Free Market Radius

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Over the holiday period I helped my mother-in-law setup her new Aruba Gigabit Instant AP. A gift that allows me to stream Premier League soccer matches to my MacBook Air at the same time my kids are streaming videos from Netflix and playing Minecraft.

The installation could not have been easier.  The network consisted of a cable modem, 8-port Gigabit Netgear switch, and the new Aruba Gigabit Instant AP. Three different vendors and everything just worked. How come things aren't this easy in enterprise networking?

The industry is full of standards, but multivendor interoperability is always a challenge. This is due in part to a vendor's ability to extend standards with specific attributes. A vendor's economic philosophy and willingness to do what's best for IT also plays a big part.

So when it comes to multivendor interoperability, I'm taking sides with Adam Smith and Vincent de Gournay and embracing free-markets. It's a far better world for IT without coercive monopolies and markets devoid of competition.

Aruba employs a free-market approach for enterprise mobility and ClearPass is a perfect example. ClearPass offers innovations in policy definition, guest access, device onboarding, and certificate management.

While each innovation is unique, one of the biggest differentiators is its vendor independence. ClearPass can be deployed with any vendor's wired, wireless or VPN products.

With over 100 built-in RADIUS dictionaries to support different vendor products, ClearPass eliminates the need for lengthy onsite professional services contracts and you don't need to purchase any additional infrastructure.

Unlike Aruba, Cisco takes a closed-market approach with its Identity Services Engine. This approach is tied to a single-vendor-network philosophy without the necessary market pressures that fuel innovation and keep prices inline.

Cisco will claim it's open and supports RADIUS, but it offers no built-in dictionaries to support third-party vendors. It also requires additional hardware, commonly referred to as "inline nodes," if you have any third-party products in your network.

In addition to increasing costs, this introduces yet another layer of complexity in your network that needs to be managed. It's simply a veiled attempt to lock enterprise IT into one vendor, exercise control over your buying decisions, and sell more networking gear.

And once you're locked in, you'll fall prey to the infamous Cisco Customer Loyalty Tax.

Whether you want to simply replace your end-of-life Cisco ACS servers or deploy a policy management system, ask yourself if you're ready to put free-markets filled with innovation and freedom of choice on ISE.