It may surprise you to learn that guest access is one of the most widely deployed application for wireless LANs. According to a report—Wireless LAN, State-of-the-Market—published by Kubernan in June of this year, guest access is third (64 percent of survey respondents), after e-mail (82 percent) and primary staff Internet and intranet connectivity (80 percent).
But apparently this wasn’t a surprise to developers at Trapeze Networks. Today, the vendor of centrally managed Wi-Fi infrastructure unveiled SmartPass, a brand new, built-from-the-ground-up software package to centralize, rationalize, and facilitate the management of access for enterprise visitors.
“Guest access provides an on-ramp to the corporate network that most organizations have failed to lock down and control, putting critical networked resources at risk,” said Jim Vogt, Trapeze president and CEO. “With this new solution, enterprises for the first time can efficiently and effectively mitigate the risk of network misuse by unauthorized users, resulting in the safest, most scalable approach to deploying and managing guest access.”
The rapid proliferation of Wi-Fi-enabled mobile Internet devices—which continuously seek out and connect to any available Wi-Fi network—is quickly exacerbating an already serious problem. According to Stan Schatt, vice president of Network Research at ABI Research, “Mobile Internet devices will experience explosive growth over the next five years.” ABI forecasts more than three 3 million mobile Internet devices will ship in 2008, swelling to 90 million units shipped by 2012. Schatt points out that not all of these devices will support IEEE 802.11i security standards or endpoint secure clients. “That means it will be critical that these devices have limited access to corporate networking resources,” he said.
According to David Cohen, Trapeze director of product marketing, the design specs for SmartPass take direct aim at several critical deficiencies of previously available guest access apps—such as limited scalability, the need to manually enter guest data directly onto individual (and often, multiple) network controllers, the need for professional IT staff to actually provision passes, and the inadequate granularity of guest pass definition parameters.
By storing guest pass data in a single, centralized database, Trapeze killed the first two of these birds with one stone. Cohen told Wi-Fi Planet.com that SmartPass is able to handle up to 10,000 guests at any given time—which makes it suitable for applications like provisioning student access in a university setting. With SmartPass in place, each distributed WLAN controller around the network queries the SmartPass server, eliminating the need to enter data multiple times.
Centralizing the database has the added benefit of enabling centralized logging, reporting, tracking, auditing, and management of guest activity. SmartPass also includes self-maintenance features, such as automatic purging of guest credentials after their expiration.
SmartPass’s provisioning interface makes it simple for the logical staff members—receptionists and admin assistants, say, as opposed to busy IT personnel—not only to log in guest credentials, but to be highly specific about durations, times of day, days of week, relation to business hours, and the like.
With a few clicks of a mouse, for example, a visiting consultant could be provisioned for guest access between noon and end of business for each of the next three Thursdays.
A bulk-provisioning feature lets personnel create large numbers of accounts from an existing database in one operation—which facilitates events like conferences, and eases setup for big organizations, like large enterprises, schools, and hospital campuses.
An API will allow the integration of SmartPass with other systems, such as a hospitality guest registry application.
SmartPass officially ships today, and is actually available, according to Cohen. There is a 30-day demo version available for free. The Base license, supporting up to 50 guests sells for US $595. The Enterprise version, supporting 10,000, and including the API and bulk provisioning is US $1,990.