Cisco Sets Wireless In 'Motion' With New Mobility Appliance

Cisco Systems Wednesday unveiled Cisco Motion, a new open wireless networking initiative and product launch that aims to bring advanced mobility services to its customers.

Cisco Motion and its accompanying Partner Motion channel program are built around a new product, Cisco's 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE). The appliance, which sits on a controller-based wireless LAN, provides software-based services such as wireless asset tracking, wireless intrusion prevention, security management and seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Cisco is opening the appliance's API to ISVs and other technology partners so that they can integrate with and build applications for Cisco MSE.

"Mobility applications typically run over the network, but there are a lot of places where they can run with the network," said Ben Gibson, senior director of mobility solutions at Cisco, San Jose, Calif., describing Cisco MSE an appliance designed for heavy processing, high memory and high storage.

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Gaining access to more network information improves the performances of wireless services such as enterprise fixed-mobile convergence, said Pejman Roshan, vice president of marketing and co-founder of Agito Networks, Sunnyvale, Calif., which has integrated its RoamAnywhere Mobility Router with Cisco MSE. RoamAnywhere provides seamless hand-off of phone calls between an enterprise wireless network and public cellular networks.

"We can only see what's going on with the access point we're connected to. If the other access point has a high load, we might not be able to hand over the call to it. MSE would be able to tell us, and we could make the decision on whether to move to cellular earlier than we would have because we've got new information from the network," Roshan said.

Solution providers focusing simply on wireless technology might be missing the boat, said Nadeem Ahmad, director of global technology at Dimension Data, a solution provider in Reston, Va.

"The key point is that wireless technology is not the show alone. The show is how you use it to provide mobile services to improve productivity and process efficiencies," Ahmad said. "What Cisco is doing is spot-on."

NEXT: Out Of The Gate With New Software Modules

Cisco has built four software modules for MSE, with plans to develop more itself and add others from third-party ISVs. The first module, scheduled for availability in June, is Cisco Context-Aware Software, which was co-developed with AeroScout. It uses the WLAN to pull data from sensors, mobile devices and RFID tags to track the location of hardware, medical equipment and other assets.

Cisco already offers the 2700 Series Wireless Location Appliance, but MSE can now provide improved functionality, Gibson said. MSE measures the timing of when a signal leaves a tag to when it hits an access point, giving more accurate location information and improved performance vs. measuring radio signal strength and using triangulation, the method utilized by the Wireless Location Appliance, he said. "We would recommend migrating to MSE. It opens a lot of adjacent applications and market opportunities that the 2700 wasn't able to address," Gibson said.

Two other modules, Cisco Adaptive Wireless Intrusion Prevention System and Cisco Mobile Intelligent Roaming Solution, are scheduled to ship in the second half of 2008. The former integrates wireless threat detection, mitigation, vulnerability scanning and performance monitoring into the wireless network, while the latter, built in collaboration with Agito, enables dual-mode phone users to jump seamlessly between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

A fourth module, Cisco Secure Client Manager Software, provides central management for 802.1x security solutions and is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2009.

Cisco MSE is priced starting at $19,995 and is scheduled to ship in June.

On the channel front, Cisco's Partner Motion program aims to support solution providers in building successful mobility practices. It incorporates sales tools and financial rewards such as Cisco's Value Incentive Program rebate initiative to encourage channel partners to migrate their customer bases to the latest wireless technologies, including 802.11n. "Early interest and early shipments [of products based on the draft version of 802.11n] have exceeded our expectations," Gibson said.

Cisco also wants its partners to integrate wireless technology with mobility services, such as those incorporated in the MSE launch, and add applications for vertical customers in areas such as healthcare, retail, education and government.

Only solution providers that have earned a Cisco wireless specialization can sell MSE, Gibson said.