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October 03, 2012

Cisco Unified Access Aims to Help Make Wireless More Manageable

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

It’s estimated that by 2014, 90 percent of organizations will allow employees to leverage their personal devices for work use. And the number of wirelessly connected devices on the network used for a variety of business applications continues to mount.

To address these trends and ensure a seamless and high-quality user experience, Cisco Systems (News - Alert) has introduced over the past few months new solutions aimed at helping IT departments more easily manage the bring-your-own-device phenomenon, and wireless networks at large. The move comes in the wake of Cisco’s ThinkSmart acquisition, which it announced last week.

“BYOD has been big change in market but also a way for Cisco to expand how its wireless offerings work and provide a lot of integration between its wired and wireless offerings,” says Chris Spain, vice president of product marketing for Cisco’s wireless networking group.

New is Cisco Unified Access, which connects people with whatever devices they have to sources of data that have the ability to be more context-aware and deliver a more meaningful experience, he says. They can do that because they can identify end users and devices and, as a result, tailor content to them based on the environment and goal. These identification abilities come to Cisco via the ThinkSmart deal.

Also under the Cisco Unified Access umbrella is Cisco Prime, a management platform the company released a few weeks ago that can manage wired and wireless networks via a single pane of glass.

Organizations using Cisco Unified Access also can set policy to run over both wired and wireless networks. And Cisco a few months ago introduced the Identity Service Engine that allows user to self provision and register their own devices via online portals rather than requiring IT workers to perform these procedures.

Cisco today unveiled new solutions in the access point and AP controller arenas. The company says its flagship AP, the 3600, will add support for 802.11ac in early 2012. The company also has introduced a new access point called the 2600, which is offered at a lower price point ($1,095 list) than the 3600, but doesn’t have the ability to upgrade to 802.11ac. A new enterprise-level AP from Cisco is the 1600, which lists starting at $695.

On the controller front, Cisco has come out with the 8500, a product starting at $7,500 and which can support up to 6,000 APs and 64,000 clients. The company also has expanded its Flex7500 to support 6,000 APs (it previously supported 3,000). In addition, it added a controller, which starts at $750, that runs as a feature on a virtual machine.

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