The term “convergence” has been around in the communications industry for decades. And, despite the promise that end-to-end convergence was just around the corner, it has taken all of those years to get there. In the process the term has become almost cliché. While we have had convergence in the WAN and on our devices, reality has been that when it comes to enterprise infrastructure there have been some holes to fill. In fact, I can remember back in the early 1980s moderating several industry debates on LAN v. PBX regarding which technology would be the office controller of the future.
With the announcement from Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) of the launch of its Unified Access approach for both wired and wireless networks the last frontier of convergence is about to close.
The challenge for IT in getting to total convergence
Enterprise IT professionals certainly have a full plate of issues relating to virtualization, the cloud, security, and what to do about the virtualization of work, the impact of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomena and the use of third-party apps and services. This has led to IT attempting to get its arms around better visibility and management of people, devices, the apps that run on those devices, the networks they access and the security of data that is stored and on the move. Compounding this is the fact that IT is confronted with multiple operating systems and the overwhelming of the separate stand-alone tools and systems they have used in the past.
Alcatel-Lucent’s Unified Access is aimed squarely at addressing these challenges. It is the first converged wired and wireless solution to address networking challenges, management complexity and offer a consistent user experience. It comprises a rich set of secure BYOD services that enables employees and customers to use corporate or personal, wired or wireless devices on the enterprise network. Simultaneously it helps simplify IT operations, improving security and providing tools for better risk management. As Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) notes, this is an enhancement to its Converged Campus Network solution, “Delivering the power of policy integration, network services, BYOD support and cross-platform security to enterprise networks.”
Unified Access can be implemented via software upgrades without replacing existing equipment, providing a gradual approach to evolving the network and maximizing investment. IT managers can also easily define appropriate security and quality of service (QoS) policies enabling the network to dynamically adjust to the communication context, taking into consideration priorities and bandwidth criteria for user, device, application, location and time of day.
To drive adoption of Unified Access, Alcatel-Lucent is working with long-time technology partner Aruba Networks to offer a full suite of BYOD services as part of the unified and open-campus network solutions. With a common strategy towards open standards and emerging technologies, such as software defined networking (SDN), the resulting integrated wired and wireless solutions provide a best-of-breed approach eliminating vendor lock-in and reducing total cost of ownership.
A comprehensive approach unifying enterprise access
Being announced at Educause because of its appeal to educational institutions, Unified Access based on the comprehensiveness of the solution should attract attention from IT across the broad span of vertical markets. Key components include:
- Unified Access capabilities are offered across Alcatel-Lucent’s entire enterprise networking portfolio, requiring only a software upgrade to deploy while preserving existing equipment. Unified Access network services and BYOD services are available today.
- Aruba’s ClearPass Access Management System allows enterprises to securely provision and manage mobile devices on enterprise networks, and is integrated with Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitches, OmniAccess routers and OmniVista NMS for a seamless, consistent user experience.
- Aruba’s AirGroup services under ClearPass Policy Manager, supported on both the wired and wireless LAN, enable end users and IT administrators to self-register Apple (News - Alert) devices. In the higher education environment, students in dorms can plug in printers, Apple TVs, and other consumer devices, register them and set access limits for select friends use instead of the whole campus, all without IT involvement.
- Management enhancements ease the burden of IT by automating operations for BYOD services such as device configuration and guest registration, and provide common troubleshooting and monitoring tools across the wired and wireless networks.
- New security features such as automatic configuration of 802.1x security and certificates increase LAN security to be on par with the wireless experience. Devices like laptops, tablets, printers and cameras are automatically registered, keeping the network secure without overloading IT departments with manual tasks.
- The addition of Unified AIRGROUP Network service personalization for customization of network services with Apple devices on wired as well as wireless networks.
- Application fluency enhancements via CITRIX Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI).
- Extensive Professional Services offerings, leveraging Alcatel-Lucent’s broad knowledge of wired and wireless LAN networking, support channel partners and their customers in evolving their network to support unified access and BYOD services.
A simplified view of what is at work here for campus networking environments is illustrated below:
Source: Alcatel-Lucent (click to enlarge)
The deliverables of Unified Access are summed up in the following graphic.
Source: Alcatel-Lucent (click to enlarge)
The partners are obviously excited about their efforts to bring simplicity and security to converged networking in the Enterprise. Dominic Orr (News - Alert), CEO and President of Aruba Networks stated that: “Aruba has long embraced a vision of the open intelligent campus, and I’m delighted that we have a like-minded partner in Alcatel-Lucent. Their Unified Access strategy combines the best of both of our technologies, and delivers a unified platform to customers that solves today’s IT challenges.”
Michel Emelianoff, President, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise commented that: “We knew that the current wave of BYOD and mobility would bring new challenges that needed a holistic solution. Unified Access is our answer to these challenges. We have architected Unified Access to not only solve these challenges but simplify adoption.”
As Heitor Faroni (News - Alert), director of solutions marketing for the Enterprise Networking Business Division at Alcatel-Lucent, told TMCnet, “We had three major objectives with Unified access. We are providing access to the same applications with the same quality so the user experience is consistent, using as much automation as possible to simplify life of IT in terms of giving them visibility and control in an increasingly complex environment, and making this an enticing value proposition in that we are preserving existing investments while providing the software enhancements for fee.”
Additional information about Unified Access and the Converged Campus Networks solution is available on the ALU website along with the YouTube (News - Alert) video embedded below. There is actually good reason for a deeper dive given some of the other benefits of the solution which include better power utilization, how the LAN and WLAN are integrated and the fact that if you lose the LAN because of the architecture you will not lose the ability to make telephone calls.
As noted at the top, IT is facing a myriad of challenges when it comes to moving forward with a total converged networking environment and campus access has been a real issue. ALU and its ecosystem have created an impressive array of capabilities along with the support needed to fill in that missing piece of the puzzle.
Edited by Alisen Downey