Friday, May 30, 2008

Cisco + Mobility - Get Used It

Here's another post I've been trying to get to this week.

These two words - Cisco and mobility - aren't always closely associated, but I think that's going to change sooner than later.

Last week I had an in-person briefing at Cisco Canada's offices about Motion, their new mobility initiative. It was a pretty informative session, and came in advance of their press release, which ran on Wednesday. As press releases go, it's on the long side, and I just wanted to share some of the key points here.

Cisco has had a major focus on mobility for a while, and Motion seems a pretty good manifestation of what they've done with acquisitions such as Orative and Navini. In true Cisco fashion, Motion focuses on the network and contends that it is the underlying networks and associated intelligence that make mobile applications so powerful for businesses - rather than the devices.

This may not be the message that handset vendors really want to hear, but Cisco is too big to ignore, especially when there's this much critical mass behind what they're doing. So, it's no surprise that their partner ecosystem includes most of the major business handset vendors - Nokia, RIM, Samsung and Palm. They definitely have the smart phone set here, along most of the other Tier 1's you'd expect - IBM, HP, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, etc.

Cisco's view is that mobility poses a lot of problems for enterprises, and Motion seeks to address them. As the sheer number and variety of mobile devices proliferates, it gets much harder for enterprises to manage them. Combine this with the challenge of managing communications and data flows across mobile and fixed networks, and that's where Motion comes into the picture.

Aside from managing the networks and devices, Motion is very much about the applications. By delivering a higher level of centralization and network intelligence, Motion can support today's applications in a mobile environment, especially around collaboration. To do this, they talk about four key capabilities of their MSE - Mobility Services Engine:

Context-aware software. For business environments, their best examples involved sensors and RFID tags for things like monitoring temperature controls or asset tracking. The idea is that this data can be seamslessly transmitted across all types of networks, and the scenarios for mobility are almost limitless.

Intelligent roaming. We all know about the magic of dual mode handsets, but the key here is about maintaining centralized control of your devices, and perhaps more importantly, the data going in and out of them. Aside from delivering a consistent experience acrosss different networks, Motion allows Web-based and network-based applications to function seamlessly. The more we use these devices in roaming situations, the greater the need to support these applications with network intelligence.

Security. They call this Adaptive Wireless IPS, which seems clunky to me. Anyhow, we all know how important security is for enterprise mobility (intrusion detection, hacking, malware, etc.), and what's new here is how their security is centralized to work across all network environments and includes performance monitoring. I'm not steeped enough in security to say much more, but if you are, be my guest.

Secure Client Manager. This is another network-based tool for the provisioning of mobile devices across all types of networks. This is not my space, but I do see how this helps IT better manage broadband connectivity across devices not tethered to their wireline network, especially as the number and variety of mobile devices that need to be supported grows.

All told, from my point of view, Cisco is thinking way beyond voice for mobility. They're addressing some real pain points for companies with an increasingly global focus, an increasingly mobile workforce, and a ubiquitous need for anywhere/anytime broadband that's reliable, easy to use and supports whatever applications end users need to do their work.

Gee, I think I've said it all there, although none of this is really new. The main takeaway is that for Cisco, it's all about the network, stupid. We may have our smart phones, but in the enterprise world, they're nothing without an intelligent network. And of course, mobility is just a natural extension of the corporate LAN, which Cisco dominates, so for many enterprises, this is a nice add-on to what they're already familiar with.

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Cisco�s recent Motion vision announcement (and related �phase 0� product announcement of a glorified location-based WiFi controller) raises more questions than it answers.

But the biggest question in my mind is that Motion is an architectural no-man�s land.

See why:

Posted by: Tony Rybczynski, Nortel at June 10, 2008 12:15 PM

Thanks for the comment Tony and the link to your post. Nice comeback and I appreciate your adding to the dialog here. Would be interesting to see if there's any reply from the other side.

Posted by: Jon Arnold at June 10, 2008 11:46 PM

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