Cisco updates borderless networks with security, management and video products

Marie Hattar Cisco

Marie Hattar, vice president of borderless networking marketing at Cisco.

Cisco Systems is updating its borderless networks portfolio with new products that boost the security, management and video capabilities of the overall architecture. The theme around the new and updated products is around having centralized policy management, unified management and automated video and voice.

One of the key elements of the new borderless networks products is Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE), a centralized policy engine for Cisco TrustSec that gives IT administrators the ability to define and manage security policies across an organization. In the first release of ISE (pronounced “ice” … is Cisco latching onto cyberpunk fiction terminology now?), Cisco is providing authentication via wireless and the concept of device profiling, in which the product can examine a device’s behaviour on the network and determine if it’s behaving well or badly.

“It really adds to that security capability that the centralized policy is delivering,” said Marie Hattar, vice president of borderless networking marketing at Cisco Systems.

ISE builds upon Cisco’s network access control (NAC) technology, but NAC is now being integrated into ISE instead of standing on its own. The purpose of ISE is to automate security management across an organization with access policies and encryption that are enforced by the network. It’s also meant to solve the “any device” challenge by enforcing a context-aware access security policy.

For unified management features, Cisco is introducing a new platform.

“We’re introducing a new management platform called Cisco Prime for Enterprise,” Hattar said. “What Cisco Prime does is provide consistent and uniform manageability for all the different platforms. This is a strategic plan for Cisco going forward.”

As a service-centric solution, Cisco Prime provides a workflow-based user experience across Cisco architectures, networks and technologies. The purpose is to simplify network management, improve operational efficiency, speed up troubleshooting and increase network services predictability.

According to Hattar, Cisco Prime really reduces the amount of time necessary for troubleshooting, freeing up technicians to focus on other important items.

In the voice and video realm, Cisco is working towards optimizing video with Medianet, which embeds media and network intelligence into endpoints and network elements. Hattar said that 20 per cent of Cisco customers have already fully embraced video, another 20 per cent are planning for video in their businesses right now, and 60 per cent have yet to make any concrete plans around video, in part because they’re concerned about the effects video will have on their networks.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do … is to help them pre-plan and also ease away some of that fear and burden so they are more comfortable in rolling this out and ensuring they have the right quality of media experience,” Hattar said.

As part of the announcement, Cisco introduced several Medianet enhancements, including Cisco Media Services Interface and AutoConfiguration for embedding intelligence into Cisco video endpoints for automatic configuration, Cisco Media Monitoring on the Cisco Integrated Services Routers Generation 2 (ISR G2), the Cisco ASR 100 Series Aggregation Services Routers and Cisco Catalyst Switches for improved visibility into the network, integrated video conferencing on ISR G2 products for improved video conferencing quality, and the new Medianet Readiness Assessment Service to ensure network infrastructures are ready to support rich media.

“Cisco is committed to video. That’s one of their prime differentiators,” said Michelle Warren, president of MW Research & Consulting. “They’re recognizing that video is a critical component to corporate communications today and in the future. For the past couple of years, Cisco has been committed to video, and I’d say leading edge.”

Since Cisco is very much about managing network traffic and video is a network traffic hog, Cisco took an early start in managing video traffic on the network and trying to optimize it, she said. This announcement, which Warren said is packed full of new stuff, continues on the company’s borderless networks initiative, especially around bringing video to companies.

“This announcement continues that emphasis on video, and that’s why it’s significant on that level,” Warren said. “The borderless network is really about the data going back and forth on the network. They’re announcing streamlined policies for the data to go back and forth. They’re announcing the ability for users to control that data or have access to that data going back and forth.”

The new and updated products are aimed at the large enterprise space, though, so that means a certain level of direct sales, although Warren noted that the channel will be able to play a role in the integration and services areas.

“These are going to large enterprises, so Cisco will deliver a lot of that directly, but there will be solution providers involved to help integrate the solutions,” Warren said.