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Updated:November 17, 2006
Introducing the Cisco Unified Wireless Network
® Unified Wireless Network is the industry's only unified wired and wireless solution that increases employee productivity, enhances collaboration, and improves responsiveness to customers while cost-effectively addressing the security, deployment, management, and control issues facing large-scale enterprise and commercial wireless LAN rollouts.
This award-winning solution is a fulfillment of
Cisco Motion, a holistic approach to business mobility that combines applications, devices, and the network as the platform to deliver industry-relevant mobility while simplifying deployment and reducing the burden on IT resources.
The Cisco Unified Wireless Network is designed for corporate and branch offices, hospitals, retail stores, manufacturing sites, warehouse environments, educational institutions, financial institutions, local and national government organizations, and any other location where mobile connectivity is needed. Designed as a multiservice solution, the Cisco Unified Wireless Network supports general wireless-enabled business applications such as e-mail, voice communications, and Internet access, as well as specialized applications such as nurse call systems, inventory management, retail point-of-sale, video surveillance, and many others. To facilitate integration with mobile business processes, the Cisco Unified Wireless Network supports a variety of mobility services to enhance security, voice, guest, client and context-aware services. In addition, Cisco works with a wide variety of tested and proven technology partners to deliver an even broader range of specialized applications targeted to different industries.
Based on industry standards such as IEEE 802.11, the Cisco Unified Wireless Network is an integrated end-to-end solution that addresses all layers of the wireless LAN, from client devices and access points to the network infrastructure, network management, delivery of advanced wireless services, and award-winning, worldwide, 24-hour product support.
The Cisco Unified Wireless Network includes the following primary components:
• Client devices: PC cards, Wi-Fi tags, and other client adapters that connect desktops, assets such as equipment or retail goods, and mobile devices to the wireless network.
– The Cisco Compatible Extensions program enables mobile client devices and Wi-Fi tags to simply and securely connect to a Cisco Unified Wireless Network for optimal performance.
– The Cisco Secure Services Client is a software supplicant that enables businesses of all sizes to deploy a single authentication framework across multiple device types to access both wired and wireless networks, delivering simplified management, robust security, and lower total cost of ownership.
• Access points: Cisco Aironet® access points and bridges that connect wireless devices to wired networks, providing ubiquitous network access.
• Network unification components: A variety of platforms, such as wireless LAN controllers, integrated switches, and routers, that deliver comprehensive wireless network services such as dynamic RF management and self-configuration.
• Network management tools: Cost-effective tools that provide a complete view of the wireless LAN network for easier planning, configuration, and management from a central location.
• Mobility services: An open mobility services platform delivers mobility services to enable mobile business applications.
– Context-Aware mobility: Provide real-time contextual information about mobile assets to help increase an organizations' efficiency and support immediate access to information such as location, temperature, and device availability to help businesses make informed decisions.
– Adaptive wIPS: Protect the wired and wireless network from wireless threats through comprehensive detection and mitigation of known and unknown threats and proactive threat prevention that is designed into the network.
– Secure Client Manager: Centrally provision, monitor, update, and assist with troubleshooting of devices whether they are connected on wired or wireless networks.
– Mobile Intelligent Roaming: Deliver transparent handoff of mobile business communications allowing users to roam transparently between cellular and Wi-Fi networks when using a dual-mode device.
– Guest access services: Allow customers, vendors, and other non-employees to access wired and wireless network resources without compromising enterprise security, by basing privileges on user type and physical location.
– Security services: Unified wired and wireless security helps ensure network information integrity by enabling location-based authentication and precise detection, identification, and prevention of wireless threats.
– Voice services: Extend the mobility of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network to enable business communications using Wi-Fi-enabled clients and Wi-Fi- and cellular-compatible smart phones with end-to-end quality of service (QoS) and manageability.
Figure 1 shows the components of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network solution.
Figure 1. The Cisco Unified Wireless Network Components
Manageable and Scalable
Award-winning Cisco management allows from several to thousands of local and remote access points to be configured and monitored simply and efficiently. Automatic recognition of new access points results in correct configuration, helping to ensure that remote offices are applying
the same security protocols as large campuses. Centralized management relieves network administrators of once-manual tasks, enabling the wireless network to scale as quickly as is needed.
