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Cisco: WiFi & Beyond

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
5/28/2008

One of the intriguing aspects of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s newest revamp of its enterprise WiFi strategy is the way it might start to extend the vendor's reach into other types of networks.

Cisco today unveiled what it is calling its Vision mobility strategy. It's centered around the new Mobility Services Engine (MSE), which ties into Cisco's wireless LAN controller, while providing an open API so that developers can more easily prep devices and applications to run on a corporate WiFi network.

"Mobility applications have been hamstrung by the lack of access to the WiFi network," says Cisco director of mobility solutions Ben Gibson. "With the number of devices coming into the enterprise now, the system needs to be more automated."

Cisco hopes to facilitate more application and device access by opening up the network platform to ISVs and platform developers. The firm is also introducing new mobility services modules software, such as a secure client manager, mobile intelligent roaming and context-aware location.

Cisco has worked with other companies to bring some specialist knowledge on the software side, notably with Agito Networks Inc. for fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) intelligent roaming software that can help WiFi phones hand off between cellular networks and corporate set-ups. (See Cisco, Agito Team.)

This is where corporate WiFi networks could first start to rub shoulders with the carrier world. Indeed, ex-Cisco product manager Pejman Roshan, now VP of marketing and a founder of Agito, says the enterprise-focused startup has even been talking to carriers such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. about the business end of FMC of late. "T-Mobile surprised me," says Roshan, as the carrier isn't generally thought of as an enterprise player.

Cellular isn't the only area that Cisco might extend to, however. Pat Calhoun, Cisco’s CTO for the access and network services group, says the networking giant is becoming increasing "agnostic" about the networks it supports and has seen some more interest in WiMax of late.

802.16 technology wouldn't so much replace as supplement WiFi for large enterprise users. "It's something they want to use when they are outside the campus," says Calhoun.

With an enterprise WiFi market share exceeding 60 percent, it is no surprise that the vendor is looking to extend the appeal of mobility beyond WiFi and make it easier to support other devices and applications over more wired and wireless network connections.

"It is a market shift for Cisco," claims Gibson.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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