Data Centers

Cisco gets into SMB space with new Linux routers

Derek Schauland considers the news that Cisco is making a big push for the SMB market by offering a new line of Linux-based routers, promising easier configuration and administration along with proven Cisco performance. What do you think?

Cisco is a top vendor in the networking arena and is fairly ubiquitous in enterprise environments. With the acquisition of Linksys, Cisco was able to enter into the consumer market to provide routing and switching for home networks with a proven brand.

Now it is looking to get into the SMB space with a router based on Linux to provide high-quality service in non-enterprise business environments. Cisco will be phasing out the Linksys brand in favor of products branded as Cisco Small Business and Cisco Small Business Pro. Looking at this from the SMB side of the table, I can definitely see the upside both for Cisco's business and for network admins who previously haven't been able to justify big enterprise equipment for their SMB but who are naturally attracted to the well-known Cisco brand.

Cisco initially built a task force to research the SMB market about a year ago and has entered the market with the AP 541N wireless access point. The device should be less complex to configure and maintain than other devices because of its Linux-based configuration rather than the Cisco IOS.

As a network administrator in an SMB organization, I like the security offered by Cisco products, which we use, but I also like the idea of a simplified administration. Sure, our devices can be configured with GUI-based utilities, but this is not recommended. Linksys devices, on the other hand, have a very intuitive and easy-to-understand interface but are not quite as secure as their enterprise counterparts. The new SMB offering by Cisco aims for the middle ground in terms of easy configuration and stronger security.

It looks like Cisco is trying to bridge the gap between SMBs who need more than the SOHO (small office / home office) network gear that has traditionally been available to them but who don't require the kind of enterprise-class networking equipment that Cisco has long provided. This move positions them well in all three spaces of the industry -- consumer, SMB, and enterprise. It will be interesting to see how these devices work and what level of adoption they get in the early rollout. What do you think of this new line of products? Is Cisco too late joining the SMB game, or will they dominate that space as well as the enterprise? Take the poll, and let us know how this strikes you.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

18 comments
Michael.Ross
Michael.Ross

It's true that Linksys embedded Linux into its equipment long ago, but most don't seem to remember that Linksys backed away from this approach before Cisco entered the picture. The problem? Linux is a general purpose OS that can be configurable to meet so many needs. To that end, it also turned out to be too memory intensive. Putting more memory into their routers increased cost so much that it mitigated the cost savings from switching to Linux. This is why they pulled away from this approach the first time. So, instead, what I'm hearing about this SMB entry is that Cisco is focused on a series of lower-cost devices that incorporate an easier UI and simply may not include some of the features the enterprise class devices provide. I think this could really help smaller IT organizations that still must meet heavy computing/network needs. Based on what the market offers today, I'm excited to see what Cisco comes up with.

Cystor
Cystor

Linksys met a need in the advanced home user / MSB (Micro-Small Business) markets. Will Cisco be matching the Linksys price entry points with the replacement products? Probably not. Whatever happened to the people that started Linksys? What are they doing now? Probably locked out of this market by contract with Cisco when bought out. Anyone know?

Sepius
Sepius

Linux and a GUI might make things easier, but I am not sure about the security and flexibility (at the same time) you can have with IOS. If there is a way to manage them behind the GUI, then that will be all good, but I can see how it can become misinterpreted if they (Cisco) are not careful. The name alone will not protect you, if you do not know what you are doing.

mickey
mickey

6 years ago I was able to embed a custom compiled Redhat 5 with the zebra router in and old Cisco 2540 router (now about 15 years old), and bench tested faster than the Cisco OS at the time. By the by, several projects on the web had HOWTOs to this end as early as 2001, also including samba just limited storage but it worked. So what has taken Cisco so long? Think they will open source the routers? .

