SAN JOSE, Calif. — It has taken a while to perfect the ability for mobile professionals to roam (and a lot of people would say perfection is still a long way in the distance), but companies like GRIC Communications and iPass try by letting their corporate subscribers get access to pre-approved and tested public Wi-Fi hotspots and other means of access.
But what do they do when they get back to the office? Usually they have to go back to connecting via a completely separate method than used on the road. iPass
said today that it’s changing that, offering instead a method for customers to use the same iPassConnect client software in the field and on the home campus for work.
“One thing we realized as we talked to customers over the last year about services like this is that we have a client on the desktop already and they’re using it around the world,” says Piero De Paoli, senior product manager at iPass. “Why not use it on the corporate network as well?”
The result is called iPass Wireless LAN Roaming, which the company calls an extension to the iPass Corporate Access service. With it, iPass will help customer IT departments set up client systems that can be used not only on the road but on the home LAN or WLAN as well. The software will use profiles to allow access to multiple networks.
De Paoli says the user benefits from having the same interface to connect with no matter their location. IT departments will be able to use iPass connect for authentication, but all the 802.1X and EAP-type configuration will be hidden from the user. Costs can stay down since the software is centrally managed and can thus be configured remotely.
Security is a key concern and the service will be combined with the company’s iPass Endpoint Policy Management (iEPM), which forces all clients to be set up a certain way before they can access the network. iEPM will force changes to the client before a person can log on. Other policies can be sent down to the client as well, including the auto-teardown of the connection if a VPN or firewall isn’t present.
Perhaps most interesting for IT will be the software’s use of Intelligent Online Quality (iOQ), a service iPass has that tracks real-time connection date, failed connects, good connects, error codes, and more. Generally this information was only for iPass, but customers using the Wireless LAN Roaming service will get access to this data about their own WLAN. Using such services will give them an idea of what areas of the network are used the most and the least so they can reconfigure as needed.
Any enterprise using a gateway unit such as those from Nomadix that supports the iPass General Interface Specification can use the Roaming service in the beginning, but they expect to add support for direct 802.1X eventually.
The service is currently beta testing but should be ready for corporate customers by January 2004.