Cisco adds wireless-only endpoint security option

Additional form factor offers flexibility for mobile device security

Remember back in April, when Cisco overhauled its network management strategy and announced the Cisco Enterprise Prime product portfolio? The company has now decided to offer at least one component of the suite -- the Identity Services Engine (ISE) -- as a stand-alone, wireless-only module.

According to Cisco, there were customers that wanted just the wireless part of the solution. So the company decided to break things down a bit for those opening sites with wireless-only access networks or wanting to tackle policy enforcement incrementally and begin with mobile devices.

FIRST LOOK: Cisco Identity Services Engine

Wireless ISE customers that then want to expand the system to manage their wired networks just require a licensing upgrade, Cisco says.

Fueling the move, which should be more affordable for those organizations that are going primarily wireless, is the "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon, says Paul Durzan, Cisco director of mobility.

"BYOD is becoming a rapid industry game changer. It's causing a shift in IT from 'I'm dictating devices' to 'I'm accepting devices'" that employees choose to bring to work, Durzan says.

The Cisco Enterprise Prime network management portfolio has lots of umbrella names and hierarchical components, which can make it difficult to remember what's what. One component is the Network Control System (NCS), which is slated to replace Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) software and merge access management of wireless and wired networks. WCS has long been Cisco's software for managing its wireless LAN controllers.

The ISE technically is a subcomponent of NCS; however, now, companies can get it without the NCS portion and upgrade to it later.

The ISE also checks that mobile devices are free of viruses and other malware before granting them network access, says Vish Reddy, product manager in the Cisco policy management business unit.

So is Cisco officially entering the busy mobile device management and security market?

"We don't do all the functions of classic MDM, such as [mobile] patch management and software updates," says Reddy. "However, we've recognized the importance of that market."

Reddy adds that Cisco plans to either work with existing MDM vendors or enhance its ISE to more comprehensive MDM capabilities. "Stay tuned," he says.

Learn more about this topic

IT security's scariest acronym: BYOD, bring your own device

Cisco enterprise management tools take on new network realities

Mobility: What's a CSO to do?

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