Netgear looks to the cloud with new Insight solution for small business

Netgear’s new smart cloud offering provides a free app and a free subscription for a basic version. New switches and APs are required though, and a paid version with unlimited device support and additional features will be available early next year.

Netgear is the market leader in the traditional SMB-focused networking space. Now, however, with the rise of the cloud, and a push from powerful cloud-based competition like Google, the company is making a major push into the Smart Cloud with their new Insight Ecosystem offering.

“We’ve done something drastic here,” said Richard Jonker, Vice President,  SMB Product Line Management at Netgear. “We have fundamentally changed the way we build our products, to provide an ease of use we’ve never seen before.”

Jonker acknowledged the immense shift involved in transitioning from a hardware-based business to one where software and the cloud is central.

“This is fundamentally software-defined networking for the SMB,” he said. “We are going from selling boxes to creating an ecosystem. This is totally different from last 20 years of shipping boxes, when we shipped 100 million switches. While you can do things like firmware updates, you don’t fundamentally change the products after they ship. We can now, with the cloud play.”

Jonker made an unusual parallel, to the online game Candy Crush.

“Candy Crush is our example here,” he said. “We want to be the Candy Crush of delivering applications to small business. We have been successfully fighting off hardware competitors for 20 years, but fighting off giant software competitors like Google is new.”

The Insight Ecosystem combines new Insight managed switches, wireless access points and ReadyNAS networked storage with an Insight app that is a free download from the Apple App Store and Google play.

“Small businesses have often been relying on consumer grade wireless technology,” said Shaheen Kazi, Technology Product Management and Product Marketing Leader at Netgear. “Now their employees demand access to Wi-Fi. Their customers expect free Wi-Fi. All of this has created a need for SMBs to address networking in a way that many never had before.”

Insight is specifically aimed at the smaller part of the SMB space, small business and micro-businesses.

“Salesforce research says that 83 per cent of small businesses do not have an IT staff at all,” Kazi said. “We have built a business on consumers and small business. The whole idea of Insight was to build a solution from the ground up with micro business and small business in mind. Simplicity was critical. Yet we also needed to have enough depth to the solution that addresses the needs of the channel that serves this market.”

The focus on simplicity means that Insight is a mobile-first solution, with one touch setup, monitoring and management.

“Traditionally in setup, small businesses deploy each device one at a time, and set them up one at a time,” Kazi said. “This does it holistically, providing full plus and play discovery, and registering the devices.  That’s a big plus for small business, and an even bigger advantage from a service provider perspective.”

Kazi also noted that Insight also provides full monitoring of both wired and wireless devices, including alerts and notifications, and turnkey management.

“This includes the ability to do things like fine tune firmware, something that small business doesn’t typically have access to,” she added. The management also includes VLAN, PoE controls, ACLs for security, and Port-trunking/Link aggregation for greater bandwidth.

The Insight Ecosystem introduces new series of fully managed network switches, which are necessary for the ecosystem. They all have 8 copper Gigabit Ethernet ports plus 2 SFP fiber ports. The GC110 has 62W PoE power, while the GC510P has 134W PoE and the GC510PP has 195W PoE. They all support a full suite of advanced L2 switching features.

“We had to upgrade the hardware components for this,” Jonker said. Because more memory and CPU  are required, existing customers will need to get new hardware.” The new NETGEAR access points currently available that are fully compatible with the Insight App include the WAC505 and WAC510 Insight Managed Smart Cloud Wireless Access Points.

Customers who have more recent storage devices will not need newer ones for Insight. Multiple ReadyNAS products with ReadyNAS OS 6.0 or newer are fully Insight-compatible. These include the ReadyNAS 2000, 3000 and 4000 Rackmount Series, and the ReadyNAS 420, 520 and  620 Desktop Series.

The initial release that launches today comes with a free subscription, a model that Netgear has had success with in the past.

“When we launched our Arlo security line, we started with camera storage for free, and that got attention,” Jonker stated. “We quickly went from zero to 40 per cent market share.”

The basic version does have some limitations compared to a paid version that will come later, likely in Q1 of 2018.

“The basic version has a device limit, which we still have not fully determined,” Kazi said. “We see the basic app targeted at business owner doing it themselves.”

Within the paid version, there will effectively be no limit on the number of devices that can be supported.

“Arlo has a broad base of support in the consumer space, with more than a million devices on it, so in principle, support is unlimited,” Jonker added. “That’s less demand than Insight will likely have, with customers having an average of 1-5 devices per location.”

Kazi said that the free version has about 80 per cent of the functionality of the paid.

“In addition to expanding the number of devices you can manage, the paid version will include future features like PoE scheduling, and troubleshooting,” she said.

While the service provider play is limited at launch, that will also increase going forward.

“We expect that this will grow after launch, over the next couple of months,” Jonker indicated.