the IOC mandates two full technical rehearsals. Information is at the heart of the Games.

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Using Netbooks and Tablets to Encourage Learning: A Case Study

Today’s students are wired – which is now an old school way of saying connected!

In fact today they are wireless! They have grown up with technology. They have integrated it into their lives. They socialize through technology. Technology, supported by robust and secure networks, gives them instant access to information at home and on the go.

But, what about their classroom experience?

Some forward thinking educators have realized that technology is a key ingredient in driving student engagement and learning outcomes. These educators are embracing new learning programs that feature netbooks or a tablet. In the hands of students, these Internet-based devices can help to increase collaboration and engagement, creating a technology-rich learning environment that feel familiar to students.

Watch this recorded webinar to learn about Lake Tahoe USD’s netbook program.

This is the story of Lake Tahoe Unified School District‘s launch of a netbook program. Read More »

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