Over the course of the last two years, networking vendor Cisco has been upgrading and expanding its small business networking offerings. That effort continues this week with the launch of a new lineup of managed switches and updated VoIP phones specifically gears for small business networkingenvironments.
Among the new products is the Cisco 300 series of managed switches which expand Cisco’s small business switching portfolio beyond the unmanaged Cisco 100 serieswhich debuted earlier this year.
As is the case with nearly all of Cisco’s small business networking gear, the Cisco 300 series uses the Linux operating system instead of Cisco’s enterprise IOS operating system. For Cisco, Linux offers a key differentiator when it comes to targeting small business needs.
“Because of Linux we’re able to develop a programming interface to the product GUI’s that allows for a lot less time to be spent by our partners, for training on how to configure a device,” Mark Monday, vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s small business technology group told InternetNews.com. “What we find in this market is that partners value quickness and simplicity. It is an enabler for us to simplify the product for our customer and our partners.”
Among the features that Cisco is baking into the Cisco 300 series of managed switches is a feature called the FindIT toolbar. The FindIT toolbar is a browser add-on for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and the Mozilla Firefox browser that enables users to discover switches that may be on a small business network.
“The challenge for small business sometimes is how to find the network device in order to go and configure it,” Monday said. “FindIT allows the user to find Cisco and other network devices, and then you can click through to get to the management page for the device. It takes the ugliness out of trying to search through IP addresses to find the box.”
Another feature that Cisco is including with 300 series switch is support for the next-generation IPv6 addressing space. The current IPv4 address space is nearing exhaustion, however to date, adoption in North America has been minimal.”From either small business customers or VARs (Value Added Resellers) for the most part there is no request for this functionality,” Monday said. “It is a future-proofing item, however when we talk to our service-provider partners that’s different. They do understand the need for IPv6, and they’re starting to demand it in devices they ship.”
As part of the small business networking gear evolution, Cisco is continuing its transition from the Linksys name for its small business switching products to Cisco branded gear.
“Previous to this, for Cisco small business we had brought over and were carrying some Linksys small business networking products,” Monday said.
In addition to the Cisco 300 switches, Cisco is also expanding its portfolio of IP phones for small business with the new SPA 525G2 device. Monday noted that Cisco already has a 525 model IP phone in the market and the new device is the second generation of the product, providing new capabilities. One such new capability is a technology called MobileLink which expands the Bluetooth capabilities of the phone.
“Certainly you can use a Bluetooth headset with the phone but with MobileLink we now allow a cellular phone to pair to the 525G2,” Monday said. “So now when I’m on a call with my cell phone and walk into my office, I can just hit the speaker button on my IP phone and it becomes the headset for my cell phone. We can also import the phone books from the cell phone to the IP phone.”
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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