Cisco Switches Up Entry-Level SMB Networking

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted April 16, 2010

Cisco is an enterprise and service-provider networking giant with switching gear that powers the largest networks in the world. This week, however, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is going after the other end of the spectrum with its new entry-level Cisco 100 series for smaller businesses.

The Cisco 100 series replaces an earlier generation of Linksys-branded devices and includes new power management features and capabilities. Cisco this week also unveiled new entry-level wireless firewall devices for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

The new SMB-focused networking products mark an expansion of a multiyear effort from Cisco to more effectively target the needs of small business, it said.

"We're announcing a new set of switches at the low end of our portfolio with the Cisco 100," Mark Monday, Cisco's vice president and general manager of small business solutions, told InternetNews.com. "These are very focused at simplicity and are what we call 'unmanaged switches,' with everything from eight to 48 ports. It's really focused on the customer that doesn't want to bother with trying to do any configuration."


As opposed to Cisco's high-end enterprise switches, which are usually powered by Cisco's proprietary IOS operating system, the Cisco 100 uses the open source Linux operating system. Cisco is no stranger to Linux, which powers many of its SMB networking products.

The new switches are replacing the previous SD and SR switches, and offer a number of improvements over the earlier designs. For instance, the new Cisco 100-gigabit models provide new power management features, including the capability to automatically turn off a port when a link is detected as being down. Monday explained that if there is no link on a port -- when there is no connection or an attached device is turned off -- the port will enter a sleep mode, cutting power consumption. The Cisco 100 will wake up when the switch detects the link is again available.

Additionally, the Cisco 100 adjusts power depending on the length of the Ethernet cable used. The switch detects the length of connected cable and adjusts power output accordingly to meet the cable's optimal power requirements.

On the wireless firewall side, there is the new, entry-level Cisco RV 120W Wireless-N VPN Firewall for small businesses as opposed to the top-of-the-line SA500 series, which Cisco debuted in February.

Cisco is also taking other steps to better address small-business buyers. Monday said that the 100-level products in general will represent its entry-level offerings, while the 500 level will represent the top of the line. In the past, Cisco has had other categories and naming conventions, but said it is now trying to simplify its lineup.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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