Cisco launches access points and switches to improve hybrid workplaces

Cisco has introduced a suite of networking hardware to make hybrid workplaces more responsive to the needs of home and office employees.

The new products, unveiled Thursday, include two 6E Wi-Fi access points and four Catalyst 9000X switches, both powered by the Silicon One Q200 chipset. The latest technologies work together to deliver the power and connectivity needed to meet the network demands of a hybrid workplace.

Both access points, the Catalyst 9136 and the Meraki MR57, are Cisco’s first high-end Wi-Fi 6E access points.

The Catalyst 9136, managed through Cisco’s DNA Center software console, includes Cisco’s Catalyst Smart AP radio resource management and power management features to automatically optimize power consumption and performance. The 9136 includes built-in sensors that monitor environmental data such as temperature and humidity. Cisco positions it as the most flexible and powerful option.

The Meraki MR57 offers enterprise-grade WPA3 security and has management and optimization capabilities through the cloud-based Meraki Dashboard.

Cisco Meraki MR57 Access Point

The MR57 is a simpler option than the 9136. Both access points are backward compatible with 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum in addition to 6 GHz.

Cisco designed the Catalyst 9300X and 9400X 100G access switches and the Catalyst 9500X and 9600X 400G core switches to handle the high data transfer speeds of the latest access points.

The X in the name means the hardware has more bandwidth and higher throughput than its 9000 series counterparts. Cisco plans to release an X version of all Catalyst 9000 switches eventually.

The 9500X and 9600X are the first Catalyst 9000 switches to run on the highly programmable Silicon One chip, which Cisco plans to install across the line over time. Both switches offer dual-speed 400G/200G uplinks, another first for Cisco campus switches.

The common thread running through all the latest products is enabling a hybrid workforce as the pandemic wanes. Cisco expects enterprise bandwidth needs in branch offices to increase as returning employees use video conferencing and real-time collaboration tools to work with employees from home.

The pandemic, which has forced businesses to operate with many employees working from home, has made businesses “incredibly nimble,” said Bob Laliberte, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

“What Cisco is doing with this announcement is putting a plan in place for organizations that want to revamp their entire campus environment to enable hybrid working there,” Laliberte said.

Cisco Catalyst 9000X Series Switches
Cisco Catalyst 9000X Series Switches

The Catalyst 9000X series switches and the 6E Access Point will be available for order next week, while the Meraki 6E Access Point will be available for order in March. Cisco has not released pricing for the new devices.

Cisco launched the new product at an online event where executives teased an upcoming 5G-as-a-managed private service announcement. The company plans to release the details at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ​​Spain later this month.

Cisco will work with multiple service providers and technology partners, including Dish Networks, on cloud-delivered 5G service. The service complements Cisco’s Wi-Fi 6E products, the executives said.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering networking technology at TechTarget. She has previously written about science and technology for MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and the Khoury College of Computer Science, as well as community news coverage for Boston Globe Media.