Cisco on Tuesday rolled out new solutions under the Cisco Unified Access banner, aiming to simplify network design by converging wired and wireless networks. And software-defined networking (SDN) open interfaces are part and parcel of the strategy.
In the past, wireless networks have been built as overlays to the wired network. The result: two logical networks to manage, with disparate features and services, and with increased complexity. Users bringing multiple devices onto the network have compounded the challenge and it's more difficult for IT to implement common access policies, flow with "bring your own device" trends, and secure the network without compromising the end-user experience.
"Customers want a simple, highly secure network with reduced [total cost of ownership] that allows them to address new access requirements such as BYOD and new innovative line-of-business applications," said Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Cisco's Enterprise Networking Group. "Cisco Unified Access allows customers to achieve these goals by moving away from individual vertical stacks of technology and disparate components toward a single architecture for an intelligent network."
Sustainable Network Infrastructure
Here's how it works: The Cisco Unified Access network architecture converges processing of wired and wireless into a single plane, based on the new Cisco Unified Access data plane application-specific integrated circuit. This new ASIC terminates wired and wireless traffic, promises high performance and scale, and enables consistent services to be applied to both wired and wireless, simplifying life for network administrators. The UADP ASIC features a programmable data plane, enabling deployment of software-defined networking services.
Cisco announced two new Cisco Unified Access networking products featuring the UADP ASIC: the Catalyst 3850 Unified Access Switch with built-in wireless LAN controller functionality and the 5760 Unified Access WLAN Controller appliance featuring Cisco IOS-based software and 60-Gbps performance. Cisco announced new versions of the Cisco Unified Access policy and management solutions: Identity Services Engine 1.2 and Prime Infrastructure 2.0.
"At the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, our 'dream' is to deliver a highly secure and sustainable network that breaks down barriers and expands the horizons of our staff and patients," said Gareth Bulpin, technical development network and support manager for Cardiff and Vale Hospital in Wales. "The successful partnership working between Cisco, Damovo UK and the Hospital Network Team delivered our 'dream to reality' in 58 days with Cisco Unified Access being the 'game changer' to deliver 'healthcare without boundaries.' "
Cisco Walks the Talk
The Catalyst 3850 Switch offers integrated wired and wireless LAN controller functionality. It also supports common and consistent network intelligence, with network-wide visibility and analytics for troubleshooting, and granular hierarchical quality of service across the entire wired-wireless infrastructure.
The Cisco 5760 Wireless LAN Controller device delivers 60 Gbps of capacity with hierarchical QoS capabilities for a centralized deployment. And Cisco onePK aligns with Cisco's software strategy to allow the programmability of networks and reaffirms Cisco's continued investment in software and SDN.
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, told us Cisco has been talking the talk of Unified Access for quite a while but until now hasn't walked the walk. In fact, he said, no one in the industry has.
"This is really the first example of a Unified Access switch that has both hardware and software integrated. It has a fair amount of scale," Kerravala said. "It can work in small environments up to the very large environments. For organizations that are looking to have a more dense, better performing wireless experience, this is a good product."