Got an iPad? We’re Speaking Your Language.

July 25, 2012 - 4 Comments

When it comes to discovering available resources, Apple and WiFi networks can quite literally speak a different language. Apple has always done things a little differently. That’s one reason Apple is Apple. But with the ballooning share of iPhone and iPads on the enterprise network, it’s time for a little cross platform diplomacy.

To explain, let’s think of a network as a mall.  Network resources are stores and devices are customers.

In the non-Apple network, each store manager—our available resource, remember?—stands outside their store waving a sign that advertises their service. A printer store would wave a banner exclaiming “printing available here.” And a music library would sing out “songs available here.” To find a service, the customer—our device, again—wanders the mall to see what services are available.

In the Apple network world, it’s the customer that does the advertising. The customer comes to the mall to perform a specific task. Maybe print a document. Or play a song. Or buy a new pair of bright red pumps. The customer sends out a packet to announce what they need. If they’re looking to print a document, the printer store would answer “you can print here” while the music library and shoe store would take a break. And if the customer wants the red pumps, the shoe store might ask “wouldn’t those look great with a matching handbag and a new belt?”

Simple and elegant. Except when the network starts getting too large. Like when it grows from a home network to an enterprise WiFi network.

Let’s use our mall analogy again. This time the device or customer is traveling downtown where there are several malls or subnets. The customer sends out a message asking where they can find the service they need. Now, because there are multiple malls available, the message doesn’t know where to go.

The Bonjour Service Directory currently being tested by Cisco helps overcome this challenge. Essentially the wireless controller maintains an inventory of available services—think directory of all the malls—and uses that directory to identify which store in which mall has the resource the customer wants. Not only can the controller find the right resource, it can also apply individual profiles and permissions. Using our mall example, the customer needs a printer and pings the controller. The controller finds several printer stores—but two are for commercial accounts, two are closed, and only one is available for consumers like our customer. The controller then points the customer to that store.

Want a more technical explanation? Watch this video to see more:

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  1. Will Bonjour services also work with an anchored wireless network e.g. a guest network ? Up to now Bonjour does only work inside one subnet, and this subnet/wlan must not be anchored.

    • Guest WLANs will support the Bonjour feature and any available services seen by the anchor controller (wired or wireless) can be made visible to wireless clients anchored on to that controller.

  2. When will this be available in the code? And witch train ? 7.3 or 8.X?