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To Keep Pace, Keep It Unified

A few weeks ago, I wrote about multivendor networks and why Cisco doesn’t get more credit for our capabilities there. Again, we can and do support multivendor… but I ask you to consider what’s truly best for the customer’s business. If the customer’s network is very basic or requires a specialty device that only one vendor supplies, a multivendor may be necessary. But, generally, a multivendor approach is a compromise that can hamper a customer’s growth.

Often the multivendor decision is driven by a desire to cut costs. While this is a worthy goal, initial cost is only part of the equation. The least expensive device may, in fact, cost more in the long run. More to support. More to integrate. And more in lost opportunity due to technology that’s just not up to the task.

One thing about technology—it never stands still. People and businesses continue to expect more from their network. And the best networks deliver. Unfortunately, a network is only as robust, secure, or capable as its weakest link. A network device that was cutting edge five years ago may now be hopelessly inadequate and unable to deliver today’s necessary capabilities. Adding new devices from a new vendor to an existing network only maintains that status quo. You’ll simply be putting a new shine on an old rock.

To provide a network that keeps pace with today’s advances, you need to replace old devices that have become bottlenecks with new devices that can support evolving technology. Or better yet, new devices that support and prepare you for future technologies. Because a device that’s only ready for today will be inadequate for tomorrow. Plan ahead.

So what about simply pulling the antiquated devices and deploying different devices from multiple vendors?

Sure, this would remove the weak link. And it would support a multivendor approach. But at a compromise. Generally, leading edge device vendors such as Cisco know their technology better than anyone else. They know what’s under the hood and how to get the best performance. They don’t need workarounds or customizations that can come back to hinder future upgrades. They simply work better together.

Take Cisco Energywise for example. Using this switching solution, you can control power to access ports for greater energy efficiency and significant cost savings. However, due to lack of management consistency, you wouldn’t be able to the same with non-Cisco equipment.

Or Cisco CleanAir Technology. This technology can help mitigate RF interference. But, integrate it with the Cisco Mobility Services Engine and you’ll be able to pinpoint and eliminate RF interference faster and with even greater accuracy . Why? Because CleanAir is able to use context delivered via Mobility Services Engine.

So, yes, a multivendor network will work. And it’ll usually do an adequate job. But as the network evolves to become the ecosystem for conducting business, connecting people, and controlling operations, is adequate really good enough?


Laying the foundation for tomorrow: A New 802.11ac module for Aironet 3600

You no doubt already know about the coming 802.11ac wireless standard. And, if you’re facing a future bandwidth crunch due to the demands of increased Wi-Fi client density because of BYOD, you’re probably wondering how to prepare for the increased capacity and performance made possible by 802.11ac.  So what can you do now, given that enterprise-class products that support the standard won’t be available until 2013?

The Cisco Aironet 3600 access point can help you bridge the gap between what you need today and what you want for tomorrow. Deploy an Aironet 3600 with 802.11n, and you’ll get a future-proof investment that delivers industry-leading performance now—without sacrificing the ability to add the scale of 802.11ac later.

Take a look under the hood of the 3600 and you’ll see the only 802.11n access point on the market today that supports 802.11n-based  4×4 MIMO with three spatial streams and Cisco’s CleanAir and ClientLink technologies. That means you can get an average of 33% percent better performance right now on mobile devices, and use up to 38% less battery on Wi-Fi clients.

What you’ll also see is a modular slot. This is where the industry’s very first enterprise class 802.11ac solution comes in. Literally. When 802.11ac products are certified in early 2013, you can simply plug a Cisco 802.11ac radio module into the slot and immediately upgrade your access point to leverage the new standard.

This is the second module announced for the Aironet 3600, joining the spectrum monitoring module.  The spectrum module scans all Wi-Fi channels in succession (not just the one the AP uses for traffic), giving outstanding visibility for mission-critical applications, security scanning, and interference troubleshooting.

The bottom line is you can get leading performance today while you future-proof your investment for tomorrow. In other words, there’s no longer a need to compromise. You can act now and lay the groundwork for tomorrow.

Find out more about 802.11ac fundamentals here and look for upcoming webinars about the Aironet 3600 soon.

