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Why one Cisco shop is willing to give WiFi startup Mist a shot

Bob Brown | June 30, 2016
Bowdoin College CIO tests Mist's WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy offerings to complement campus-wide Cisco WLAN

To get a little more specific about Mist's offerings, the Business Critical WiFi service boasts proactive network monitoring via predictive analytics and correlation (PACE). "Think of PACE  as an intelligent virtual assistant for networking, like IBM Watson for Healthcare," the company says. Additionally, dynamic packet capture is designed to cut down on the need to send engineers on site to conduct packet capture and debugging procedures.

The second service, virtual Bluetooth Low Energy (vBLE), allows for developers to build iPhone, etc., apps that interact with both virtual beacons via the Mist access point and Mist cloud services. This is where location-based services come in, determining where the mobile device is located at any time and what data might be useful to the device owner. Using Mist's SDK and APIs, an organization like Bowdoin could create or enhance an app like the one it envisions for the upcoming art show Davis cited.

ist has built its platform using open source cloud technologies such as Kafka, Storm, Spark and Cassandra, which are known for their scalability. Using these technologies, Mist claims its products and services can support millions of end points.

Cisco connections

Bowdoin's Davis became acquainted with Mist as a result of the school being a longtime Cisco customer and becoming familiar with Mist founders Hajela and Friday, and vice-versa. When those execs headed off on their new venture, their team asked Davis about the kinds of things he would be interested in seeing a startup tackle, and he mentioned improved geofencing controls to keep outsiders from accessing internal WiFi networks and the need for more efficient WLAN management, including the ability to better monitor traffic patterns.

Bowdoin is no stranger to working with startups, and Davis says his staff has the engineering talent to help new companies fine-tune and extend their offerings. While Davis says he could envision Bowdoin populating new buildings with Mist gear, if the technology pans out, the more immediate need might be for Mist modules designed for Cisco access points.

One big surprise for Davis, when he got his hands on the Mist access points, was to find an internet of things port on the devices. Bowdoin has as many as 100,000 sensors on campus, tracking everything from heat to water to fire, so further integrating such sensors - along with those for lights - into the wireless network would be a goal.

"[Mist is] thinking about a future that's coming, but undefined as of yet," he says.



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