The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is in force, but employees want more than the ability to use their own devices on the corporate network -- they also want more flexibility in the way and when and where they work.
So says Cisco. The Cisco Connected World Technology Report found that more than 40 percent of college students and young employees said they would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.
Cisco has a solution: a unified wireless policy that promises to support a consistent user experience and simplify network management. The networking software is based on Cisco's Borderless Network architecture and connects wired, wireless LAN, cellular and VPN through Cisco's Identity Services Engine.
Dubbed Cisco Unified Wireless Network Software Release 7.2, the software is now available globally.
"BYOD is not just about connecting user-owned devices and allowing guest access," said Rebecca Jacoby, senior vice president and CIO at Cisco. "It's about what you do after that. That's when things get interesting."
Consistent User Experience
The key word with Cisco's solution is consistency. Cisco is promising to help IT optimize the experience for various users with any type of device, and any type of desktop -- native or virtual -- across the wired or wireless network.
"Dealing with networks and devices is difficult for network managers today because you have to set independent wireless policies for your wired and wireless networks," said Zeus Kerravala, principal at ZK Research.
"Cisco is trying to make it possible for users to stop thinking about the concept of wired and wireless access. By creating a uniform consistent experience with users so they know what to expect. That's a big challenge for IT today. When users know what to expect they tend to be satisfied."
Balancing Security and Usability
As part of the BYOD announcement, Cisco updated its Identity Services Engine to version 1.1MR, which is scheduled to roll out this summer. The next iteration works to make it easier for users to self-provision their device without burdening IT.
Cisco is also working with several mobile-device management vendors to define policies that give IT more control over the endpoints, such as a pin lock, disallowing jailbroken devices and remotely wiping lost or stolen devices. The device-management integration will be available by the end of the year.
The Connected World Technology Report says 70 percent of employees worldwide admit that they break IT policies, with 1 in 5 citing the need to access unauthorized programs and applications to get their job done. A unified policy based on both the user needs and company needs will create a more secure work experience that supports employee and IT needs.
"Mobile communications traffic will continue to grow exponentially. This growth in traffic will strain wireless networks. It will require that enterprises and mobile communication service providers invest capital to improve network capacity, reliability, and manageability," said Paul DeBeasi, a research vice president at Gartner. "Enterprises should consider a comprehensive approach to BYOD that balances security, user experience, and supportability."