Available and Reliable
Cisco automatic RF management supports wireless LAN controller clustering for redundancy and intelligent network monitoring to help ensure a highly available wireless LAN. Upon failure of an access point, the adjacent access points automatically compensate, increasing their radio power to reduce or eliminate coverage holes. To provide a better end-user experience, the Cisco Unified Wireless Network uses an intelligent algorithm that associates new users with the best access point based on a combination of traffic load and signal strength.
Many Cisco customers have purchased Cisco Aironet access points that operate autonomously, that is, without benefit of centralized management from a Cisco Wireless LAN Controller and the Cisco Unified Wireless Network feature set. To protect customers' investment, autonomous (also called standalone) Aironet access points can be upgraded via a free software upgrade to support the Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP), which is needed for the unified solution. Autonomous access points are based on Cisco IOS
® Software and may be upgraded in the field to lightweight mode, using Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) or manually, thereby providing customers with a smooth path from core to unified features.
The Cisco Unified Wireless Network feature set is delivered by lightweight access points, wireless LAN controllers, and the Cisco WCS management solution and delivers the most comprehensive set of capabilities in the industry, including guest access, wireless intrusion detection and intrusion prevention, scalable Layer 3 roaming, and context-aware services. See
"Why Migrate to Wireless Network?" for more details.
Cisco Client Devices
The Cisco Aironet Wireless LAN Client Adapters quickly connect desktop and mobile computing devices to the wireless LAN in 802.11a/b/g/n-compliant networks. For additional form factors and operating systems, Cisco has teamed up with industry leaders to provide the Cisco Compatible Extensions program. At the same time, the Cisco Unified Wireless IP Phone 7921 delivers high-quality voice and data applications to enterprise desktops. Table 1 provides information about these products and the Cisco Compatible Extensions program.
Table 1. Cisco Client Devices
Cisco Aironet Client Adapters
• Cisco Aironet IEEE 802.11a/b/g CardBus Wireless LAN Client Adapters: For laptops and tablet PCs
• Cisco Aironet IEEE 802.11a/b/g PCI Wireless LAN Client Adapters: For low-profile slim desktop and point-of-sale devices
• Cisco Aironet 5-GHz, 54-Mbps Wireless LAN Client Adapters (CB20A): For 802.11a-only wireless connectivity
• High-performance 802.11a/b/g wireless connectivity for untethered access to network resources, the Internet, and e-mail
• Supported by 802.11n networks as an 802.11a/b/g client
• Supported by 802.11n networks as an 802.11a client
Unless otherwise noted, all Cisco Aironet access points are available in a lightweight or standalone version. Standalone access points may be upgraded using a free sofware upgrade to lightweight mode to work with a wireless LAN controller and take advantage of the full benefits of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network.
Indoor rugged access points feature a rugged metal case, extended operating temperature, and external antenna versatility, providing an extended range and flexible installation options for RF environments such as factories, warehouses, and retailers.
Indoor access points feature integrated antennas and an aesthetically pleasing case for easy deployment in offices and similar facilities.
Wireless mesh access points and outdoor rugged access points offer high-speed, cost-effective, and secure wireless connectivity between multiple fixed or mobile networks or for metropolitan networks or enterprise campuses.
Table 2 lists ordering information for these Cisco Aironet access points.
As components of the
Cisco Unified Wireless Network, Cisco wireless LAN controllers present network administrators with the visibility and control necessary to effectively and securely manage business-class WLANs and work with the Cisco Mobility Services Engine (MSE) and Cisco WCS to deliver mobility services.
The main differences between Cisco wireless LAN controllers are in their capacities and form factors. All the Cisco wireless LAN controllers used in the Cisco Unified Wireless Network architecture offer the features described in Table 3.
Table 3. Features and Benefits of Cisco Wireless LAN Controllers
Scalable architecture provides business-critical wireless services for locations of all sizes.
Integrated Radio Resource Management (RRM)
Creates an intelligent RF control plane for self-configuration, self-healing, and self-optimization.
The system can be deployed without the need to modify existing routing and switching infrastructures, and without configuring access points.
Flexible security policies adapt to changing corporate security needs. Intrusion detection, location, and containment preserve the integrity of wireless networks and protect sensitive corporate information.
Intersubnet roaming without special client software facilitates device management. No changes to core routing infrastructure makes roaming easy.
Automated recovery from lightweight access point and wireless LAN controller failures maximizes the availability of the wireless network.
