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Cisco to unveil Apple Bonjour gateway for enterprise WiFi networks

John Cox | July 24, 2012
Cisco plans to add code to its wireless LAN controllers to make Apple’s Bonjour-based technologies like AirPlay and AirPrint better behaved on enterprise networks.

On a Cisco WLAN, Apple clients will advertise for Bonjour services, just as they do now, says Chris Spain, vice president of product marketing for Ciscos wireless business unit. The Cisco access point then will tunnel those requests back to the WLAN controller, and match them with an inventory of available AirPrint printers, Apple TVs, iTunes libraries and the like on any subnet in the enterprise network. The controller identifies the user, matches the authenticated user with his or her access privileges and grants access to the requested Bonjour service or not, based on group policies. 

So faculty but not students might have access to Apple TVs in specific rooms, or to certain AirPrint printers.

Ciscos Webcast promotional page puts it this way: With the Cisco Bonjour Gateway, available in a future software update, the wireless controller will answer device service queries in proxy of the server. Once the client gets a response it can connect via layer 3. Now file servers, printers, video devices, or any Bonjour server device can be accessed across subnetsmaking it easy for users to access the services they need.

Spain says Cisco is currently testing the gateway to find out how and to what degree it can reduce Bonjour discovery traffic. In effect, with the intervening controller, every Bonjour request-response appears to the client device as a local, single-network transaction. Because the controller acts as a proxy for other Bonjour services on other subnets, it can minimize broadcasts, at least in theory.

We think the gateway will reduce the total amount of Bonjour traffic over the network, says Spain.

The Tuesday webcast will also demonstrate Ciscos application visibility and control (AVC) over wireless LANs. This software, which identifies specific applications based on deep packet inspection compared to a catalog of application signatures, has been around for years as part of Ciscos popular ISR routers and other products, especially to optimize relatively slower, shared resources like WAN links. This code is now being embedded on the Cisco WLAN controllers and given yet another Cisco acronym, NBAR, for Network Based Application Recognition.

By being able to see specific applications on the Wi-Fi links, the controller can then apply pre-determined policies to manage and optimize them. Voice or video applications, which are sensitive to jitter and latency, might be given priority treatment by the WLAN, for example. Or some applications, such as bandwidth hungry Netflix streaming video might be blocked; other applications might be given a specific bandwidth allocation.

Previously, Ciscos WLAN firmware had some limited ability to identify applications. But the inclusion of AVC will now make this broader, deeper, and more specific, and allow IT to associate more granular controls on specific applications, according to Spain.



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