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4/25/2005
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Cisco's Strategy: Helping Businesses Go Wireless

Networking vendor is moving aggressively to integrate wireless LAN technology from Airespace into its product portfolio.

Cisco Systems is moving aggressively to integrate wireless LAN technology it gained from its acquisition of Airespace Inc. into its networking product portfolio. Cisco executives say the technology, which features centralized control of so-called thin wireless access points, should help the company realize its vision of accelerating wireless adoption in businesses.

Industries such as hospitals, retailers, and college campuses have been quick to deploy wireless LANs, but widespread adoption by businesses in general has lagged, says Dave Leonard, VP of engineering at Cisco's wireless networking business unit. "The shift now is to a controller-based infrastructure," he says. "It's about the ease of use for people who haven't yet deployed wireless."

The top priority is to integrate the Airespace product line with Cisco's wide array of networking gear in such a way that the investment customers have made in switches, routers, and other networking products isn't lost. That means letting Cisco's "fat" wireless access points operate in a "lightweight" mode with the centralized control system offered by Airespace. It also means developing a security architecture that works with the company's full line of networking gear, wired and wireless.

"Our core goal is to grow the market by introducing simple products and closely working with partners," says Brett Galloway, VP and general manager of Cisco's wireless networking business unit.

Another area of interest for Cisco, and potentially its business customers, is combining radio-frequency identification technology with location devices. A wireless LAN has the potential of acting as a passport for passive RFID tags and could be used to track active RFID tags without the need for a manual reading, Galloway says.

As more companies use RFID to track products, components, and assets, Cisco's customers are looking for better ways to use and manage the flood of information that RFID systems will add to network traffic. Several customers have already asked Cisco about carving out a virtual LAN on a wireless network that would be dedicated to RFID, Galloway says.

Cisco plans a series of product announcements over the next year as it works to integrate the Airespace technology into its product line, says Leonard. Adds Galloway, "The greater vision is to have wireless LANs that just work out of the box: fully integrated, seamless, and secure."

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