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Cisco SMB revolution: selling hardware with no subscription required

In Cisco's world this makes a $125 Wi-Fi AP 'easier to buy' – maybe easier than its own Meraki kit?

Cisco has revealed new hardware it is willing to sell to small businesses outright – no subscription, but still with support and warranty! Such innovation!

"At Cisco we've been relentlessly focusing on how to simplify IT – making it easier to manage, deploy, secure, and easier to buy," opens a post by Greg Smith, Cisco's marketing manager for service provider routing & switching.

"This effort to simplify doesn't just cover large enterprise networks – we're happy to do the same for small business as well," Smith added in his post from last Friday, before explaining that the company's small business products offer "a secure and rock-solid network foundation but with affordable value pricing and without monthly subscription costs."

Readers may find it a little odd that 37-year-old Cisco feels last week was the moment to state its belief that customers value secure and reliable products, and that buying products outright is an option worthy of a corporate blog post.

Smith chose the debut of a Wi-Fi access point and accompanying mesh extender as the moment to state those values.

The access point is model CBW150AX – a ceiling-mounted unit that can connect up to 200 devices to each of its radios, using the 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 standard. The mesh machine is the CBW151AXM. Up to 25 can be connected to a single access point, and traffic can travel across eight hops.

Further product details can be found here, but we'll let you click on that link to learn more because Cisco's Smith ended his post with news that the $125 machines mentioned above can be purchased outright, and even include a whole year of phone support and a three-year return to factory warranty.

Just like networking kit from numerous Cisco rivals – and just like products galore from the decades preceding these devices' debuts.

Oddly, Cisco is selling against itself with these devices. They go up against Cisco's Meraki Wi-Fi kit that is touted as just the ticket for SMBs because an accompanying cloudy subscription means they're easily manageable.

Meraki is also more capable than the CBW150 and CBW151, especially in terms of including security services.

Cisco also goes out of its way to inform investors how well it is doing at signing up more customers to its subscription services, which it trumpets as the future of networking.

Yet in Smith's post Cisco has made a virtue of solid, decently supported, self-managed, pay-once products – a procurement model as old as business IT itself.

No wonder former Cisco CEO John Chambers believes his old employer is ripe for an attack by a networking upstart. ®

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