WatchGuard Technologies Looks To Take On Cisco Meraki With New Wi-Fi Cloud Solution

WatchGuard Technologies is expanding its portfolio of secure Wi-Fi offerings, launching a new Wi-Fi Cloud offering on Tuesday that it says will take aim at competitors Meraki, Fortinet and more.

The new WatchGuard Wi-Fi Cloud includes a new portfolio of cloud-ready access points, with a management platform, built-in wireless security, analytics and engagement tools. The technology also provides BYOD policy enforcement, accurate location tracking and flexible deployment options. It is aimed at small and mid-sized business customers or branch offices.

WatchGuard CTO Corey Nachreiner said this wireless intrusion prevention system launch is an extension of the company's strategy to provide a ’total security’ platform. He said that will be a differentiator against pure-plays in the market; The integration with the company’s UTM [Unified Threat Management] offering adds AV, IPS, web filtering, spam blocking, application control, APT blocking, DLP and reputation lookup techniques to wireless traffic.

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’What we really want is our customers to have total security across wired and wireless networks,’ Nachreiner said.

The solution can be sold through partners to clients who already have WatchGuard’s UTM offering, or it can be sold as a standalone offering if clients are already using a competitive UTM solution or want to augment an existing Meraki or other cloud wireless solution. WatchGuard Cloud Wi-Fi subscriptions are currently available.

Ryan Orsi, WatchGuard's director of strategic alliances, said the new solution takes aim at several cloud-based secure Wi-Fi solutions on the market, in particular Cisco’s Meraki offering. He said WatchGuard’s solution differentiates itself from the competition with automated threat prevention capabilities, engagement and analytics, and is an integrated system that can be sold by the channel in a variety of ways, including around the company’s flagship UTM solution.

Orsi said Meraki and other wireless LAN companies don’t offer true intrusion prevention because, with some solutions, it's possible containment is being performed on an illegitimate network nearby. He said companies like Meraki also tout their engagement and analytics tools, but the company charges extra for many of those capabilities while it is included with WatchGuard's Wi-Fi Cloud’s license fee. Orsi said the solution also competes against secure wireless offerings from network security vendors like Fortinet and Sophos.

Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti Technologies, a Hoboken, N.J.-based WatchGuard partner, said he has been demoing the Cloud Wi-Fi solution for five or six months, deploying it and installing it in different scenarios at both current WatchGuard clients and those using other offerings. Mazzanti said his company also offers competitive wireless solutions and found the new Cloud Wi-Fi solution has a ’lot of good value points’ when it comes to security and management over its competitors.

’You have a security-first mindset, which is not what many of the other providers have. They have a product that they put into the wireless market place and are trying to retrofit security services to the devices,’ Mazzanti said. That distinction is important, he said, because wireless is ’by far one of the biggest vulnerability points in a customer’s network.’

Mazzanti said he sees particular opportunity to work together with other partners in the community, calling Cloud Wi-Fi ’super partner friendly.’ He said 60 percent of eMazzanti Technologies’ revenue comes through working with partners and he welcomes the opportunity to work with others in the area to fill in skill gaps or on large deployments.

Mazzanti said he sees this as part of another evolution of WatchGuard’s portfolio to expand beyond access control devices and solve customer problems in a cost effective way for SMB clients.

’Every time every one of our vendors comes out with a way to solve customer problems, it’s good for all of us,’ Mazzanti said. ’There are still a lot of manufacturers out there that think they can just be an access control device and offer value to a customer. Every day, WatchGuard comes out with some other way of solving another problem on the same platform.’