Netgear Launches Smart Cloud Devices with Insight Management for Business Networksby Ganesh T S on September 19, 2017 1:00 PM EST
Netgear is a popular vendor in the SMB and SME market segments for switches and access points. While they do have full-blown managed switches, their smart offerings (which rely on web management, rather than CLI) are very popular amongst IT administrators. Today, Netgear is announcing a host of new products (switches and access points) that build upon the smart offerings under the 'Insight-Managed Smart Cloud' category. The main difference compared to the existing offerings is the ability to set up, monitor, and maintain the equipment via Netgear's cloud-based Insight mobile app (available for iOS and Android). This is in addition to the traditional web-based management UI. The attractive aspect here is that the equipment can be installed and set up without having to configure everything through a PC / web browser. The downside is that the equipment must be able to connect to the Internet for the Insight management app to be able to configure and deploy the hardware.
The cloud-based management approach ensures that businesses without full-time IT staff can install and manage their network infrastructure. Multiple sites can also be monitored and managed from a single device without resorting to VPNs and other features that require skilled IT administrators. The Insight management app also supports select ReadyNAS storage devices.
Coming to the hardware side of things, we have 4 new switches. All of them are the 10-port variety, with 8 copper and 2 SFP gigabit ports. The GC110 is a fanless switch with an external PSU. The GC110P is the PoE version with 62W available across the PoE ports. The GC510P is also fanless, and supports PoE+ (max. of 25W per port), with a total of 134W available. It is rack mountable. The GC510PP is the only actively cooled version of the lot, and it is also a PoE+ switch with a 195W budget.
On the wireless side, the WAC510 wireless access point with router capabilities (which has been in the market for some time now) is Insight-capable. In addition, we also have the new WAC505 AC1200 access point, which is very similar to a WAC510 without the router capabilities.
It is very clear that Netgear is attempting to go after the Ubiquiti Networks UniFi lineup with the Insight-managed hardware. Netgear is playing to its strengths by including NAS management (a product category that Ubiquiti Networks does not address). The current Insight feature set seems to be a good initial version (I haven't had hands-on time yet with it). However, given the way that UniFi has evolved and added features over the last several years, Insight may have a lot of catching up to do. For example, Insight is currently a cloud-only offering. On the other hand, UniFi offers multiple usage models - a local-only configuration with the UniFi Controller running on a UniFi Cloud Key or a PC / virtual machine (which can then be associated with a cloud account, if necessary), or, a premium subscription-based cloud service managed by Ubiquiti Networks themselves (UniFi Elite). Enterprising IT users can also run the UniFi controller by themselves on a AWS instance in order to manage multiple sites. That said, Netgear's Insight management is currently free, and appears to require a lot less technical know-how compared to the UniFi offerings. Netgear seems to have realized that it is best to avoid tackling UniFi directly, which probably explains why the current Insight hardware offerings aim to fill holes in the UniFi lineup.
Ubiquiti offers only one low port-count switch with SFP ports and PoE - the UniFi Switch 8-150W at $186. Netgear's GC510P targets the same feature set at $254. None of the other Insight offerings have an exact UniFi equivalent. The Netgear WAC505 at $90 will be up against Ubiquiti's UAP AC LITE ($79) in the AC1200 category. That said, the WAC505 is a Wave2 AP with MU-MIMO capabilities (the UAP AC LITE has been in the market for a long time now and uses a older chipset). It also features compatibility with standard 802.3af/at PoE switches,
while the AC LITE uses passive PoE (Update: The AC LITE and AC LR that were introduced with passive PoE have been updated to support 802.3af PoE since September 2016). The premium associated with the WAC505 seems justified, though we can't say the same about the GC510P switch.
Netgear's Insight strategy is a welcome approach to small business networks, and the integration of NAS management is unique. We are looking forward to the feature being made available in various other SMB-targeted products from Netgear.