Intuitive management interfaces
Better visibility and control of the air space reduces operational costs.
Table 4 lists ordering information for Cisco wireless LAN controllers.
Table 4. Ordering Information for Cisco Wireless LAN Controllers
Wireless LAN Controllers
Cisco 4400 Series Wireless LAN Controller
• Modular support of 12, 25, 50, or 100 Cisco Aironet access points
• The Cisco 4402 with 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports supports configurations for 12, 25, and 50 access points
• The Cisco 4404 with 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports supports configurations for 100 access points
• IEEE 802.1D Spanning Tree Protocol for higher availability
• IPSec encryption
• Industrial-grade resistance to electromagnetic interferences (EMI)
• LIC-WLC-VOICE=-Voice over WLAN license for Wireless LAN controller
• LIC-WLC-CAS=-Context-Aware Mobility license for Wireless LAN controller
Cisco Mobility Services
The Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE) is an open platform that provides a new approach for the delivery of mobility services to enable mobile business applications. A combination of hardware and software, the Mobility Services Engine is an appliance-based solution that supports a suite of Cisco Mobility Services to provide centralized and scalable service delivery. Cisco Mobility Services are a set of value-added network services that consolidate intelligence from various points in the network to enable and optimize the delivery of business mobility applications. The Cisco Context-Aware Mobility software is a mobility service and integrates with the Cisco Unified Wireless Network to capture and integrate into business processes detailed contextual information such as location, temperature, availability, and applications used.
Although the MSE and context-aware mobility software are recommended, the Cisco Wireless Location Appliance is an alternate option for simultaneously tracking Wi-Fi devices from within the WLAN infrastructure. Table 5 lists ordering information for the Mobility Services Engine, Context-Aware Software and the Wireless Location Appliance.
Table 5. Ordering Information for the Mobility Services Engine, Context-Aware Software and the Wireless Location Appliance
Cisco Mobility Services Engine
Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine
Extensible platform for rapid delivery of services and applications
• Allows the abstraction of services and applications from control and network so that each may evolve independently
• Common framework for hosting multiple mobility services
• Open API to support third-party and partner application development
Offers scalability as multiple services can be deployed on a single Mobility Services Engine or a single servicecan span multiple Mobility Services Engines.
The CiscoWorks WLSE and CiscoWorks WLSE Express support standalone access points and standalone WLAN bridges.
Cisco WCS is a component of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network. Cisco WCS supports Cisco Aironet lightweight access points and Cisco wireless LAN controllers. With Cisco Unified Wireless Network Software Release 4.2 and later, Cisco WCS also supports status and alarm monitoring of Cisco Aironet standalone access points and includes a built-in tool that simplifies the process to migrate these access points to operate as lightweight access points. Feature development on the Cisco WCS will continue at an accelerated rate in conjunction with the release of new features for the Cisco wireless LAN controller family.
Large-scale deployments can also add the
Cisco WCS Navigator for enhanced scalability, manageability, and visibility of large-scale implementations of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network. This powerful, software-based solution gives network administrators cost-effective, easy access to information from multiple, geographically dispersed Cisco WCS management platforms.
Table 6 lists ordering information for WCS, CiscoWorks WLSE and CiscoWorks WLSE Express.
Table 6. Ordering Information for WCS, CiscoWorks WLSE and CiscoWorks WLSE Express
Wireless Network Management
Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS)
• Industry's leading platform for wireless LAN planning, configuration, management, and troubleshooting
• Manages Cisco wireless LAN controllers, Cisco Aironet access points, Cisco outdoor mesh access points and the Cisco Wireless Location Appliance
• Monitors and migrates Cisco Aironet standalone access points
• Supports up to 3000 lightweight access points, 1250 standalone access points, and 750 wireless LAN controllers
• Design, control, and monitor the enterprise wireless network from a centralized location
• Hierarchical maps
• Policy management templates
• Centralized software upgrades
• Integrated location tracking (optional)
• Centralized management of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network
• Simplified migration of standalone (autonomous) access points to operate as lightweight access points
• For businesses deploying mobility services
• Easily add support for location services with Wireless Location Appliance
• Aggregated platform for enhanced scalability, manageability, and visibility of large-scale implementations of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network
• Cost-effective, easy access to information from up to 20 geographically dispersed Cisco WCS management platforms and up to 30,000 Cisco Aironet lightweight access points from a single management console