Monday, October 29, 2007

Six technologies to enhance mobile workers and take the pain out of managing them..continued part 3

4. Network Access Control

Network Access Control (NAC) is not a product but a security framework for dealing with mobile laptop users who have intermittent connections to the corporate WAN and therefore often have out-of-date patches and updates, unauthorized software, and/or spyware and malware issues. When these laptops reconnect to the corporate LAN or WAN they can introduce malware to the network. That’s where NAC comes in. NAC scans machines before allowing them to join the network and uses standard policies to check for irregularities. If a machine doesn’t meet the network’s security requirements it is put into quarantine and either automatically updated until it meets minimum requirements or given reduced privileges and access until an IT administrator can deal with it.

This technology should really be at the top of this list; however, since its broad launch by multiple vendors in 2006 it has received only tepid interest from IT departments. The lack of interest is due to in large part to the lack of standardization in the industry. Cisco has its own version called Network Admissions Control. Microsoft has its version called Networks Access Protection. There’s also the Trusted Network Connect (TNC) specification, which is an open source implementation of NAC. Then you also have vendors such as LANDesk, Juniper, and Symantec that have their own NAC products or integrate NAC-like functionality into existing products. While multiple vendors have worked on interoperability, the real momentum for NAC isn’t likely to begin until there is an industry standard. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering as a tool to help manage mobile users.

5. Riverbed WAN acceleration

One of the hottest products in the enterprise mobility market has nothing to do with smartphones or laptops - although it can be a huge asset to both of them. The product is the Riverbed Steelhead appliance for accelerating data transfers and application performance over the WAN, and it has grown from a handful of deployments back in 2004 to 10,000 unit deployments in 2007.

Using its own Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS), the Linux-based Steelhead appliances work as transparent caching devices that allow enterprises to avoid redundantly transferring the same data over and over again. Instead, only the latest changes to the data are transferred over the WAN, and the result is the experience of LAN-like transfer speeds over the WAN. The graph below shows the multiples of accleration that Riverbed says its customers can expect.

Now, in addition to the standard WAN product (aimed mostly at branch office acceleration), Riverbed also offers Steelhead Mobile, which can be installed on laptops and provide direct acceleration for mobile users.

One of the strengths of the Steelhead products is that companies don’t have to rip out a bunch of equipment and replace it. They typically just drop in the Riverbed appliances between their routers and switches, and install the mobile client software on the laptops where they want to accelerated performance. Cisco and Juniper are hot on Riverbed’s heels in the WAN acceleration market, but neither of the two networking giants nor the rest of the networking industry has been able to catch Riverbed yet.

6. Verizon Wireless Field Force Manager

Using a combination of GPS, a Web-based application, and a mobile handset application, Field Force Manager from Verizon Wireless provides businesses with a system to track and dispatch remote and mobile workers. The software includes rich GPS mapping, job scheduling and dispatch, driving directions for employees, fleet maps, location directory, electronic timecards, worker status indicators, data capture and collection, and exception alerts.

Clearly, this solution is applicable to a specific set of organizations that have mobile workers out in the field as part of their core business, and is aimed at solving the challenges associated with that business scenario. Specifically, the goals are to increase response time to customer inquiries, reduce paperwork and phone calls, and increase worker productivity and efficiency.

This type of system would typically be very expensive to purchase and deploy. However, Verizon offers it as an end-to-end service with three tiers of functionality and businesses pay per handset. For more, check out the online demo of Field Force Manager.

coutesy @TechRepublic

1 comment:

Justin Lofton said...

Stick with Riverbed for accelerating applications. They are the best of breed solution out there in my opinion. I have a lot of comparison data on all the competitors if anyone is interested. Forrester, Gartner, etc...

Justin Lofton
Systems Engineer
Tredent Data Systems, Inc.
WAN Optimization Specialists