Cradlepoint is a US firm specialising in cloud-delivered 4G LTE networking solutions at the edge of the network. Its chief target is providing secure, business-grade connectivity to distributed enterprises with multiple locations to manage.
The company provides failover solutions for out-of-band-management (OOBM), M2M/IoT, transportation and parallel networking, purpose built for PCI-compliant networks.
The privately held firm was founded in 2006 and is based in Boise, Idaho and its main claim to fame is that it was the first to pioneer and fully enable high-speed LTE solutions designed to maximise the potential of the cloud for businesses worldwide.
The goal is to enable organisations to dispense with the cost of deploying traditional wired networks and instead install 4G LTE wireless solutions, which can be used for both primary connectivity and failover redundancy.
Its high-speed wireless network links are designed to do this at a fraction of the cost of traditional redundant wired links. If an enterprise’s WAN goes down, the Cradlepoint router automatically switches over to 4G, as well as sending an alert to the enterprise.
Speaking to Wireless, Hubert da Costa, VP EMEA at Cradlepoint (pictured below), says: ‘We’ve seen some incredible growth since we were founded with the bulk of that coming in the last four years as Cloud technology became more ubiquitous. The company has grown from just 4 people to well over 300 employees. In 2015, we doubled our business every month since January.
‘We generate $80 million in revenue now and our focus at present is to expand out into the rest of world. In January 2015, we began to take the business into the EMEA region using a two-tier channel approach,’ says da Costa.
Cradlepoint’s main focus has been in providing failover systems. ‘Our motto is: “always on, always connected, always protected”,’ says da Costa. ‘The market is there and we have a best in class product and we use a 100% channel distribution approach for our go-to-market methodology.
‘Our partners want predictability and trust from the manufacturer, so we are never in competition with them,’ he adds. ‘Sure, I employ people and I go to see end users, but I do that with the partner and make sure that they are in line and in step with us. But sales are a channel play.’
In October 2015, Cradlepoint introduced its latest cellular WAN product, which integrates 4G LTE for primary and failover connectivity into a single, dual-modem, multi-carrier platform for mobile and micro branches that can be deployed, managed, and optimised via the cloud.
The new additions to the Cradlepoint solutions portfolio include the AER1600 platform for micro branch networks, such as retail pop-up stores, mobile construction offices, or store-in-store insurance or banking services, along with the COR IBR1100 dual-modem dock (pictured above) for in-vehicle networks like police cars, ambulances, and mass transit.
‘We provide a 4G LTE cloud management solution in the shape of a router with layer 2 and 3 intelligence,’ explains da Costa. ‘It includes Wi-Fi and 3G/4G and, depending on the market, we also have a GPS option in one of our routers.’
Parallel working (also referred to as air-gapped or ancillary networks) is a speciality of the company enabling retailers, for example, to provide customers with Wi-Fi in-store without impacting on the primary store network.
‘We focused heavily on retail in 2014,’ reveals da Costa. ‘In fact it generated circa 60% of our business. Our channel partners also realised they could take a router and offer Wi-Fi to passengers on buses, as well as allowing the bus company to control IoT applications on the vehicles such as digital signage, cameras and security applications offered via our cloud manager.’
The primary element that was missing for many enterprises is that ‘always connected’ network reliability, explains da Costa. ‘Look at Starbucks,’ he says. ‘They depend on having a secure and reliable network. If you offer people a Wi-Fi service it is almost worse to have bad Wi-Fi than no Wi-Fi. The issue for them was if the network went down everyone in the store would shut their laptops and leave.
‘The Starbucks business is premised on selling $10 of coffee on the basis of free Wi-Fi for an hour. So, that could be a $200,000 loss if the Wi-Fi network is down for an hour. Hence, the real need to provide a reliable Wi-Fi service. Retailers like Starbucks want the predictability of having a constant network instead of one that flakes out all the time.’
On top of that are the security aspects and the ability to be flexible. Enterprises do not want to have to have a cable running through store to run a secure network, says da Costa, but instead to have a parallel (or air-gapped) network that is not sitting on their main network.
