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The Consumerization of IT

Cisco's Fowler discusses the impact it is having on organizations.

January 1, 2011  

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The consumerization of IT has become a massive challenge for large organizations as they struggle with how best to handle a virtual influx of wireless devices, says Ross Fowler, vice president of Cisco System Inc.’s Borderless Network Architecture.

Fowler made the comment in an interview with CNS following a recent customer roundtable in Toronto in which executives were provided with eight critical questions to consider such as can mobile devices access my network securely, reliably and seamlessly? Can my network deliver real-time collaboration experiences? Can my network deliver protection from the premises to the cloud? Am I using my network to reduce my energy costs? Is my network ready for current and future regulatory requirements? Where am I now? Where do I start?

“The message I got is that our strategy is consistent with what the challenges are,” said Fowler.

“If I go in and talk about the latest router and switch their eyes glaze over. If I can talk about how their network can deliver real time collaboration experience when the majority of the traffic in the future is going to be video and they know it’s coming, that’s when they start to get interested.”

Wikipedia defines the consumerization of IT as a trend in which new information technology emerges first in the consumer market and then spreads into business organizations.

Fowler said IT executives can no longer tell employees they cannot connect to the network with a wireless device: “The question is how do I allow it to connect to the network and maintain the security and posture of my organization?”

Cisco’s Borderless Network initiative, which was launched in late 2009, was designed to allow IT managers to “more easily manage, scale, govern and protect networks, while tightening the synergy between users, devices, applications and business processes.”

At the time of the launch, Marie Hattar, Cisco’s vice president of network systems, said this new model demands a different approach to building business networks.

Components of the architecture include:

– CleanAir, which mitigates RF interference on a wireless LAN and protects performance

– Cisco EnergyWise, which allows for the measuring, monitoring and controlling of energy usage on IT and non-IT devices from the network

– MediaNet for enterprise, which delivers accurate multicast video from wired to wireless networks; and

– Cisco TrustSec, which helps secure access to networks and networked resources through policy-based access control, identity-aware networking, and data integrity and confidentiality services.

“TrustSec provides the ability to integrate network and policy management in order to manage what information a person has access to on the network depending on where they are, what privileges they have and what device they are accessing it to,” said Fowler.

“For example, you might be in a corporate network and it is acceptable to have access to sensitive information, but as soon as you move out into the public arena and want to access that information from a Blackberry or IPad, you will not have access. It is going beyond a firewall and looking at the posture, the device, your privileges and the location to make those sorts of intelligent decisions.”

The good news for both network equipment and structured cabling vendors is that power requirements are on the rise, he added, the result of desktop virtualization, which allows an IT department to host and manage an individual’s PC from a data centre.

According to Cisco, users can access their server-hosted virtual desktops, including their applications and files, from anywhere there is connectivity and from a broad range of end user devices using one of several remote display protocols.

“The power to support those devices is going to come from the network,” he said. “As an example, we are seeing a demand for Power Over Ethernet Plus up to 60 watts per switch port to support desktop virtualization.”