One of the best things about Tech Field Day is the chance it gives both on-site delegates and those who tune in to the live sessions and even those watching the published recordings is the ability to take a chance to spend some time and think outside the box.
To leave our comfort zone of Wi-Fi and our favorite vendor’s gear and think about broader subjects.
This was no more evident to me than the return of Cradlepoint back to a Tech Field Day event. This time to the Wireless Tech Field Day.
I was especially impressed with the Cradlepoint management’s ability to resist the siren song of consumer market volumes, and be able to successfully pivot from mass production of lower and lower cost consumer products to the enterprise space. Kudos to the team for the strength of character and foresight to be up to the challenge of enterprise-class electronics.
They have pulled off quite a coup here by re-configuring the company and its product lines to support fully enterprise-class routing protocols and support in their 4G-LTE routers. A couple of items that come to mind based on their presentation at #WFD8 come to mind:
- Support of higher end routing protocols like BGP, RIP, OSPF, and VRRP.
- Move to PoE to drive some of their product line – this is very much a needed feature in the enterprise.
- Fantastic ability to use WWAN connections for ‘out-of-band’ control of infrastructure devices – especially since there is no ‘Putty-like’ interface of SSH shells needed, they do it from their cloud management system.
- Speaking of cloud management – I just love when management is moved to a simple, clean, and easy to use interface available across platforms and without special canned applications. I applaud the effort to move to management via mobile devices and available anywhere, anytime.
- Fail-over and parallel network capability – allowing for a WWAN link over 4G-LTE to co-exist and also be available for fail-over. Very useful.
- The near instantaneous ability to bring up a remote site until lower-cost backhaul solutions are available.
- Business models that show costs being much lower for WWAN connections than other alternatives. These seemed a bit too good to be true, so I’ll have to follow up with more research. But if the presentations hold true with costs, this could be a new alternative for many of my enterprise or SMB customers.
- The obvious use for this technology is in disaster mitigation – but having such a structure in-place and ready to go prior to any need is paramount in maximizing the value of the solution.
But like all good things, this technology has some down-sides that also made me stop and ponder:
- 4G-LTE isn’t the panacea as presented, unless you can divorce the per MB metered rates for all traffic sent over the WWAN link.
- The transport costs will force enterprise customers to consciously and proactively have to plan for traffic flows to keep WWAN metered charges to a minimum.
- Though Cradlepoint has successfully added enterprise-class routing functions, their Wi-Fi capabilities, both hardware-wise and especially management and control-wise are still solidly in the SOHO/SMB quality. Missing are many features and ‘nerd-knobs’ we are used to to design, manage and troubleshoot an enterprise Wireless LAN.
Overall – the presentations were effective in making me think about WWAN as possible solutions to many of my enterprise customer’s situations.
These 4G-LTE routers will have a place in my toolbar moving forward. (But only as an edge device attached to enterprise AP’s until those features may be added to future Cradlepoint hardware) Perhaps I’m just being a Wireless LAN snob – and this won’t be the first time someone has hurled that ‘compliment’ to me.
But I see a huge gulf in features, control, and thoughtful processes that are needed to compete in the enterprise-class Wireless LAN space.
I look forward to using and perhaps even reselling Cradlepoint gear in the near future.
Cradlepoint Best Practices
Here’s the live stream enjoy!