Network administrators at enterprises with mobile employees who move between multiple kinds of networks will be able to set policies to control that usage with the next version of NetMotion Wireless Inc.'s NetMotion Mobility software, which was announced Monday.
For each type of network, those policies will be able to control which applications employees can use and whether they can access servers, according to Paul Brickel, senior product manager at NetMotion in Seattle. That can improve employees' productivity by blocking slow downloads and non-work-related uses, as well as saving the enterprise money on precious cellular data bandwidth, said Steve Cullen, NetMotion president and chief executive officer.
The proliferation of networks available to employees at work and on the road raises questions for network managers about securing data and maintaining worker productivity while keeping costs low, Brickel said. NetMotion's software is designed to make it easier for users to roam among networks, including wired LANs, wireless LANs, cellular networks and dial-up access, and for administrators to manage the use of those networks. Among other things, it lets employees keep network-dependent applications running as they roam from a wireless LAN in the office to a cellular network such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) outside.
Until now, NetMotion Mobility has left the door open to users running any application on any kind of network connection. With version 5.0, NetMotion is introducing an optional add-on module for policy management that will let IT managers control what employees can do on each kind of network.
For example, an administrator may not mind if employees surf the Web on a wireless LAN in the office because that network has plenty of bandwidth. However, if that employee leaves the office and switches over to a GPRS card on the same notebook, downloading pages may hog bandwidth that the mobile operator charges for on a per-bit basis. The administrator could write a policy that says HTTP can't be run on the GPRS connection, Brickel said.
Likewise, to meet security requirements, a policy could be set to prevent access to a sensitive internal application via wireless LAN, he said.
Once they have been set on a server, policies are sent out to devices, so they can be enforced there and traffic doesn't have to traverse the network to a server before a decision is made, Brickel said. Policies can be set for a whole class of devices or for classes of employees and customized for individuals, or set specifically for one user.
If a device is stolen, administrators will be able to remotely set a policy on that device that says it can't access any networks, Brickel said.
The city of Brea, California, is testing NetMotion Mobility 5.0 in hopes of saving money on a 3G CDMA (third-generation Code Division Multiple Access) mobile data service for which it will be charged per bit beyond a maximum monthly amount of data. Brea's police and fire departments already are using NetMotion Mobility to meet encryption and addressing requirements on the CDMA system, which is in the final stages of live testing, said Greg Walters, radio frequency specialist for the city. Brea also provides the IT systems of police departments in nine other cities.
"We don't want to give these guys unlimited access to everything out there, because it could cost us dearly," Walters said.
Policies set up with the module in version 5.0 could prevent patrol officers from consuming too much bandwidth with uses such as Web browsing, Walters said. For example, a policy could keep officers from using notebook PCs in their patrol cars for surfing the Web at all, or allow them to visit just a few specific sites.
Another way to save on bandwidth would be to cut off unnecessary chatter among devices on a network, he added. This is a particular problem with networks of Windows 98 devices, he said.
"We're seeing upwards of 1.6 megabytes a day of traffic when you haven't even done anything with the system," Walters said. The new software allows the IS manager to block out types of chatter that aren't necessary.
All users of NetMotion Mobility 4.0 with a current maintenance contract will be able to upgrade free to version 5.0, which will be available in the first half of September. The policy management add-on module will cost US$2,000 per server and about US$40 up to US$75 per client depending on the number of clients, NetMotion's Brickel said. NetMotion Mobility costs US$4,999 for a server and 25 clients, with additional clients priced from US$120 to US$195 depending on volume.