Small business, Distributed Workforce, Networking

Cisco Wireless Networking for SMEs Features Apple iOS Fast Lanes

Jason Gallo
Jason Gallo
Prashanth Shenoy

Cisco Systems has launched a new suite of products that offer small- and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) wireless connectivity that rivals larger organizations, the company claims. The product portfolio also features "fast lane" capabilities for Apple iOS shops, allowing partners and IT administrators to quickly give iPhones and iPads priority traffic lanes on the network.

The upgrade to Cisco’s SME wireless portfolio includes revamped management software for Cisco wireless products, new indoor and outdoor wireless access points (APs), and a new wireless LAN controller designed for growing businesses. Cisco says the products offer enterprise-quality features at small business prices.

During a briefing with ChannelE2E, Cisco's Prashanth Shenoy (VP of marketing, enterprise networks, IoT and developer platform) and Jason Gallo (global director, partner sales development) said the new product lines are "price optimized" for SME customers without sacrificing features that enterprises take for granted. The offerings are feature-rich while delivering partner profits, the executives added.

The portfolio reflects ever-increasing demand for wireless technologies that match the performance of fixed-line broadband networks. Cisco forecasts that mobile device connections will account for 78 percent of Internet traffic by 2020, and that smartphone usage will generate 30 percent of global IP traffic by the same year, surpassing PC traffic.

Intense Competition

Cisco joins a growing list of vendors that have launched new or upgraded wireless products for small and medium-sized businesses. Also this week, Netgear introduced its first wireless access point for small businesses such as cafes and doctors' offices. And Datto -- a relative upstart in the sector -- continues to evangelize its new networking division to channel partners. The recent activity builds on multiple SME product launches from Dell, Linksys and D-Link throughout 2016, 2015 and 2014.

Cisco hopes to differentiate in multiple ways -- including a heavy emphasis on software. The updated Cisco Mobility Express software now supports up to 100 access points and can be configured in 10 minutes without IT experience, Shenoy wrote in a blog about the SME product launch.

The software supports the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 standards, providing SMEs with high speeds and features once reserved for large organizations, he said.

Features include:

  • Optimized Wi-Fi connectivity – A collaboration with Apple makes for fast and efficient roaming for iPhone and iPad on the Cisco wireless network, decreasing disconnected calls, loss of video and major audio/video issues
  • Prioritized apps – IT can prioritize the apps that are most important to your business
  • Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) Cloud solution for allowing simpler Wi-Fi guest access, analyzing visitor behavior and offering more relevant content
  • Application visibility and control – Understand exactly what applications are running on your network

The Lineup

Cisco launched two new wireless access points for SMEs: the Aironet 1815 Series for indoor use and the Aironet 1540 for outdoor use. Both are 802.11ac Wave 2 compliant.

The 1815 indoor series offers four different access points catering to different verticals:

  • 1815i for enterprise-class connectivity small businesses can afford
  • 1815t for teleworkers and micro-branch deployments
  • 1815w that can be mounted to walls in hotels, residential halls or other multi-dwelling unit
  • 1815m for budget-conscious SMEs that ant to cover large area

The indoor series access points range in price from $495 to $595, and the outdoor access point sells for $995.

The new Cisco 3504 Wireless LAN Controller can support more access points (up to 150) and more clients (up to 3,000), according to Shenoy. This allows growing SMEs to upgrade and expand their network while keeping the Cisco products they’ve already deployed. As your network gets more traffic, launch the controller and add additional access points.

Partner Trust

Cisco retains a strong enterprise footprint, but the SME offerings come at a key time for the company. In recent years, the bulk of Cisco's annual partner summit has focused on enterprise partners rather than the SME sector. Also, Cisco's decision to halt or sell off certain SME product lines over the years has strained some partner relations from time to time.

Still, the new lineup and associated R&D shows Cisco's renewed committed to SME partners and customers. Also, key Cisco executives are leading the SME charge. For instance, Shenoy joined Cisco directly from college in 2000 and has rapidly climbed the corporate ranks over the past two decades. His experience extends across hardware and software. He considers Cisco's culture -- a "fun environment, where I can continue learning and making an impact."

Meanwhile, Gallo is a 10-year Cisco veteran. An electrical engineer by training, Gallo has also spent time in the field as a sales account manager. Poke around and you'll discover Gallo has also worked on Cisco's M&A strategy, while more recently focusing on SaaS and recurring revenue models.

Gallo and Shenoy are at attending a Cisco partner event this week in Florida. No doubt, they're talking up the SME networking effort.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri and Ty Trumbull.