Cisco Launches New Networking Products To Dive Deeper Into SMB Market

Cisco Systems launched a slew of new networking products Wednesday targeting the SMB market, including new Wave 2 access points, a wireless controller and revamped software.

"We've changed our strategy, knowing that there's a lot more customer and partner demand for the lower-end space," said Prashanth Shenoy, Cisco's vice president of product marketing, during Cisco's Partner Connection Week in Miami. "We wanted to learn a lot of best practices from our enterprise customers and see how we can apply it to the lower end of the segment which, frankly, we haven't had a lot of success with in the last 10 [to] 15 years. Now that we have the best practices and have our partners to really scale into that market, we are bringing all of that capability at the right price point."

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco said it is bringing enterprise-class networking functionality into indoor and outdoor environments for SMBs with the new wireless access points (APs) along with the revamped Mobility Express management software.

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The enhanced Mobility Express now supports up to 100 access points and 2,000 clients with zero-touch deployment. The software also comes with Cisco's Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) Connect, which is a Software-as-a-Service subscription.

Express also now allows customers using Apple devices to get a special premium with Apple Fastlane -- a feature that automatically ensures the highest priority and fastest performance for applications on Apple devices.

"We build in all this enterprise-class functionality into a single solution that is drastically simple and easy to use," said Shenoy.

Cisco unveiled two new 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless APs: the Cisco Aironet 1815 series for indoor use and the Aironet 1540 series for outdoor environments.

The 1815 series is made up of four low-cost APs that are managed with Mobility Express. Cisco is targeting three vertical markets with the 1815 APs: education, hospitality, and tele-workers in home or branch offices.

Cisco touts the 1540 series as the industry's smallest APs that support Wave 2 standards equipped with enterprise features. The new 1540s can perform "double duty" as virtual WLAN controllers, meaning customers can operate their wireless network without the purchase of a separate controller, according to Cisco.

John Harris, president and CEO of Aspire Technology Partners, a Hazlet, N.J. -based Cisco partner ranked No. 318 on CRN's 2016 Solution Provider 500 list, said there's been a hole in Cisco's product portfolio in the SMB market, which the new products will fill in and increase services revenue.

"We've seen a lot of the [SMB] companies deploy these rogue access points, which have created holes in coverage and their employees are not able to be as productive as they want. For us, it fits a really unique opportunity to take advantage of the managed services aspect " said Harris.

"Being able to simplify and leverage a Cisco wireless platform across all of our customer base, pull out competing rogue access points and provide a seamless coverage for our customers is huge," he said. "It's a welcome product set that's been missing for us for a while."

The last product Cisco revealed is its 3504 Wireless LAN Controller that scales to 150 APs and 3,000 clients. Shenoy said customers don't need to replace APs already in their current infrastructure thanks to the 3504 controller.

"As you want to expand your client density and access point density -- while keeping your investment protection of your existing APs – how do you move to a controller-based Wi-Fi solution? And the 3504 fits right there," said Shenoy. "So you can have your existing access points … move them into a controller platform with 3504 to give you the higher scale and higher density."

For partners, the new networking offerings are included in Cisco's Account Breakaway promotion that provides the channel discounts on the products as well as pricing protection.

The networking giant has launched a slew of SMB targeting products recently including a new Cisco Meraki phone system and several unified communications solutions.

"If you look at where Cisco has started off and where we are today, you can see that now we pretty much have a complete portfolio for the small businesses, the midsize businesses to the largest enterprises," said Shenoy.