October 9, 2020
Linksys is rebooting its managed wireless LAN services with the launch of its Linksys Cloud Manager 2.0.
Expect the revamped wireless access point (WAP) management tool, announced this week, to be available on Oct. 21. It comes two years after the initial release. Linksys Cloud Manager supports three commercial grade hotspots: the AC1200, AC1750 and AC2600, priced at $182, $210 and $350, respectively. Managed service providers (MSPs) can use the web-based tool to remotely configure, monitor and control their clients’ access points. All three are dual-band access points.
Linksys’ rebuilt management plane is based on a cloud-native platform that can now directly interface with the access points’ firmware. With the new release, MSPs can manage the access points for the lifetime of the devices. The current version allows management of the devices for just five years. It also allows MSPs to customize the appearance.
While Linksys provides Wi-Fi routers for homes, its products are also suited for small businesses. Once a subsidiary of Cisco, Linksys is now part of Belkin, which sells device accessories through the retail channel.
The 2018 release of Linksys Cloud Manager marked the company’s re-entry to the commercial market. Linksys positioned the access points and management tool as a lower-cost alternative to solutions from Cisco-Meraki, Extreme Networks and HPE-Aruba. But Linksys also challenged rivals with access points designed for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Among them are Ubiquiti Networks, Comscope’s Ruckus and EnGenius.
Despite making an initial splash in 2018, it doesn’t appear Linksys made much headway with MSPs or gained significant share.
ZK Research’s Zeus Kerravala
“As far as I saw, the first version had almost no traction,” said ZK Research principal analyst, Zeus Kerravala.
Disruption After Foxconn Acquired Linksys
Linksys unwittingly may have re-entered the SMB market at the wrong time. The company launched the solution just as Foxconn Interconnect Technology (FIT) closed its $866 million acquisition of Linksys’ parent Belkin. The deal led to organizational changes, resulting in the departure of key Linksys leaders.
John Minasyan is the GM/director of product management, cybersecurity business unit at Belkin. He acknowledged that the acquisition had an impact on the initial entry.
Belkin’s John Minasyan
“We sort of went through a trough, to be perfectly blunt,” Minasyan told Channel Futures. “The disruption and sort of taking your eyes off the prize kind of kind of hurt us in 2019.”
In the beginning of 2020, Minasyan said the company doubled down on Linksys Cloud Manager and its focus on MSPs.
“For 2020, we’ve had sequential quarter-over-quarter growth across these access points,” he said. “We feel the adoption rate is really good.”
The New Platform
The 1.0 release is a hybrid solution with a translation layer going through a bridge to access point firmware. Linksys rewrote the firmware and created a new cloud layer as well, Minasyan said.
“So, whereas 1.0 went through this translation layer, which could have generated issues, 2.0 is natively built from the ground up to be cloud-only,” he said.
By eliminating the translation layer, Minasyan said MSPs should find Linksys Cloud Manager 2.0 much more responsive. Built on a microservices architecture, the company can now iterate and add new features more easily, he added.
“The actual software itself, the APIs and things of that sort are native to the cloud interface itself,” he said.
Linksys also improved Wi-Fi roaming performance with support for …
… Wi-Fi Agile Multiband. It also lets MSPs deliver Wi-Fi marketing services with the ability to service ads to customers visiting a business. The new version further reduces the need for onsite deployment with added “zero-touch” configuration capability. MSPs can remotely enter the access point’s serial number and MAC address.
Among some other features Linksys is adding to the updated version include support for:
Isolating wireless SSIDs from the wired LAN.
Per client bandwidth limits.
11r fast roaming.
11v wireless network management.
“Cloud management is critical today, particularly with the world becoming more distributed with work from home,” Kerravala said. “What I didn’t see in the announcement was what kind of analytic capabilities are built into the portal. Cloud management is important but so is providing insights to help manage Wi-Fi better.”
No Wi-Fi 6 Yet for Linksys Cloud Manager
The three access points that Linksys Cloud Manager can remotely configure and manage are all based on the 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) standard. Asked about plans for a Wi-Fi 6-capable (802.11ax) access point for Linksys Cloud Manager, Minasyan said perhaps in 2021.
“We have a couple of Wi-Fi 6 consumer routers that we’ve begun shipping; they’ve been really popular,” he said. “But my personal take is the cost points are still above where SMBs and businesses could justify the additional costs. There are things we’re monitoring from the chipset guys. We think in the first quarter of 2021 there will be an inflection point on pricing, where it may make sense at that point to offer a business-class access point.”
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