Small business-focused networking vendor Belkin, which last year acquired the Linksys brand and engineering assets from Cisco, and then began to roll out new Linksys-branded products, is making a flurry of announcements at Interop today to strengthen the Linksys business. These included a new line of six Smart Switches, two new 802.11ac Access Points, and a new consolidated partner program which will support both Belkin and Linksys partners.
“Our theme for Interop this year is that Linksys Business is back,” said Luis Artiz, Linksys Director of Product Management. “People know the brand, but we got a lot of the engineering talent as well as the brand.”
Artiz indicated that while the Belkin brand will remain on many products – the cabling products where they got their start, as well as a variety of other KVM, docking and surge products – the Linksys brand will be used for the company’s networking products.
“We are creating different brands to make the types of products clear,” he said. “Merging them would confuse things, as both brands have brand equity.”
Artiz emphasized that the Linksys products being rolled out are part of a much more comprehensive strategy.
“The long term vision for our Smart Business Product Strategy is 2-3 years,” he said. It begins with a Connectivity stage, providing a full roster of switches and access points for small business, of which the products being announced today are but a part, as some of the products on the map still have not been announced.
The second stage – Unify – will provide easy management of all these devices through the Cloud.
“You will see this in less than a year, by the end of Q4,” Artiz said. “We will use our Smart Business App to automatically set up access points, so that it’s all done remotely. It will also do the management of network traffic, all remotely. It’s great for partners because it means no more truck rolls. It will allow VARS and IT admins to remotely monitor and manage multiple networks.”
The third stage, further down the line, is called Empower, and will build on Belkin’s WeMo platform for consumers, which uses the Wi-Fi network and mobile internet to control home electronics from a smartphone.
“Empower will unify the WeMo platform we have today with automation,” Artiz said, “Right now it’s a home product, but we will add a business focus as well, which will have the ability to control and manage things through an infrastructure.” It will monitor measure and automate small business offices with the integration of Smart WiFi and WeMo technologies. This Linksys Business Automation is scheduled to be available in late 2015.
“That’s our vision – build hardware, build cloud, build the endpoints,” Artiz said, “It’s not just new products. It’s fitting them to what the office will look like in the next 3-4 years.”
The new Smart Switch lineup being introduced consists of six switches, in 8, 18 or 26 Gigabit Ethernet-port configurations, each available with or without Power over Ethernet+ to provide power to connected devices such as Wi-Fi access points or IP security cameras.
“We have added two more ports to each, which provide extra value over our competitors,” Artiz said.
The new Linksys smart switches include features for expansion, enhancement and security of networking structures. Quality of Service (QoS) features prioritize traffic to deliver the best possible user experience for real-time applications like voice and video along with bandwidth-intensive graphic/video file uploads and downloads.
The new Linksys Smart Switches include network management features that are not found in unmanaged switches such as various QoS features and DHCP Snooping to further enhance network performance and security. The new Linksys Smart Switches are energy efficient by powering down ports when connected devices are inactive and also detect the cable length of connected devices to adjust the power accordingly.
Linksys is also announcing two new dual-band wireless 802.11ac Access Points. They deliver up to three time faster speeds for connected devices while allowing existing wireless infrastructure to upgrade to 802.11ac. The Linksys AC1200 Dual Band Access Point supports data rates up to 1200 Mbps, while the Linksys AC1750 Dual Band Access Point supports data rates up to 1750Mbps.
Last, and not least, Belkin announced the launch of its’ new PartnerAdvantage Program, which combines the best of both the former Belkin and Linksys partner programs. The five-tier program provides all levels with access to deal registration, online sales training, promotions, exclusive product alerts and channel communications, online marketing and sales resources and a bid program. Incentives available at higher levels include MDF funds, back-end rebates, rewards points for meeting training and sales goals, pre and post-sales support, on-site training and participation in the PartnerAdvantage Partner Councils.
“There are a lot of stars even in the basic tier like deal registration, although moving up tiers gives additional discounting,” Artiz said.
A major benefit for partners who register in both the Belkin and Linksys tracks is that the volume from both tracks is combined to increase the eligible incentives. Former members of the old programs are required to register for the new one.
The Linksys Smart (PoE+) Gigabit Switches are available now. Pricing ranges from $119.99 USD for the 8-Port Smart Gigabit Switch (LGS308) to $599.99 for the 26-Port Smart Gigabit PoE+ Switch (LGS326P).
The Linksys Business Wireless-AC Access Points are scheduled to be available in April. The Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Access Point (LAPAC1200) lists at $329.99 USD, while the Wireless-AC1750 Dual Band Access Point (LAPAC1750) has a $379.99 USD MSRP.