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Cisco pushes mobility

At annual customer pep rally, concept of letting users connect to network from any device, anywhere is front and center.

LAS VEGAS--Mobility has become a key focus for Cisco Systems.

At the company's annual customer pep rally here this week, where nearly 10,000 of Cisco's customers and partners came together to hear about the company's vision for the future, the concept of giving users the ability to connect to the network from any device and from any location was front and center.

"We are a mobility company," said Alan Cohen, senior director of product management for Cisco's Wireless Networking Business Unit. "Wireless and mobility are top initiatives for Cisco."

As part of this focus, the company announced on Tuesday a new appliance, the Cisco Catalyst 3750g, and a major software revision, version 4 of its Unified Wireless Network software, that are designed to make managing and deploying wireless networks easier. It also added new features meant to improve safety and security.

Cisco has been in the wireless LAN (local area network) market for several years. And last year it added technology and gear from the acquisition of Airespace, a small wireless start-up based in Silicon Valley. Since then, Cisco has taken the lead in the wireless LAN market and has about 60 percent market share.

Wireless is already considered one of Cisco's Advanced Technologies, a name given to product segments that the company expects to generate $1 billion in revenue over the next five to seven years. But executives say that, going forward, mobility will play an even more prominent role in the company's strategy, as more customers cut the cord on their networks.

"Increasingly, customers of all sizes are understanding the business case for mobility," Cohen said.

One of the key benefits of mobility for businesses is that it allows people to communicate with one another and access information more efficiently. But providing mobility is not just about offering additional ways for employees to access the network using laptop computers. New dual-mode mobile phones that switch between the corporate Wi-Fi network when at work and a cellular network when outside the office are also coming to market.

Lester Lewis, the network and telecommunications manager for Clark County Nevada, said that allowing users to connect wirelessly to a new IP network built using Cisco equipment for the county's judicial system is essential.

"We don't deliver services to places," he said. "We deliver them to people. A device that used to be just a cell phone is no longer just a phone. It's a potential access node that we have to support on the network."