Device operating systems

Apple & Cisco Plot an Enterprise Fast Lane

Apple and Cisco have teamed up to create an enterprise Internet "fast lane" for iOS users in workplaces that have deployed Cisco's video and networking infrastructure.

That covers a broad range of enterprises, as 95% of companies in the Fortune 500 use Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s collaboration and networking tools, according to the vendor, and nearly every company has Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) products in-house thanks either to company policy or, more commonly, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend.

The partnership will see Cisco optimizing its network for iPhones and iPads and their associated apps to work more efficiently, seamlessly and reliably together. Cisco's mobile, cloud and premises-based collaboration tools -- Spark, Telepresence and WebEx -- will be optimized for iOS, so that employees could, for example, fire up a video conference call directly from an iOS calendar. (See Cisco Wants to Tidy Up Desktop Videoconferencing.)

For Apple, this builds on a strategic partnership it formed with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) for enterprise apps last year. (See Analytics, Security Key to Apple, IBM Tie-Up.)

Of particular note in the partnership, which was 10 months in the making, are the company's plans for Fast Lane technology, giving bandwidth priority to enterprise functions such as videoconferences over less important network applications (such as cat videos on YouTube). The Wall Street Journal suggests this will work on both wired and wireless connections. Bloomberg reports that the pair are also working on ways to prevent network slowdowns when Apple releases iOS updates.

For more on LTE traffic management and data issues, visit the dedicated 4G LTE content section here on Light Reading.

Why this matters
The partnership comes as both companies, like their network operator partners-cum-competitors, are making a bigger push into the enterprise. Workforces are increasingly mobile and the lines between consumers and enterprise users are blurring. With BYOD and the enterprise shift to the New IP, IT departments have a big task at hand, integrating disparate device and operating systems in their networks, unifying the experience between the desktop and mobile and securing it all for their employees. (See Mobile Security Should Be Customer-Centric.)

Apple's partnership with Cisco should help make this more seamless. Its Fast Lane technology is especially interesting in light of the trend towards smartphones being used for both personal and work purposes, with separate bills and even separate capabilities in work hours. It could, however, raise a red flag for net neutrality advocates given that it prioritizes one form of IP content over another. Light Reading has reached out to Cisco for more details on how the technology works and what role -- if any -- the network operators might play. (See AT&T Updates Toggle for BYOD.)

Apple is holding its always anticipated annual product event next week (Sept. 9), when it's expected to unveil its next iPhone, an iOS update and potentially more news for the enterprise. (See Uncommon Core.)

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— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

danielcawrey 9/3/2015 | 2:09:38 AM
Re: life in the fast lane It's amazing to me to see just how much penetration Cisco has in the largest and most complex IT organizations. And let's face it: Apple's mobile products are intuitive and built for productivity. 

This partnership makes sense for both sides. Neither of them are going anywhere, so it is to their benefit to work together to provide an even tighter experience in terms of connectivity speed. 
Sarah Thomas 9/1/2015 | 3:09:02 PM
Re: life in the fast lane And, a bit more about net neutrality. Makes sense given that it's a private enterprise network. You can block employees from using certain sites and apps, so no reason why you can't prioritize their traffic within reason as well: 

Yesterday's partnership agreement will have no impact on net neutrality because it is focused on improving the experience inside an enterprise network and is not affecting anything on the public Internet. Enterprise networks are not included in the net neutrality rules because they are separate from the public Internet and may need to actively manage traffic to provide the best experience for enterprise users. Nothing in this agreement will impact the Internet experience of ordinary consumers. 

Sarah Thomas 9/1/2015 | 2:46:03 PM
Re: life in the fast lane A Cisco spokeswoman got back to us on the fast lane. Here's what she had to say:

One aim of the partnership is to deliver high performance device connectivity and roaming for iOS. Whereby iOS devices will automatically and dynamically select the optimal network or the Wi-Fi access point based on app and user needs.

Another aim of the partnership is to give enterprise iOS apps (custom and App Store) visibility and priority on enterprise networks to ensure they work even better. We'll help improve app performance and response times and offload enterprise networks to lower IT cost. For example, we'll enable local caching of iOS and app updates in branch offices to significantly reduce network traffic. Or in another example, video content for a training course might be downloaded once from the cloud and stored locally, making it easily accessible to students and reducing strain on the branch/WAN network.

We feel that the benefit for our service provider partners from yesterday's announcement is around:

  • Extending the Cisco Unified Communications portfolio to include iOS devices in the enterprise opens up a tremendous opportunity for our Service Provider Collaboration partners to further differentiate their offer in the marketplace and to deliver even more value to their business customers.
  • New capabilities created through better optimization of technologies from two industry leaders will enable business users to have a better, seamless and integrated collaboration experience.


Sarah Thomas 9/1/2015 | 2:08:15 PM
life in the fast lane I am very interested to learn more about this fast lane technology and how Cisco and Apple are working with the wireless operators (or around them) and also how they are ensuring it doesn't interfere with net neutrality concerns. It's a feature that makes a ton of sense for enterprises. As someone who works at home with poor broadband and cellular service, I would love to have it. It just needs to be carefully implemented to not tick off regulators, operators or consumers who can no longer watch their cat videos.
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