Alcatel-Lucent's move to help businesses converge their wired and wireless networks follows similar moves by such vendors as Cisco Systems, Brocade and Juniper Networks to address such trends as BYOD, mobility, cloud computing and software-defined networking.
The company's new Unified Access offering, rolled out in conjunction with long-time partner Aruba Networks, is a nod to the increasing pressures that enterprise networks are under as more people are using more devices to access the networks and corporate data. The inevitable trends toward greater mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) are raising management and security concerns among IT professionals.
The Unified Access solution to unify a company's wired and wireless networks will alleviate some of those concerns, according to Michel Emelianoff, president of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
"We knew that the current wave of BYOD and mobility would bring new challenges that needed a holistic solution," Emelianoff said in a statement. "Unified Access is our answer to these challenges. We have architected Unified Access to not only solve these challenges but simplify adoption."
Unified Access involves a free software upgrade for Alcatel-Lucent's corporate customers who use the vendors OmniAccess routers, OmniSwitches networking switches and OmniVista network management software. The upgrade will bring those together with Aruba's ClearPass access management software, which is designed to enable IT professionals to manage mobile devices that connect to wired and wireless networks.
With the enhancements, businesses can manage their campus wired and wireless networks via a single view and offer new BYOD services that will help employees and customers use corporate and personal devices—wired and wireless—on the corporate network. The result will be improved management and security, as well as simplified IT operations, at a time when businesses are seeing more devices connecting to their networks, according to Alcatel-Lucent officials.
Through Unified Access, IT staffs can more easily define their companies' network security and quality-of-service policies that take into account everything from bandwidth demand, priorities and devices, to location, time of day and context. BYOD services such as device configuration and guest registration are automated, and tools for monitoring and troubleshooting wired and wireless networks are included.
New security features include automatic configuration of 801.1x security and certificates, bringing wired security to the same level as wireless, and devices from laptops and tablets to printers and cameras are automatically registered, reducing IT staffs' workloads, the company said.
In addition, the Unified Access offering also includes support for Aruba's AirGroup services—part of the vendor's ClearPass Policy Manager—which enables users and IT administrators to automatically self-register Apple devices.
Other networking vendors also are looking to help businesses unify their wired and wireless networking infrastructures. Brocade and Aruba in September announced a similar plan, which will bring together Brocade's HyperEdge architecture and Aruba's Mobile Virtual Enterprise (MOVE) solution.
Cisco officials have been expanding their own Unified Access solutions, including in January, when the company unveiled its Catalyst 3850 Unified Access switch and 5760 Unified Access WLAN controller. Both are based on Cisco's new Unified Access Data Plane silicon, which takes what traditionally has been wireless network overlays built atop wired networks, and converges the wired and wireless traffic onto a single data plane.
Juniper also offers its Junos Space Network Director, a single campus-management solution that enables businesses to manage their wired and wireless infrastructures, users, applications and services from a central point, which will make it easier to handle the influx of devices and applications coming onto the network.
Alcatel-Lucent's latest offerings come as the company is restructuring again in hopes of reaching profitability, a relatively elusive goal for the company since its creation in 2006. The latest effort, called the Shift Plan, includes cutting 10,000 jobs by 2015.