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Cisco launches APs, switches to enhance hybrid workplaces

Cisco has launched two Wi-Fi 6E APs and four switches to update campus networks and improve hybrid workplaces.

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

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

The two access points, the Catalyst 9136 and Meraki MR57, are Cisco's first high-end Wi-Fi 6E APs.

The Catalyst 9136, managed through Cisco's DNA Center software console, includes Cisco's Radio Resource Management and Smart AP Catalyst Power Management features to optimize power use and performance automatically. The 9136 includes embedded sensors that monitor environmental data like temperature and humidity. Cisco positions it as the most flexible, powerful option.

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

Cisco Meraki MR57 AP
Cisco Meraki MR57 AP

The MR57 is a more streamlined option than the 9136. Both APs are backward-compatible with 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum in addition to 6 GHz.

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

The X in the name means the hardware has more bandwidth and higher throughput than their 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 in the entire line over time. Both switches offer dual-rate 400G/200G uplinks, another first for Cisco's campus switches.

The thread running through all the latest products is enabling a hybrid workforce as the pandemic wanes. Cisco expects companies' bandwidth needs at branch offices to balloon as returning workers use video conferencing and real-time collaboration tools to work with at-home employees.

The pandemic, which forced companies to operate with many employees working from home, has made companies "incredibly agile," said Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"What Cisco is doing with this announcement is putting together a blueprint for organizations that want to rearchitect their entire campus environment to enable the hybrid work there," Laliberte said.

Cisco Catalyst 9000X series switches
Cisco Catalyst 9000X series switches

The Catalyst 9000X series switches and 6E access point will be available for order next week, while the Meraki 6E AP will be orderable in March. Cisco has not released prices for the new devices.

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

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

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering network 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 covering community news for Boston Globe Media.

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