Extreme takes aim at secure mobile networking

Extreme Networks is going mobile. The company today wheeled out a roadmap that will steer the company's product line toward mobile device and application access, availability and management support.

The idea is for the company to catch businesses' shift to mobile devices by customizing networks to meet the demands of the devices, mobile applications and corporate security, the company says in announcing its plan at the Enterprise Connect conference on unified communications this week.

IN DEPTH: How Extreme did in our test of 10G bps Ethernet switches

The initiative, called Make Your Network Mobile, is divided into five phases. The first is defined by Extreme products as they exist today, and the fifth is marked by its switches having intelligence about users' identities and the devices they are using in order to enforce access and service quality policies uniformly across and among entire networks.

Phase 2, which will roll out during the course of this year, calls for providing identity management tools that can determine who users are, what device they are using and what resources they are authorized to use.

The tools will make it possible to enforce these rules, but not end-to-end, says David Ginsburg, the company's new senior vice president of strategic marketing. Networks in this phase will be marked by pockets identity awareness only, he says, and switch ports that will be configured automatically based on policies.

These pockets will be tied together in Phase 3, which Ginsburg says will start rolling out in 2012, and will involve adding a policy and control layer to network management to provide identity management features. This will likely be achieved by partnering for a policy-management layer in its software.

This phase will also include efforts to flatten Extreme's data-center architecture from five tiers to three, he says. This includes pulling virtual switch functionality away from hypervisors and putting it into Extreme's top-of-rack switches.

The company also says it will boost the density of data center switches later this year in an effort to combine the aggregation and core switching tiers into one, according to Ginsburg. He says the company will look to other hardware vendors to provide gear that enables top-of-rack switches to interface with a dispersed switching fabric within the data center.

Phase 4 brings this identity management into cloud infrastructures, so if a business application on a virtual machine in a private network migrated to a server in a cloud network, end users would automatically be able to reach the new instance of the application without knowing about the move, he says.

In the final phase, identity management will be extended to mobile carrier networks that use Extreme's recently announced E4G mobile backhaul routers. So mobile customers using 4G networks will be able to receive tiered bandwidth services.

Upgrades to specific products that will roll out this year include adding black and white lists to Extreme's Identity Manager software. It will also support creation of security zones defined by IP and MAC addresses and subnet. These zones can be associated with policies, so, for example, a guest could be denied access to an internal zone.

The company plans to expand its support for the virtual Ethernet port aggregator standards as they develop. VEPA enables physical switches to take on the role of virtual switches, and Extreme will expand its support to more vendors of NICs and servers.

It will also add support for Microsoft's Hyper-V virtual environment and support dynamic VLAN assignments.

The product direction was drawn up Ginsburg at the behest of its new CEO Oscar Rodriguez. Rodriguez joined the company last August and he hired Ginsburg in December. The two go back to working at Riverstone Networks, which was late acquired by Alcatel-Lucent.

Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.

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