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5/11/2011
07:15 PM
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Cisco Announces Cloud-Based Products For Branch Offices

The LAN controller and security software enable easier management of access points and reduce the amount of hardware needed, the company says.

Cisco announced Tuesday two new cloud-based products aimed at branch offices and remote locations.

The first is the Cisco Flex 7500 Series Cloud Controller, a LAN controller that enables the central management of up to 500 branch locations and 2,000 access points from one data center. It allows IT managers to remotely configure wireless policies, management, and security settings without having to physically be in the branch location.

The benefit for small branch offices to have a controller, rather than standalone access points at multiple sites, is that a controller brings consistency, allows you to more easily manage access points and upgrade firmware, and provides more simple troubleshooting, Sylvia Hooks, senior manager of mobility marketing for Cisco, said in an InformationWeek interview.

"Taken all together and when you put that into a data center, we're minimizing the need to put IT experts in the store, so we're minimizing that support burden that is difficult to fulfill in many branch offices," Hooks said.

This is the case at Bass Pro Shops, a model client Cisco cites. Bass Pro Shops implemented the 7500 controller two months ago to centralize the management of wireless connections for its 54 retail stores, corporate headquarters, and distribution facility.

"By deploying a Cisco Flex 7500 Series Cloud Controller, we will be able to reduce costs by eliminating the need for a controller at each store to manage the wireless networks, while also reducing the amount of interaction needed by store personnel," Steve Marshall, director of IT services at Bass Pro Shops, said in a statement.

Cisco also introduced the Integrated Services Router Web Security software for the ISR G2 branch router. The software extends Cisco's ScanSafe Cloud Web Security and allows organizations to deploy cloud-based Web security and Web usage policies, enabling secure local Internet access for branch offices and users.

The security software addresses a trend Cisco has seen in branch offices: LAN bottlenecks caused by increasing bandwidth usage have driven some organizations to use a tunnel traffic over the Internet, which increases the security vulnerabilities of an organization.

"What we've done with Cisco ISR Web Security is to provide an intelligent software solution in all branch-office routers to intelligently redirect all the Internet access directly to cloud-based, ScanSafe security towers, rather than backhauling all traffic through data center," Prashanth Shenoy, senior manager of borderless networks marketing at Cisco, said in an InformationWeek interview.

The benefits include a reduction in hardware for security, including routers, and cloud-based security monitoring, Shenoy said. The new software will be available in July for $2,495, plus an annual Cisco ScanSafe service subscription.

The Cisco Flex 7500 Series Cloud Controller is available now; pricing starts at $47,995.

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