Cisco extends Borderless Networks portfolio

Cisco Systems Inc. has extended its Borderless Network portfolio with new management, security and video solutions the company says will streamline network management for IT staff.

The new solutions include a centralized policy engine, called Identity Services Engine, which manages security policies for enterprise users across a spectrum of devices that access the network.

That’s driven by a trend toward “user entitlement,” according to Marie Hattar (pictured), vice-president of Borderless Networks marketing. “They believe they have device freedom,” Hattar said in a videoconference interview on Monday.

She cited the example of a financial institution whose IT department insisted it would not support access to the network with tablet computers, until executives showed up with their iPads and demanded it. Employees want the freedom to work from anywhere, on any type of device, with their choice of applications, she said.

“There’s an IT burden that’s associated with that,” she said.

ISE integrates the functionality of Cisco’s Network Access Control appliances so devices are verified as they move through the network, not just at the perimeter, she said. A device profiler creates a database of expected behaviour by particular devices and can alert network managers to problems if the behaviour doesn’t fit the pattern.

Tim Currie, Cisco Systems Canada Co.’s general manager for Borderless Networks, said that historically, there’s been a “keep ‘em at the perimeter” approach to network security. The ISE approach is less appliance-based, with more distributed intelligence, he said.

ISE follows the identity of the user, device and application at the network and design level, which is “very powerful,” said Michelle Warren, principal analyst with MW Research & Consulting. Network managers don’t have to be involved at every step in the process.

“It’s a further integration … they’ve taken the pain points that customers have felt,” said Warren.

Identity policies can be tailored for specific vertical industry regulations, making it easier for channel partners offering Cisco support to develop solutions, Warren said.

Other elements announced include Cisco Prime for Enterprise, a unified management solution, and Cisco Medianet and Video Conferencing, which automates voice and video delivery.
“Video is one of the most demanding applications to come across a network,” Hattar said. The media services interface streams data about end points on the network for automatic configuration. While its embedded in Cisco devices, a proxy server can configure devices from other manufacturers.

Medianet can inject simulated traffic to the network to determine what upgrades might be needed for the network or what quality of service and service level agreements the network can manage.

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