Cisco unveils network piece of its Unified Access platform

Integration of wired and wireless networks, BYOD management designed to ease IT burden

Enterprises have traditionally built wireless networks as overlays to their wired networks, resulting in IT departments having to manage two separate networks. Throw in BYOD and the network complexities mount.

To address this complexity, last year Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCOlaunched its Unified Access platform, which is designed to consolidate operations and management of the wireless and wired networks as well as set up BYOD policies and manage mobile devices.

On Tuesday, Cisco added a new Catalyst switch and wireless local access network (LAN) controller to complete the network equipment component of its Unified Access platform.

"What we announced a few months ago in the U.S. was only part of the Unified Access solution… It is a three-legged stool--one leg is the policy, one leg is the management, and now we are announcing the physical network leg of it," explained Ben Stricker, senior public relations manager with Cisco Core Networking.

The new Catalyst 3850 access switch delivers one physical infrastructure for wired and wireless networks and offers integrated wired and wireless LAN controller functions. The Cisco 5760 wireless LAN controller uses the Cisco Unified Access data plane (UADP) application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to provide 60 Gbps of capacity with hierarchical quality of service capabilities.

The additions are designed to facilitate the merger of wireline, wireless and virtual private networks into a unified network infrastructure based on one policy and one management solution, Cisco explained.

"In many ways, Cisco is redefining what Unified Access means. They're not talking about just wired and wireless infrastructure, they're talking about having a consistent set of features across all products," commented Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research.

The Unified Access network brings the separate networks together by using the programmable UADP ASIC, which terminates wired and wireless traffic and provides consistent performance, scale and services. It also enables deployment of software-defined networking, which adds flexibility to the network.

"With this announcement, we are focusing on the one network--what can we do to drastically change the way in which the networks are designed, especially at the access level, to not only simplify IT operations but also to provide the right level of scale and performance to handle the mobile device explosion," said Prashanth Shenoy, senior manager at the Cisco Enterprise Networking Group.

"We are now truly integrating the wired and wireless infrastructure into one physical infrastructure. That is possible because of the introduction of the Catalyst 3850 access switch… For the first time in our industry, we are building from the ground up a completely new hardware architecture and also upgrading the software that makes the wireless functionality now completely integrated natively into the switch," Shenoy told FierceEnterpriseCommunications.

"For pure wireless deployment… we are introducing the 5760 wireless LAN controller. The controller uses the same hardware architecture and the ASIC, as well as the same operating system, as the 3850 switch uses.  For the first time within Cisco, we are bringing the IOS [internetwork operating system] designed for the wired world into the wireless world with the 5760," Shenoy explained.

Enterprise networks are being overloaded with the deployment of wireless networks over the existing wired infrastructure as well as the explosion of personal mobile devices in the workplace, which are placing enormous pressure on IT departments. Cisco's Unified Access product is one approach to addressing these IT challenges, and the field is open for other approaches.

For more:
- see Cisco's release
- check out Cisco's Unified Access website

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