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Cisco Goes Into 'Motion' With Enterprise Wireless Architecture

Based around the Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine, Cisco's new platform is designed to give enterprise IT directors an appliance-based platform to manage wired and wireless networks.

Moving to solidify its leadership in enterprise wireless networking, Cisco on Wednesday unveiled its new brand for mobile and wireless technology, Cisco Motion, along with a new business platform that will unify disparate networks, devices, and applications into a centralized architecture.

Known as the Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE), the new platform is designed to give enterprise IT directors a single appliance-based platform, running an open application programming interface (API), that can manage their employees' mobile devices and applications across both wireless and wired networks.

With the Cisco Motion architecture, the networking company is attempting to put its stamp on "the next generation of business mobility," as it put it in a statement. Cisco enjoys a commanding market share in enterprise wireless LAN deployments -- as high as 63% according to some analyst estimates -- but the company has begun to see some erosion as newer entrants such as Aruba Networks offer wireless LAN technology that is more flexible and not tied to Cisco's vast base of wired networking gear. The advent of 802.11n -- a new version of the Wi-Fi standard that will offer five times the throughput of existing Wi-Fi networks, plus increased stability and reliability -- is expected to be a major transition point for enterprise wireless networking. Full ratification of the new spec by the IEEE has been delayed several times, and final approval is now expected later this year or in early 2009.

Cisco Motion will provide businesses with a smoother integration and upgrade path to 802.11n and other advanced forms of wireless networking, says Cisco director of mobility solutions Ben Gibson.

"In many cases enterprises are still trying to formulate what their wireless strategy is going to be," says Gibson. The Cisco Motion system "can provide a nice migration story: they can still leverage their legacy infrastructure, so those applications that they have been using, that were siloed, can be migrated more gradually" to an integrated wireless environment.

The new products announced Wednesday essentially include the Mobility Services Engine (a piece of hardware that integrates with Cisco's wireless LAN controller) along with four software elements: context-aware, adaptive wireless intrusion prevention, client manager, and intelligent roaming.

The context-aware software is designed to work with Cisco's Unified Communications Manager to provide "presence" information -- the location and current status (on the phone, available by mobile or IM, and so on) of the user.

The client manager is designed to give IT departments a greater degree of control over the widening array of mobile devices that employees carry and use for business purposes. As mobile devices become more prevalent and more deeply ingrained in employees' work lives, the issues around deploying, securing, and managing them have become more pressing for enterprise IT pros.

"It's a critical pain point for enterprises today," says Gibson.

The new Motion strategy is almost certainly ahead of the market, as few companies are really prepared to unify their existing networks and run applications across them. And the Mobility Services Engine is designed to work exclusively with existing Cisco wireless gear.

In any case, Wednesday's news is both "great technology as well as brilliant marketing," according to wireless analyst Craig Mathias, principal with the Farpoint Group.

"The idea is to take what would have been applications code (think mobile middleware)," says Mathias, "and move it into the network, making the capabilities available across multiple networks (including wire)."

"Cisco is separating the network from the services component of the architecture, which will allow application developers to design and use network resources and develop applications more easily (and openly)," adds Michele Pelino, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

The 3350 Mobility Services Engine will begin shipping in June 2008, at a list price of $19,995. Software components will follow, with the Secure Client Manager element not becoming available until the first half of next year.

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