Netgear has decided that users of some of its managed network switches don’t need access to the equipment's full user interface – unless they register their details with Netgear first.
For instance, owners of its 64W Power-over-Ethernet eight-port managed gigabit switch GC108P, and its 126W variant GC108PP, need to hand over information about themselves to the Netgear Cloud to get full use out of the devices.
“Starting from firmware version 126.96.36.199, product registration is required to unlock full access to the local browser user interface,” said the manufacturer in a note on its website referencing a version released in April this year.
The latest build, 188.8.131.52, released last week, continues that registration requirement. These rules also appear to apply to a dozen or so models of Netgear's kit, including its GS724TPP 24-port managed Ethernet switch.
“I recently bought a couple of Netgear Managed Switches for business, and in their datasheet they list local-only management as a feature. Only after they arrived we discovered that you only get limited functionality in the local-only management mode, you have to register the switches to your Netgear Cloud account to get access to the full functionality,” fumed one netizen on a Hacker News discussion thread. “I would not have bought the switches if I had knew I needed to register them to Netgear Cloud to have access to the full functionality specified in the data sheet.”
It appears the Silicon Valley giant is aware that not everyone will rush to create a cloud account to manage their network hardware because it has published a list of functions that one can freely access without said registration – for now, anyway.
We've asked Netgear to explain the move. The manufacturer most recently made the headlines when, after being informed of a security flaw in a large number of product lines, promptly abandoned half of them rather than issue a patch.
Professor Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey, England, opined: “It’s a conundrum because it is software and you do have only a licence to use it: you don’t own it so one might argue this helps protect intellectual property rights. However, that’s different for the hardware which is pretty useless without the software.”
“Bottom line,” he concluded, “is that [Netgear] are like most other commercial organisations: they want your data to market further products to you. They can justify it legally I’m sure, and there are some legitimate reasons for having the data such as improving servicing, but it doesn’t sit well with me. If they expressly stated that they would not use it to market to me or share with others then I might be more inclined to accept it.”
It doesn't take much to imagine a future where even business-grade hardware is bound to a cloud account and requires a subscription to function. No subscription equals your office hardware bricked. Perhaps Netgear is just leading the way? ®