Apple/Cisco deal long on promises, short on details


Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers, left, and Apple CEO Tim Cook at Cisco's Global Sales Experience Conference in Las Vegas, where they announced a mobile enterprise partnership on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.

Credit: Cisco Systems

The partnership could tie iPhones more tightly to workplace networks, but there's no timeline yet


Enterprises will be able to give their most important iOS apps priority and route voice calls over their own networks through the partnership that Cisco Systems and Apple announced today.

However, when asked for details, a Cisco spokeswoman provided InfoWorld only generalities such as a "fast lane" for iOS devices on Cisco networks and better user experience on Cisco's videoconferencing systems. Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, called the announcement "all generalities."

In a followup news conference, the companies said they want to combine mobile and traditional enterprise technologies to help people work better. But they're not saying when that vision's going to hit the streets.

Cisco and Apple can integrate mobile devices and apps more tightly with enterprise networks because each company supplies both hardware and software, according to Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration group. "We can move beyond what just a normal app developer could do," he said.

A key part of the companies' plan is to bring iPhone business calls onto corporate networks, where they can be tracked and logged the way calls from desk phones are now for purposes like security and regulatory compliance. This kind of integration hasn't been possible before, Trollope said. Users can better count on good connections over a private network than on a typical cellular network, too, he said, though the companies also plan to bring benefits to carrier networks.

Looking further out, there are at least a couple of ways Cisco says the partners can boost mobile performance for iOS devices in the workplace. For one thing, they would be able to prioritize data traffic by application. For example, on a hospital network, a doctor's videoconference with a patient on an iPad would get priority over a cat video being sent by a patient in the next room, so the videoconference would stream normally. 

There will also be ways to detect and streamline demanding data flows on the network, like big software updates or content that every student in a classroom has to download. Those could involve caching the content in storage that's built into the network near the users requesting it, Trollope said. Keeping data nearby cuts down on the number of packets going through routers and switches deeper in the network. 

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