Cisco Demos WLAN Controller for Branch Offices at Interop

Cisco is rolling out new products that bring the benefits and capabilities of its Borderless Networks strategy to branch offices.

Cisco Systems officials over the past few months have built out the capabilities of their Borderless Networks initiative in such areas as mobility, security and management. Now the networking giant is looking to extend the reach of the strategy into branch offices.

At Interop 2011 this week in Las Vegas, Cisco officials are showing off their new Flex 7500 Series Cloud Controller and new Integrated Services Router Web Security products for the ISR G2 branch router. The products are part of Cisco's efforts to meet the demand from businesses that are looking to bring such key capabilities as management and security out of the branch offices and back into main headquarters, according to Prashanth Shenoy, senior manager of Borderless Networks marketing.

"Since data centers began consolidating about a decade ago, a lot of things have been moved out of the branch offices and into the central data center," Shenoy said in an interview with eWEEK, adding that IT departments are being asked to grow the level of services they offer while seeing their staffing being reduced.

Despite that consolidation, businesses still need to offer the same level of service and user experience to their employees in the branch offices, he said. With the new products announced May 10, businesses will be able to consolidate more of their IT infrastructure in the central data center-a move that will help drive down capital and operational costs-without hurting the operations of the branch offices, and deliver their services through the increasingly popular cloud computing model.

The Flex 7500 Series Cloud Controller is housed in the data center, letting IT administrators remotely manage up to 500 branch offices from a central location. They can remotely wireless policies, manage the branch offices and offer security settings without the time and expense of having to physically go to the offices, Sylvia Hooks, senior manager of mobility marketing at Cisco, said in an interview.

The new WLAN (wireless LAN) controller can control up to 2,000 WiFI access points-twice the number currently supported-and more than 20,000 clients from the data center, Hooks said. A goal was to "allow the branch office to be independent" while still getting the technology capabilities they need to do their jobs, she said.

The controller is available immediately, starting at $47,955.

In addition, Cisco in July will start shipping the ISR Web Security software, which extends the company's ScanSafe Cloud Web Security to branch offices by putting centralized Web protection and malware detection onto the ISR G2 branch router.

According to Cisco officials, the new software will not require businesses to buy more hardware. Instead, the software is in the router, enabling branch offices to use local Internet access capabilities, which will save users time, money and resource that otherwise would go toward hardware deployments.

The software can be delivered via the cloud, while the management is done centrally, they said.

Cisco is aggressively building out its Borderless Networks efforts, which revolve around the idea of getting access to a company's network anytime, from anywhere and through any device.