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Cisco and the Consumerization of IT

Cisco is at the forefront of embracing the consumerization of IT - here's how.

It’s painfully obvious that the consumerization of IT isn’t going away. You hear it in the news, from manufacturers, and the loudest voice of all – your end-users. Most likely, helpdesk requests about configuring, updating or using consumer devices has eked their way into your top 10 most common calls list. (A personal favorite, though not a top 10: “How do I get that bird game on here?”) Beyond the onslaught of “How do I set up my work email account on my iPhone?” requests, there are major implications to the consumerization of IT in the workplace – above all, security. Do you have a plan in place for when a senior executive’s iPad gets stolen, along with classified company information? Or when a sales rep connects their tablet to the network and unknowingly places bugs in the CRM? Back in 2009, Chris Christiansen of IDC was interviewed for Cisco’s Fact or Fiction video series. Christiansen said that while consumer devices aren’t specifically designed for use in the workplace, most IT operations would eventually have to accommodate them. He went so far as to say that it could be a career limiting move to forbid consumer devices in the workplace completely – particularly if you’re dealing with a senior level executive. In 2010, Cisco began pushing borderless security to enable enterprise IT to deal with the onslaught of consumer devices in the workplace and the security concerns that came with them. That same year, Cisco also introduced the Cius tablet – which meant enterprise IT could not only have the security measures in place for dealing with consumer devices, but could also provide the devices themselves. (The verdict is still out on how well the Cius will satisfy both end-users and IT.) And just a month ago, Cisco general manager Tom Gillis named virtualization as the solution to security issues brought on by the consumerization of IT. Cisco appears to be one of the players at the forefront of dealing with the implications of consumer devices in the workplace. All along, Cisco has made a point to pronounce this shift as not only unavoidable, but something to embrace. (Perhaps Cisco realizes that like social media in the workplace, you’re better off creating a policy to accommodate consumer devices rather than deny their use completely.) How are they extending the digital olive branch? They are starting on their own shores. Cisco has been pioneering consumerization in their network for years. In doing so they can speak from experience and bring solutions to market that make sense. Introducing AnyConnect into their security offering is one such solution. Having a client that can interface with Symbian OS-based Nokia dual-mode phones, Windows Mobile Operating System devices, Apple iPhones, Android phones, Apple iPads, Cisco Cius tablets, and Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops and laptops was vital to allowing a BYOD (bring you own device) policy at Cisco. So what is the solution? Cisco’s AnyConnect allows its users to connect from anywhere, on any device. It’s also always on, meaning that you don’t have to continue to log in if you are disconnected. The session is automatically re-established. Not only that, but AnyConnect will establish a tunnel in the best way based on how you are connecting and from where. Trying to webconference in from a high latency location? The client will utilize protocols like Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS), which is designed to handle higher latency traffic. What about under the hood? The AnyConnect client establishes a secure tunnel into the network through Cisco ASA 5500’s that work in tandem with Cisco IOS to handle authentication and access to Cisco’s network. In addition to authentication, the client checks that the device is registered and conforms to security standards. What if a device doesn’t measure up? It’s not allowed on the network. What about lost or stolen devices? Cisco IT can remotely terminate the VPN sessions and no longer allow the device on the network. The only question now is; will other organizations follow suit, or continue to keep their heads buried in the sand?

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