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Converged Control

Management technology makes it possible to oversee wired and wireless networks from a single interface.

During his long tenure with the city of Tallahassee, Fla., Terry Baker has seen the IT infrastructure become an indispensable part of the work lives of city employees. Today, the city's 3,500 workers use a mix of wired technology (PCs and printers) and wireless technology (notebooks, smartphones and even iPads). Through it all, however, Enterasys has been the city's networking manufacturer of choice.

So when the company released a product that allowed Baker, technology infrastructure division administrator for the city's Department of Management and Administration, to manage the city's wired and wireless networking from one console, he leaped at the opportunity.

"We have been wanting to do this for a long time, not only from an administrative standpoint but from a security standpoint," he says. "It's a real time-waster to manage wire-bound and wireless systems separately." 

Thanks to advancements with the converged Enterasys solution, network management has improved dramatically. When Baker chooses to enforce a parameter, for example, it's enforced on every configuration, both wired and wireless.

Security has also been enhanced, Baker says. While the wired management system has always allowed his department to assign roles to users that dictated what parts of the system they could access, the wireless management system did not.

"We wanted to have the same role-based security that our wire-bound users have, which would increase the security of our system," he explains. "Whereas we used to have a network where anyone could connect and get access to anywhere, now users can't see or access anything until they fulfill certain requirements and we assign them a role."

Tool Time

The availability of converged network tools such as Enterasys' Network Management Suite (NMS), Aruba Networks' Mobile Virtual Enterprise (MOVE), Cisco Systems' Prime Network Control System and HP's FlexNetwork demonstrates a growing trend toward convergence and consolidation in all areas of technology.

"We're seeing convergence in virtualization, storage and other areas of technology, and it also makes sense in network management," says Frank Berry, CEO and senior analyst of IT Brand Pulse in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. "For network management, the benefits are obvious: It improves manageability and security while giving IT staff the tools they need to see what's happening to their traffic, from one end of the network to the other."

Easy Unification

For Alexandria, La.'s IT department, there was no particular driver that led to converged network management. Instead, it was a natural path from managing the city's Enterasys wired and wireless networks separately to managing them together with Enterasys' NMS.

Alexandria has a 22-square-mile wired Enterasys fiber network that provides voice and data services to 14 locations using Enterasys S-Series and C-Series switches. The wired network supports nearly 1,000 city employees on a 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbone. Additionally, the city installed an Enterasys wireless network, which currently has 46 access points. That number that will grow to several hundred as the city develops its public safety network, which will include all police cars, ambulances and fire and rescue vehicles.

The IT department originally managed the wired network with Enterasys' NetSight Console software. The IT staff also used the NetSight console software to manage the city's wireless network, with the addition of an Enterasys hardware device wireless controller and software from Siemens.

But when Enterasys introduced NMS, which allows true dual management, there was no hesitation.

"Everything was working really well before, but we saw being able to manage the two networks together from one integrated console as a real value-add," says Blake Rachal, assistant director of IS for the city. "I've got six employees here, and we manage 68 servers and the network, along with 700 users. Anything that makes our jobs easier is well worth it."

Rachal has seen several improvements since NMS was deployed. Adding and configuring APs is a snap, and intrusion detection has gotten better and faster. But the speed and ease of use make the biggest difference of all.

"It lets my guy sit at his desk and complete his task within a few hours so he can move on to the next thing, rather than having to get into the console and the wireless controller and deal with log files," he says. "It can literally shave days off some tasks."

As the city's wireless public safety network grows over the next five years, Rachal says unified network management will become even more valuable.

Tips for Making Converged Network Management Work   

  1. Configure the converged network management tool to meet users' needs as well the requirements of the existing infrastructure.
  2. Establish quality of service metrics from the beginning; measure such things as network quality and performance; delay, jitter, echo and packet loss; burst and gap metrics.
  3. Maintain enough capacity to handle the converged network now and for the next one to two years. The system should be scalable so that it can grow with the infrastructure.
  4. Determine what level of security risk is acceptable to both the network and its users, and balance that with other parameters, such as speed.
  5. Acquire in-house expertise to manage the converged network, and don't skimp on training.
Jul 06 2011

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