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.
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.
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