Cisco Extends Wi-Fi for Home Office Workers

By Sean Michael Kerner

March 24, 2011

OfficeExtend architecture debuts from Cisco for 'zero-touch' deployment of an extended enterprise.

Regular consumer-grade Wi-Fi access points aren't always enough to provide secure remote access to enterprise IT infrastructure.

Cisco this week announced a new wireless access point solution as part of its Office Extend architecture. The new Cisco Aironet 600 Series OfficeExtend Access Points are intended to provide remote home workers with the same type of enterprise access they'd get within the corporate office.

"Many people simply deploy consumer grade access points in the home, but what Cisco has realized is that there is a need to replicate the office experience, " Sylvia Hooks, senior manager, mobility marketing told InternetNews.com.

Hooks explained that for an end-user, the Aironet 600 Series OfficeExtend is intended to be a zero touch, always-on access point. The goal is for the home office worker to simply plug the access point in and have it work. The configuration of the access point and its connectivity to corporate infrastructure is something that does however need to be set up by an enterprise's IT staff.

The Aironet 600 is a simultaneous dual-band access point providing both 2.4 and 5 Ghz radios. Hooks noted that by having a simultaneous radio, one can be used for personal use, while the other can be dedicated for corporate access, using separate SSIDs.

The Aironet 600 tunnels back to a Cisco controller at the enterprise with an IPsec VPN tunnel that enables the office-like experience. Hooks noted that enterprise access and authentication are extended across the VPN without the need for additional end-user configuration.

From a performance perspective, there is no acceleration applied to the VPN traffic, though according to Cisco, the encryption done on the traffic introduces only minimal overhead. The tunneled traffic is supposed to be able to operate at the same speed that is provided by the user's home ISP.

While the Aironet 600 provides security for the enterprise traffic, securing the personal side of the network is still up to the home users.

"We're not applying any security over and above what you already have," Hooks said. "This is really providing access in terms of wireless and isn't providing any additional security."

The Aironet 600 also is intended for the specific use-case of home teleworkers and doesn't provide all the same benefits as Cisco's full enterprise call access points. Clean Air, which is Cisco's spectrum analysis technology is one such enterprise feature that is not part of the Aironet 600.

"At this price point and performance profile you're not getting the full benefit of all our enterprise services," Hooks said. "We're optimizing this for the home user and pricing it so IT can roll it out to teleworkers, so we're not building in some of the enterprise class features that you'd need in a large deployment."

"This is one access point connecting back to headquarters," Hooks added.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.



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