Cradlepoint To Cisco Meraki: 'Competition Makes Everyone Better'

'It takes two to make a market, and competition makes everyone better. By having another player like [Cisco] Meraki in the market, it's a rising tide that floats all boats,' says Todd Krautkremer, Cradlepoint’s chief marketing officer, in response to Cisco's new cellular gateway offerings.


Cisco's new WAN cellular gateway product line fills a gap in the tech giant's portfolio, while rival Cradlepoint has been playing in the cellular space for years. But both offerings will drive LTE and 5G adoption in the enterprise, according to Cradlepoint.

Todd Nightingale, Cisco Meraki's senior vice president and general manager, told partners earlier this month that "for too long we have walked Cradlepoints into Cisco accounts" and he expects Cisco's new cellular gateway, which comes in two form factors, the MG21 and the 21E, will be the fastest-launching Cisco Meraki products of all time.

Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer, the Boise, Idaho-based company’s chief marketing officer, told CRN that Cisco Meraki’s new offerings validate the emerging enterprise LTE market that Cradlepoint has been leading. That market, he said, will be worth $3.7 billion by 2023 and that's just in the branch.

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"It takes two to make a market, and competition makes everyone better. By having another player like [Cisco] Meraki in the market, it's a rising tide that floats all boats," he said.

[Related: Exclusive: Cradlepoint's New Hires Are Driving IoT, 5G Opportunities Via The Channel]

Cisco Meraki's new cellular gateway products compete most directly with Cradlepoint's CBA850 offering, which is tied to Cradlepoint's NetCloud Service that lets businesses and channel partners use technologies such as LTE to support site-backhaul or disaster recovery applications.

"It's a compliment from Cisco on the dominance we have in the market, and it's an affirmation of our leadership," Krautkremer said. "But we have always counted Cisco as a competitor and expect that they will become more of a competitor over time because there's a large market opportunity for LTE in the enterprise space."

Cisco has its size and influence on the market, he said, but historically has been a wired LAN provider. Cradlepoint has always offered wireless-first offerings that harness next-generation cellular technologies, which is where its advantage lies and where the company nearly stands alone, he added.

"[Cisco] Meraki now has one product in their portfolio, but we are seeing that a pathway to 5G is becoming absolutely critical for customers," he said.

It's also no longer about just building a better branch for many businesses. Customers in retail, banking, health care and other markets need offerings for cellular connectivity for not only just their branch offices, but for mobile use too, such as in-vehicle use cases and pop-up stores, according to Krautkremer. Cradlepoint, he said, can help businesses address these brand-new use cases and manage it all from a single interface.

Cisco did not respond to CRN’s request for comment prior to publication.

Cradlepoint's offerings also can provide connectivity right out of the box via SIM cards that use LTE where wired connections don't exist, unlike the Cisco Meraki offering, which requires a primary wired connection to configure the gateway, Krautkremer said.

"Cradlepoint is far and away the leader in wireless WAN technologies and a good two years ahead of [Cisco] Meraki. Virtually every customer conversation we are having involves Cradlepoint to some extent," said Ed Walton, CEO of StepCG, a Covington, Ky.-based Cradlepoint partner.

StepCG, a networking-focused solution provider, also partners with Cisco. Because Cradlepoint offerings are already installed within many customers’ IT environments for failover, among other applications, Cisco is going to have a hard time displacing Cradlepoint in existing accounts, Walton said.

"Cradlepoint has a good position in this market because they are already seated in a lot of these accounts, so when customers start taking things for a test drive, like branch routing in small banks, hospitals and retail environments, Cradlepoint [offerings] are winning," he said.

Walton said Cradlepoint's cloud management capabilities separate the company from the competition.

"A customer may have an IoT application, they may need traditional failover, or even out-of-band management,” Walton said. “We are also seeing mobile booming—we do a lot of pop-up stores. We're seeing some customers cut the cord completely and going full wireless, running their entire location up to Cradlepoint and replacing Cisco infrastructure."

Cradlepoint is the platform of choice for non-Cisco SD-WAN deployments and Cisco Meraki competes head-on with these branch deployments, Krautkremer said. At the same time, Cisco Meraki and Cradlepoint have many mutual customers. Meraki is a strong competitor for sites that need a full wireless LAN offering, and Cradlepoint is a good fit for environments with a reliance on cellular connectivity, he added.

"There's some opportunities where we'll compete head-to-head, some that will go all [Cisco] Meraki, and some where it will be a combination of both of us," Krautkremer said.

Today, Cradlepoint counts as its customer base 75 percent of the world's top retailer brands and 25 percent of the largest U.S. cities as customers. Cradlepoint also supports the countrywide AT&T FirstNet emergency network, an effort in which Cisco is involved in on the networking gear side.

Cradlepoint last year was recognized in market research firm Gartner's first-ever Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure as a Niche Player for its NetCloud WAN edge offering, a report that also listed Cisco as a Leader for its two SD-WAN offerings, one that is powered through its Viptela business, as well as its offering powered by Meraki appliances.