aminadad
aminadad

Congratulations, good Job. One question, If I work in a Bank, in Central site we have Cisco Enterprise routers, can I use Cisco SMB routers in the branches? In others words, Does Cisco SMB Routers (Linux) "talks" with Cisco Enterprise Routers (Cisco IOS)? Thanks

micheldufrenoy
micheldufrenoy

Cisco *has been* selling a Linux-based router: the Linksys WRT54G series. No, it wasn't branded "Cisco", but no doubt this is all Cisco will sell anyway, but at a steeper price tag with the new logo.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

In the old days, "no-one ever got fired for buying IBM". Seems that still applies to Cisco. What's with the "GUI not recommended" comment, by the way? Why ever not? The complexity of IOS is just another way for Cisco to gouge the market with training and consulting charges. Sure, it provides flexibility (whether or not "more" flexibility is debatable) but for the vast majority of applications a simple menu-based configuration is adequate, and no-one is going to convince me it's less secure that way. This move strikes me as a rather desperate move to recover ground they have been losing over the past 5 years.

willshattuck
willshattuck

This is good news for smaller corporations who may have a few help desk or server personnel, but not a network or Cisco admin. I'm looking forward to testing out these devices.

mrstorr
mrstorr

Cisco has been selling linux routers for a while as Linksys. I believe that Cisco is confused and not equipped to handle the SMB market. This is evidenced by the end-of-sale and end-of-life announcement this year by CIsco on the CE500 and CE520 line SMB gear. Linksys was gobbled up to simply be phased out. Lets face it, we did not loose our shirts over buying linksys, the features were very advanced and it was easy to use. Cisco is the opposite of that! Thanks, Marvin Storr PMP, CCNP, CCIP, JNCIS

lfschauer
lfschauer

I'm sure the cost and their "maintenance" plan on the smb products is way too much. A Cisco vendor told me the smb phone system would not work as specified and the cisco engineers were not familiar with it!!

support
support

Chrisbedford makes a valid point on the GUI issue. There is no technical reason why a GUI configuration option is less secure than a command line configuration unless the software developer of the GUI excludes specific security configuration options from the functional specification of it's GUI code or simply eliminates the feature(s) from the implementation of the GUI code. Cisco GUI's do just that; there is not necessarily a one to one correspondence between functions and GUI choices. Perhaps this is a dauting task where router security configurations are concerned when implementing a GUI for these configurations but...bottom line: ANY limitations of a GUI router configuration option exist ONLY by the developers' choice, deliberate or not. Any major success in the SMB router market would be explosive if it combined an accessible, easy GUI to configure all critical router security features; This is not rocket science. Thanks!

mrstorr
mrstorr

Most Cisco guys do recommend that the GUI is not used. The reason is because the GUI is broken (common issue with a large amount of vendors). You are limited with what you can configure, how to verify, and more importantly, how to troubleshoot. Thanks, Marvin Storr, PMP, CCNP, CCIP, JNCIS

pljdesigns
pljdesigns

Vyatta has been doing linux routers for some time now - "Vyatta's open source, software-based approach to networking has created a complete network OS that can connect and secure physical networks as well as virtual and cloud computing infrastructures. Vyatta software and appliances offer users a flexible, affordable alternative to proprietary, hardware-based routers, firewalls, VPN concentrators and intrusion prevention devices." http://www.vyatta.com/quiz.php

curtis_bragdon
curtis_bragdon

This article is bias, there is only one reason for the change and that is market share. The author didn't even compare what new security features SMB owners would get over old Linksys routers - so they get a GUI? is that an improvement. The article has no substance, just an ad for Cisco's new router.

dmr80620
dmr80620

I don't understand what you mean. Cisco is bringing devices with non-IOS setup presentation. The market is full of these already. What value do these bring that makes them good news?

Michael.Ross
Michael.Ross

There's a lot of things out there that are better when the GUI isn't used. Database and OS management to name a few...

jbengeii
jbengeii

I'm not in the professional enviroment of routers but linux could let us roll our own router config with scripts and packages we develop?

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