BYOD Trend Pressures Corporate Networks

As more employees look to access corporate networks with their personal mobile devices, vendors are looking to help companies allow such access in secure, efficient ways.

Officials at Unisys started to sense the change about three years ago. It began when employees wanted to pare down the multiple mobile devices-from pagers to business handsets to laptops-that they carried with them for their jobs.

That desire morphed a couple of years ago-first with the rapid ascension of smartphones (particularly the launch of Apple's iPhone), and then with the release of Apple's iPad-into wanting to bring their personal devices to work in order to get onto the corporate network and gain access to business data and applications.

"We found that our employees wanted to use different products [than] what we were buying," said Patricia Titus, chief information security officer at Unisys. "It was a huge paradigm shift. ... They wanted to buy the devices they were most comfortable with."

That shift-commonly referred to as BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device-is hitting businesses worldwide. With the widespread adoption of myriad consumer mobile devices-including all flavors of smartphones and tablets-combined with a growing number of employees who are accustomed to using them, companies must figure out ways to accommodate them.

Businesses can save money by letting employees buy their own devices, but they must then find secure, efficient ways to let employees, contractors and guests gain access to the corporate network, while protecting data and applications.

"Companies have to deal [with employees] with all these devices walking in and wanting to connect to the corporate networks," said Chris DePuy, an analyst with The Dell'Oro Group, who added that BYOD is a key trend affecting the wireless LAN market. "I don't think the problem is going to go away. ... It's going to be a pain point for years to come because the devices are always changing."

15 Billion Network Devices

The ongoing consumerization of IT has been a focal point for several years of analysts and vendors alike, who say the adoption of personal mobile devices will continue to grow. According to Cisco Systems' annual Visual Networking Index Forecast released in June, by 2015, there will be almost 15 billion network-connected devices-including smartphones, notebooks, tablets and other smart machines-more than two for every person on the planet. By 2015, the average U.S. citizen will have seven connected devices.

That will translate into rapid growth in the wireless LAN (WLAN) and access-point markets. Dell'Oro predicts overall WLAN market revenues will exceed $8 billion in 2015, a 49 percent increase over 2010 revenues. At the same time, DePuy said units of enterprise 802.11n access points will show a 39 percent compound annual growth rate within the next five years, and that doesn't take the small-office/home-office space into account.

"IT is living up to the challenge, and, in some ways, it has no choice because of the proliferation of devices," IDC analyst Rohit Merha said.