Meru's Smart Connect Solution Eases IT's BYOD Burden

Meru is rolling out an enhanced integrated WLAN solution that includes Smart Connect, which enables employees to securely connect their mobile devices to the corporate network with a single click.

Meru Networks is offering its own solution to help businesses deal with the rising tide of WiFi devices tapping into the corporate networks, part of a larger release of products that includes new WLAN controllers and 802.11n access points.

With Smart Connect-an optional software module unveiled Oct. 24 that enables corporate networks to identify a wireless or wired device trying to connect and then apply appropriate management and security policies-Meru joins a growing number of vendors looking to help businesses deal with the expanding bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend that is putting tremendous pressure on enterprises IT staffs.

Businesses can no longer hand out company-issued smartphones and other mobile devices and assume workers will be satisfied, according to Kamal Anand, senior vice president of product marketing for Meru. Now workers are coming in with their own devices and demanding access to the corporate network, creating management and security headaches for their companies.

"It means a lot of the burden gets put on IT," Anand said in an interview with eWEEK.

The trend will only continue, as more workers go mobile and more of them accumulate mobile devices. Anand quoted analyst reports that indicate that by 2014, 1.9 billion WiFi devices will be hitting corporate networks, and those devices will only grow in number and complexity. About 59 percent of enterprise IT staffs now support employee-owned smartphones, he said, adding that the turnover-or "churn"-of the devices is going up to 25 to 50 percent a year, increasing the pressure on IT staffs.

Meru's Smart Connect is designed to simplify the process of identifying and authenticating mobile devices-including smartphones and tablets-that are trying to access the corporate WiFi network, a process that currently is labor-intensive and time-consuming. According to Anand, if an employee wants to gain access with his or her own mobile or wired device for the first time, Smart Connect checks to see if it is owned by the employee or company.

The software then temporarily configures the device to meet corporate security and management policies, authenticates the device and connects it via WiFi. The solution essentially takes what is now is a multistep process for employees and enables them to do it all with one click.

"All the complexity is hidden from the user," Anand said.

After that, when the device tries to gain access to the network, it can log on and have the management and security policies restarted automatically.

Smart Connect currently supports Apple's iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as devices running Google's Android mobile OS and Microsoft's Windows. It also supports a range of wireless protocols, from WPA and WPA2 to 802.1x, WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK. Plus, it can work in multivendor, heterogeneous environments.

Smart Connect is part of Meru's Identity Manager offering and a larger integrated WLAN solution from the vendor. Meru also unveiled System Director 5, a new release of its operating system, which can now identify unified communications solutions such as Microsoft's Lync. With its Air Traffic Control technology, System Director 5 enables thousands of devices and applications to access the network at the same time and ensures proper levels of service. The software puts the network-not the device-in charge of network connectivity, according to Anand.

Meru also is rolling out the AP400 line of access points, with all access points having up to three 802.11n radios that each support three data streams, giving each radio a data rate of 450M bps. One model, the AP433is, also uses one radio as an RF sensor.

System Director 5 also powers Meru's high-capacity controllers, the MC3200 and MC4200, which are powered by Intel processors and offer enhanced performance.