Office walls and set hours traditionally delineated what most of us thought of as work. Those constructs are giving way to more flexible and far-flung work environments. Employees, once chained to their desktop phones and computers, today freely move around the office and the world, and the availability of broadband networks and mobile devices means they can do their jobs anytime and just about anywhere, and from any device.
Indeed, work is no longer a place you go, but what you do.
The Personal Cloud
Alcatel-Lucent refers to this new scenario as the personal cloud.
The personal cloud describes a mobile computing and communications environment in which individuals can seamlessly merge the personal and professional use of their various devices,
leverage popular applications and services like Dropbox (News - Alert) and Twitter for business and pleasure, and otherwise control how they communicate.
“While the old PC-centric environment usually involved a corporate-defined endpoint and set of services, personal cloud ushers in the services-centric model. In this new heterogeneous environment, users can leverage the devices of their choice to gain secure access to the network, and to voice, video and data capabilities delivered via the corporate infrastructure,” explains Joseph Raccuglia, senior director of the product and solution marketing group for the Networks team at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
“With the personal cloud comes the concept of having a user-centric approach of delivering services from the corporation to the employee,” Raccuglia says. He adds, “that involves providing access both to corporate resources as well as to personal applications and services like popular social media platforms that workers can employ to forward business strategy.”
“This new model is important both because it empowers users to select the devices and services with which they are most comfortable, and because, in the process, it drives productivity for users and their employers. Research has shown that employees are 5 to 30 percent more productive using the devices they prefer,” notes Raccuglia. And he points out that individual employees may use different devices based on their location, the task at hand or other factors. The ability for employees to use the devices of their choice – like, for instance, a personal computer instead of a corporate-issued one – also means they can more easily work from home or other remote locations whenever it makes sense to do so.
This new flexibility and productivity does not come without challenges, however. Those challenges come in the form of security, bandwidth, services, and network transformation.
Security is clearly a major and multifaceted challenge.
“Today most corporations rely on a hodge-podge of access security measures, for example,” says Raccuglia. “Gaining access to the corporate wireless network may involve the end user navigating through multiple security screens,” he explains, “whereas anybody could walk in off the street and physically plug into a port to gain access to the corporate LAN.”
“A more consistent and secure approach is to apply consistent security measures across the network, regardless of whether the connection is made via wireless or wireline,” he says, and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise offers solutions to do just that.
Quality of service is another important factor that enterprises need to address in the new services-centric world.
The first step in this effort involves understanding what applications are flowing on the network. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise provides corporations with a set of network analytics tools that use deep packet inspection to see what applications are in use at any given time. That way, enterprises can more easily troubleshoot problems because they have more visibility into what is happening on the network, and they can create policies around how to handle traffic from various applications and users in an effort to make the best use of corporate network resources.
For example, a business may elect to block certain applications for which there is not a business benefit. Enterprises may also set policy to ensure that a videoconference from a corporate boardroom gets bandwidth priority over, say, a desktop-based videoconference or a video stream of the recent World Cup soccer matches.
Yet another IT challenge in the new environment in which employees are using a wide array of endpoints to connect to the corporate network involves services. By services, we’re referring to the ability to deliver corporate capabilities to workers via the onboarding of their devices on the enterprise network.
Part of the challenge here is there are so many devices and so many different types of them. As a result, onboarding each device manually is no longer feasible.
To help enterprises scale the onboarding process, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise offers solutions to enable endpoints – including laptops, smartphones and tablets from a variety of vendors and running different operating systems – to register themselves on the network.
“Automation means BYOD can happen with much less IT overhead than ever before,” Raccuglia says.
In fact, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is working to automate its solutions across the board to help enterprises embrace network transformation in an effort to lower costs and become more agile. The latest technology allows network operators to both automate and streamline their network architectures to reduce capital and operational expenditures via savings in personnel, power and real estate.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise provides many of these new solutions as a service layered on top of its equipment so enterprises can protect their existing network investments, and move forward at their own pace based on their specific needs. “For example,” says Raccuglia, “with Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, businesses have the ability to upgrade their wireless LANs today and address their wireline LANs at a future date.”
A leader in the service provider networking space in which it provides infrastructure and applications for many of the world’s largest broadband operators, Alcatel-Lucent entered into the enterprise networking and communications solutions space more than 15 years ago. The company got its start in enterprise networking with the $1.7 billion acquisition of switching company Xylan in 1999. That offering has evolved into what is now Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s OmniSwitch product line.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise today also offers end-to-end wireless LAN , wireline infrastructure from access to core, data center switching technology, and branch office router gear. These infrastructure elements are integrated with a comprehensive BYOD services platform and managed using a unified management platform.
