There isn't an IT manager these days who hasn't dealt with the issue of integrating personal devices into the enterprise environment.
There's even a name and an acronym, natch, for it - Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). For knowledge workers, the idea of utilizing their own smartphones, tablets and the like seems like a win-win. They get the luxury of tailoring their work environment to suit their increasingly mobile lifestyles, while the organization sees higher productivity and lower capital costs.
Too bad the only thing standing in the way is an archaic network infrastructure, which for nearly 40 years has been designed to suit the stationary PC. Many organizations are looking to rectify this situation, but it won't happen overnight.
Part of the reason is that networking platforms have only just begun the shift toward a more diverse user environment. Juniper made headlines just this week with the introduction of new switching gear and other devices that cater to the BYOD market. The Simply Connected portfolio includes the EX2200, EX3200 and EX6200 switches that increase port densities and feature new fabric management capabilities designed to handle the plethora of available devices. There's also a new wireless LAN controller, the WC880, backed by new spectrum management software, and updates to the Junos operating system providing security support for Apple i devices.
Juniper isn't the only networking provider to get bitten by the BYOD bug, but it's the first to integrate the concept so deeply into its platform. Cisco offers tracking software for its wired and wireless systems to help keep an eye on who's using the network, while HP offers a mobile access portfolio. But as eWeek's Jeffrey Burt points out, enterprises are feeling increasing pressure to accommodate employee device preferences, which, quite often, are more advanced than company-issued units. Cisco itself predicts that by 2015, there will be 15 billion personal network devices in use, with the average U.S. citizen sporting no less than seven.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this trend represents a minefield for the enterprise, says InformationWeek's Michael J. Belak. Security, of course, tops the list, as organizations will have to take steps to prevent malware and viruses from a range of new sources, and then block data access from devices that are lost or stolen. BYOD is probably inevitable, so it's incumbent for organizations to establish clear policies up front as to how this new world is to be managed.
That doesn't automatically make it a threat, but it does mean that IT will have to rethink some basic assumptions about the roles and responsibilities of enterprise infrastructure.