The advantage of being able to add new capabilities to network switches and routers through software is regularly demonstrated by manufacturers who race to outdo each other.

The latest is Alcatel-Lucent, which said today that with upcoming software upgrades to its AOS operating system, plus integration with a platform from wireless access point maker Aruba Networks, it has created a unified access solution for wired and wireless networks.

“Our unified access leverages all our access switches,” Heitor Faroni, an Alcatel network solutions product manager, said in an interview. “There’s no rip and replace … you can use what you have.”

The goal of unified access is to create a set of solutions to meet the challenges of IT control and security from a bring-your-own device strategy.

BYOD has the potential to allow unsecure devices on the network not only from staff but also guests and partners.

The Alcatel solution builds on the company’s converged campus network solution and comes in several parts:

–next month a new update for AOS, version 6.4.6, will be released for Alcatel’s OmniSwitch 6850E, 6855, 6450 and 6250 access switches and the OmniVista network management system to provide closer integration between those devices and its wireless LAN solution;

–among the new capabilities is the ability to deliver quality of service (QoS) on virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI).  VDI essentially squeezes applications through a secure tunnel. The AOS upgrade lets IT managers assign different QoS to each app, on either wired or wireless networks;

–the software update will also allow Alcatel [NYSE: ALU] customers to add Aruba’s ClearPass platform, either by buying an Aruba appliance or a virtual appliance, for delivering BYOD services such as guest access, device profiling, device onboarding, device posture, authentication and authorization services, and application containerization — all for wired and wireless devices.

Each service can be bought as needed, with software licences starting in blocks for 100 users, and going up to 100,000.

ClearPass also automatically turns on 802.1x security features on switches for added LAN security.

Because ClearPass links to Active Directory, RADIUS servers, certificate generation servers, Alcatel is also offering a set of professional services to help customers and partners with integration;

–part of ClearPass is a feature called AirGroup services, which allows end users to register and administer Apple Inc. devices like AppleTV and Apple printers. These come with Apple’s Bonjour protocol for network device recognition, but Faroni said they don’t play well on corporate networks.

AirGroup lets users manage who has access to these devices (think of students in dorms who bring them in, or a faculty that wants to use them but limit access to staff).

Andre Kindness, enterprise networking analyst at Forrester Research, noted other network suppliers are also offering their own unified access solutions in differing ways. “This is exactly what’s needed by customers,” he said, because almost every organization has a mixture of wired and wireless networks — and will for the next five to 10 years, he added.

Mike Fratto, an industry analyst with Current Analysis, said that the ability to designate VDI streams with quality of service will add an additional tool for IT to deliver applications reliably to end users. Deeping the integration with Aruba’s ClearPass will provide a simpler and more robust access management suite compared to using separate wired and wireless management platforms, he added.

“You want to have consistency between the two worlds because it makes the user experience better, and from a security aspect the more standardization you have in your infrastructure the less mistakes you make.”

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