Cisco Systems officials in April introduced their Identity Services Engine, designed to help enterprises track "visitors" coming onto their corporate networks.
Cisco's ISE was created to manage not only visitors such as freelancers, customers or contract workers who need access to the corporate network, but also in response to the growing trend of employees demanding access through their personal computing devices-including smartphones and tablets.
The BYOD (bring your own device) trend is putting a strain on IT staffs, who are tasked with balancing the employees' desires with the need to protect the corporate network and the critical data it houses. Cisco's ISE is designed to help administrators do just that, by enabling them to enforce policies that determine who is allowed on the network and what their access privileges are, all the while keeping the network safe and secure.
When launched in April, Cisco's ISE was made to enable businesses to cover both wired and wireless networks. Now the giant networking vendor is offering businesses another option: wireless-only licenses for ISE. The goal is to give businesses that want to take incremental steps in enforcing access policies a way to start initially with wireless networks.
"Cisco ISE for Wireless is targeted for customers that need to address challenges brought about by their employees connecting their own wireless devices to the network, as well as guest users," Cisco blogger Ben Stricker said in an Aug. 15 post on the Cisco Mobility Blog. "Cisco ISE for wireless also simplifies guest access management by providing an integrated self-service model to securely allow guest users to connect to the wireless networks."
In addition, businesses can later move from the ISE for Wireless license to include wired networks and VPN endpoints by buying an upgrade license, according to Stricker. It also dovetails with Cisco's Borderless Networks initiative, which is designed to give anyone access to the corporate network anytime and from any device.
Cisco officials say the BYOD trend will only continue growing. In the past, tradition held that businesses would issue laptops and mobile handsets-normally BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion-and only allow those devices to access the corporate network. If workers wanted to use their own mobile devices, they were out of luck.
That changed in recent years, though, first with the growth of smartphones and more recently with the introduction of Apple's iPad tablet. Couple that with the entrance of younger people into the workforce who have grown up with such devices, and the push for more consumer devices on the corporate network will only grow, they said. Now CIOs and IT managers are going to figure out how to embrace the trend in an efficient and secure way.
"The BYOD trend is here, and it's here to stay," Paul Durzan, director of mobility at Cisco, said in an interview with eWEEK. "If you think about it, people just want to be simply connected."
And they're going to want a lot of devices connected. According to Cisco's annual Visual Networking Index Forecast released in June, by 2015, there will be almost 15 billion network-connected devices-from smartphones and tablets to notebooks and appliances. On average, a U.S. citizen will have seven connected devices by 2015, the survey found.
"[BYOD] is a pervasive trend and one that is going to happen everywhere, and is happening everywhere," Durzan said.