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Let the Customer Decide

The other day, I was sitting with some very smart Cisco people talking about the exciting new developments they’re working on. Very cool stuff, indeed. Somehow the subject of multivendor support came up. We all knew that, yes, Cisco does that. But we also agreed that, unfortunately not everyone else knows it.

We, no doubt, bear some of the blame because we don’t spend a lot of time talking about Cisco support for multivendor networks. Sure, no vendor wants to promote competing devices. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about working with and managing devices from other vendors. And we do that. Quite well in fact. Our management tools, including Prime Infrastructure, can discover all the devices on the network, including those from third parties. We can poll the devices to get high-level information such availability, basic device inventory, and top-NN reports for CPU, memory and interface utilization. And we can receive standard RFC compliant SNMP traps.

The real power comes from what we can do with Cisco devices. We’re able to get highly detailed data about our devices and apply intelligence—that’s the smart part—to turn that data into real network benefits such as RF interference mitigation, local services discovery, Cisco knowledge-based best practices, and other performance enhancements. And because we offer a complete, end-to-end portfolio, we can get that information and apply it to more points along the data path. Very powerful stuff.

So why don’t we make a bigger deal about it?

We don’t emphasize multivendor device support because the decision to focus on a single-vendor or multivendor should depend on the customer’s needs, not our marketing. If the customer has a legacy network or is integrating a legacy network from acquired companies or locations, it might make sense to support that existing infrastructure—regardless of vendor. And if that’s what the customer needs, we’ll do that. However, this is rarely the case. Why? Because this approach is really about maintaining the status quo. And if a customer sees their network as the platform for conducting business, maintaining the status quo is never good enough.

Check back in a few weeks and I’ll explain why a more unified network is generally a better choice than multivendor.

An “Escher Moment” for BYOD

So here I am, at a customer event in San Francisco, at an outdoor restaurant (yes, I’m cold).  Today we’ve been talking a lot about mobility – mobile devices (around 3 per person here today), how to extend access to corporate resources to employees or students or patients wherever they connect, how to manage BYOD.  No one is questioning whether this needs to happen, we have all moved on to HOW to make it happen, how to manage it, how to make it easy for users.

I’ve brought along my personal iPhone on 4G that I also use for work, and I’ve logged in to Cisco Jabber to stay connected while away from my laptop.  I’m just wondering if my manager has answered a couple of key questions for me when my phone buzzes in my pocket.  She is IM’ing on Jabber.  Where is she?  Well, you wouldn’t know it, but she is on a flight from San Francisco to New York.  Her company-owned laptop is connected using in-flight Wi-Fi, and she’s using WebEx Connect on her laptop.

What’s it called when a mirror reflects a mirror with infinite reflections, or a person holds a picture of themselves holding a picture?  That’s what this is — we are doing the same thing that we’re talking about.  We are working outside on the ground using 4G, and inside in the air using Wi-Fi, talking about mobility.  We are linked to corporate email and UC (Unified Communications) tools, and using AnyConnect VPN to access more sensitive information, regardless who owns the device, or whether it’s Windows or iOS or Andriod, or which access network or physical location.  In the sky or earth-bound city walker – we’re connected.  And talking about it.

What’s the most outlandish connection you’ve had? Any mobility Escher moments of your own?  Share with us on Twitter or Facebook.

802.11ac: The Fifth Generation of Wi-Fi Technology

802.11ac: The Fifth Generation of Wi-Fi Technology

In the last few months, there have been a lot of written on the emerging 802.11ac standard. This next generation of Wi-Fi promises to be very exciting since 802.11ac will address some critical pain points faced by users of 802.11n today – more bandwidth and more simultaneous users.  To help explain the technology, we put together a new Fundamentals video.  You’ll learn about new features such as:

  • Operating in the 5GHz band
  • Wider channels (80MHz & 160MHz) which means more capacity in the band
  • Increased modulation with 256 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), providing a significant increase in throughput over 802.11n which has 64 QAM
  • Downlink Multi-User MIMO which allows an AP to transmit to multiple clients simultaneously
  • Up to 8 Spatial streams which doubles the number of spatial streams used in 802.11n

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