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New Cisco Architecture Attempts To Redefine Access

'Secure Borderless Networks' promises easy, secure access from anywhere at any time
SAN FRANCISCO -- RSA Conference 2010 -- Cisco Systems today promised to create a network environment that enables users to securely log in using any device, from anywhere, using a simple, common, nearly-transparent access method.

The new architecture, called Secure Borderless Networks (SBN), is Cisco's attempt to move the complexities of remote and local access deeper into the network so that end users no longer have to use very different access processes for different devices or remote locations. It also recognizes the inevitability of a wide variety of handheld and portable devices being added to the corporate network.

"It doesn't matter where you are or what device you're using," says Tom Gillis, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Security Technology business unit. "It just works."

As a first step toward the new architecture, Cisco today is rolling out Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility, a package of enhanced products that redefines the company's approach to mobile access and virtual private networks.

The product bundle centers around AnyConnect 2.5, a small bit of software that contains a connection manager that logs the user onto the corporate network in a common fashion from any location. "It's always on and always running" on any device, including a variety of smartphones, Gillis says.

AnyConnect 2.5's secure access is enabled by Cisco's Adaptive Security Appliance 8.3, a security gateway that provides a common access point for a wide variety of systems and devices.

The third piece of the package is the Cisco IronPort S-Series, which is being merged with the recently acquired ScanSafe software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering to provide a SaaS-based method of access control that can distinguish between different types of applications, giving the user a common method of accessing the data that he is authorized to use.

Cisco also says it has enhanced its TrustSec strategy to offer identity management and granular control over policy to maximize persistent security from any location. TrustSec, which now includes Cisco Network Admission Control (NAC) and Identity-Based Networking Services (IBNS), offers integrated device profiling and guest access services for 802.1X environments.

"The idea is to simplify the creation and enforcement of access policy so that it's built less around devices and more around you, the user," Gillis says. "What we're doing is introducing a set of higher-level constructs that works on top of the existing infrastructure and policies so that you can express a policy that's independent of the device."

Gillis says he has been alpha-testing the new technology on the Cisco internal network, using a variety of handheld and desktop devices. "What it means for me as a user is that I no longer think about where I am -- whether I'm on the corporate network or on the VPN. It just works."

Gillis walked through a scenario in which he was able to make a smooth transition between voice, video and a variety of applications, using a variety of devices, from multiple locations -- all without having to log onto the network more than once.

The AnyConnect Secure Mobility bundle, which is the first step toward that scenario, will be delivered by the end of the second quarter.

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