The company also has solutions designed for outdoor use. That includes hardened wireless switches for deployment in parking lots or near railway systems, as just two examples. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is also providing routers to enable AT&T’s Connected Bus application. Connected Bus leverages 4G LTE (News - Alert) to deliver Wi-Fi access to K-12 student bus riders, allows their schools to use the system to deliver real-time streaming video and broadcast announcements, and can do remote monitoring of driver and student behavior to limit the potential for accidents and bullying.
“The Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise solutions extend far beyond infrastructure and network element functionality, however,” Raccuglia emphasizes. The company is also keenly focused on providing enterprises with application-related solutions that deliver the best possible end user experiences and business outcomes.
A key facet of that effort is Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s Application Fluent Network strategy.
Application fluency means the ability to both understand what applications are resident on the network at any time and the means to map those applications to enterprise network policies. “For example, it’s not enough to know a video call is taking place,” says Raccuglia, “the network also needs to know there’s a difference between a Skype (News - Alert) call by a middle manager and a videoconference from the corporate boardroom so it can prioritize network assets appropriately.”
OpenTouch, a unified communications and collaboration platform that enables users to move between wireline and wireless networks seamlessly, is another key component of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s stable of enterprise application solutions.
Building on the company’s proven OmniPCX Enterprise Communications (News - Alert) Server IP telephony solution, OpenTouch is a multidevice, multimedia and multiparty solution. It brings the call to whatever devices are available to the user at the time, and the user decides which one to answer. It also allows for seamless transfers between those devices. OpenTouch provides presence information to put context around a contact’s availability. It delivers social knowledge and applications context, enabling users to tap into social networks to find contacts and link to outside sources. And it has more than 500 features and can support as many as 1,500 users.
Raccuglia adds that with its above-mentioned offerings, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise can provide a full, end-to-end unified communications and collaboration solution for enterprises – including both the applications and all the related network infrastructure and controls. The company also offers professional services and support related to all this to ensure ease of deployment and management.
More on Security
Security is such an important aspect of networking that it warrants circling back on this subject to explore Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s end-to-end security strategy.
“The company’s offerings under the BYOD umbrella,” Raccuglia explains, “include tools to help enterprise network operators understand users, devices and applications on the network so they can enforce network policies. A company might, for instance, elect to create and enforce time-of-day policies so shift workers have access to the network or certain applications only during their shift hours.” Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise can also enable companies to leverage geofencing for security purposes.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Solutions at Work
Moravian College is among the organizations benefitting today from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise solutions.
The private liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Penn., decided to replace its aging wired and wireless networks that provided a low-quality experience and limited coverage, with an integrated infrastructure that would support a new initiative to equip all students with Apple (News - Alert) iPad and MacBook Pro devices.
“We needed a network that could effectively handle the academic load that would be placed on it and easily support the social and entertainment load the students would generate,” explains Scott Hughes, CIO of Moravian College. “We looked at other suppliers, but Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise was able to provide a solution that aligned perfectly with our vision and objectives. And it was the only supplier that was able to provide the dense coverage and capacity needed to create and maintain the high-quality experience students expect from a wireless network.”
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, and its partner Advance 2000, worked with Hughes and his team to design the integrated network, which today provides students and faculty with secure access anywhere on campus, and was created to allow for future expansion.
The network consists of an Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch 6900 Core, OmniSwitch 6450 Gigabit Stackable LAN Switches and OmniSwitch 6850 Stable LAN Switches; campus-wide wireless network access provided by the Alcatel-Lucent OmniAccess 110 series and OmniAccess 220 series access points; Alcatel-Lucent OmniAccess 4550 Wireless LAN Controller; wireless management via the Alcatel-Lucent OmniVista 3600 Air Manager; and the ClearPass Policy Management System to allow the IT staff to do network management, govern access and maintain security of all traffic using a single set of usage policies.
Embrace the Cloud
“Every organization has its own unique application and network requirements, of course. Whatever the individual needs or existing infrastructure an organization might have, however, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise can help it put together a scalable solution that delivers the best possible experience for the end user and the best possible business outcomes for the organization,” Raccuglia says.
“Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s approach is we allow our customers to leverage their existing infrastructure and add new technology only as needed to deliver unified access services,” he says.
Welcome to the age of the personal cloud.
Pillars of the Alcatel-Lucent Application Fluent Network Strategy
• a resilient architecture which is streamlined, lower cost, lower latency, secure, and can do policy enforcement
• better controls, which allow the network to understand what devices, applications and users are on the network and enforce policies related to them
• simplified operations, which uses automation and policy to eliminate the complexities of network management and allow for networks that address the best end user and business outcomes
Edited by Maurice Nagle