College Networks Need to Say “Bonjour” to Apple’s Bonjour

Originally posted on The Modern Network

Mobile devices are infesting college campuses at a breakneck pace. And, considering the popularity of their sleek and comprehensive products, it’s no surprise that Apple devices are a large subset of the devices that both students and professors want to connect to college and university networks.

Ensuring that Apple devices can connect smoothly to these networks and easily discover services is a priority for campus IT professionals. Especially considering the sheer size of the Apple ecosystem, which includes: iPhone smartphones, iPad tablets, iPod MP3 players and other products, such as Apple TV.

To help this happen smoothly and elegantly, campus networks need to support Bonjour – which incorporates service discovery, address assignment, and hostname resolution.

Bonjour allows Apple devices to seamlessly find and connect to campus wireless networks. But that’s not all it does. Bonjour also utilizes multicast Domain Name System (mDNS) service records to allow Apple devices to identify available services across the network. These services can include Airplay screen sharing and Airprint network printing.

This doesn’t mean that Apple devices can’t connect to the network if Bonjour isn’t supported. However, the process becomes more difficult and can yield huge problems for IT departments. If Bonjour isn’t enabled and supported, IT departments instead have to rely on 802.1X connections. This is something that many IT departments want to avoid since they require an additional server that must be implemented and maintained.

Supporting Bonjour can help overcome this issue, but it can also create others. Bonjour’s service discovery functionality is not optimized for use across multiple VLANs or subnets. When service discovery devices are used across a large network with multiple subnets, the strain on bandwidth can be astronomical.

For this reason, when implementing the network, it’s important to embrace solutions that can limit which subnets services are advertised in and keep service discovery devices from accessing advertised services from other subnets. These solutions should enable network administrators to allow or disable service availability based on type of service, user identity, and location. They also should provide statistics and analytics that make Bonjour traffic easy to monitor and the network easy to troubleshoot.

On today’s college campuses, Apple products are an unavoidable and prolific part of the IT landscape. It’s for this reason that campus networks need to support Bonjour and need to be equipped to manage the traffic issues it can generate.

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Tags: Apple, bonjour, college, network, university


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