Cradlepoint’s 3G/4G suite of routers provides a parallel networking solution that combines wired and wireless wide area networks, converging 4G LTE, Ethernet (DSL, Cable, T1, MetroE) and Wi-Fi as a WAN, all delivered through a single networking devices.
‘We offer Wi-Fi as well as 4G LTE, which gives the customer the ability to create a network with improved uptime or failover,’ says da Costa. ‘It uses PoE and a console board, so you can just plug it into a Cisco or Juniper router, for example. Then if the main network goes down there is 4ms switchover time between networks.’
Benefits of Enterprise Cloud Manager
The company’s ‘secret source’, according to da Costa is its Enterprise Cloud Manager. ‘Tesco has 2,655 stores, but how can it manage that many centrally? By using our cloud management services Tesco can dial into our router to manage and check on the network intelligently and get real-time QoE analytics.’
The Enterprise Cloud Manager can also manage and configure devices and set application aware policies for intelligent WAN selection and optimisation. It can provide data analytics to manage performance, data usage and costs, and it enables the customer to set alerts for 3G/4G modem connectivity issues, unauthorised access and configuration changes.
‘This type of enterprise is the category that we identified ourselves; the small footprint distributed enterprise is the one that really drives the scale for us,’ says da Costa.
He adds that Cradlepoint likes to work with Wi-Fi vendors like Aerohive, as it believes the two can offer customers complementary services. ‘Aerohive offers Wi-Fi like us, but they have a business intelligence engine that gives them analytics on who went where and for how long, etc.
‘We don’t do that. What we do well is the analytics around the traffic, so we partner with the likes of Aerohive very well. We have partnered with them on the Fernando’s restaurant roll out, for example.’
He adds that Cradlepoint works with all the main mobile operators to ensure it is compliant with their network requirements. ‘We have dual SIM cards and modems in our routers. Having two separate network SIM cards helps with load balancing scenarios, so if one goes down we can switch to the other. You can also work out which operator is offering the best tariff, so you can run on the best cost one.’
Blue Light sector
Cradlepoint has also made in-roads into some very different sectors besides distributed retail enterprises, including Blue Light services. ‘They are one of our biggest customers right now,’ says da Costa. ‘Retail has been a fabulous market for us, as has transportation, which is the sector that took us into public safety in the US.’
He adds that most of the UK police, fire and ambulance vehicles are now fitted with Cradlepoint routers today. ‘We have the ability to set up a secure network using our IBR 1100 rugged router and we have been working in partnership with Panasonic Toughbook for the in-vehicle display units. But the router can also control between 125 and 150 body-worn cameras depending on the product.’
Da Costa says Africa has recently provided the company with a ‘huge leapfrog in growth’ where countries are trialling body-worn cameras on vests connected wirelessly to the patrol vehicle. ‘This area has been a growth driver for us, the government sector in particular. We’ve been approved as an LTE solution for the UK Government, MoD, police, etc. We are in trial with them in a number of different areas.’
Besides retail and Blue Light, Cradlepoint is active in supplying solutions to the hospitality industry, finance and banking sectors for M2M/IoT applications to ensure reliable connectivity, especially for ATMs in remote locations.
‘We also work with a company that converts shipping containers into mobile desalination plants. They drop them into areas where they need pure water. What we do is provide the means to check the water is purified in the right way and enable the data to be transmitted back to the company or end user.
‘We are constantly evolving and developing our products,’ continues da Costa. ‘We are continually developing the apps that sit in the Enterprise Cloud Manager. We have worked with security software providers Trend Micro for CP gateway security, for example. We try to add real value to our clients by turning our solutions into a service for them.
‘We believe we continually have to offer value by providing more apps in the cloud. We develop these apps to give the market what they need and create a new revenue model – and that helps differentiate us in the market,’ he says.
Cradlepoint makes its APIs available so customers can develop their own customised apps suited to their particular needs. ‘Apps help us integrate better with our customers, although it depends on the vertical. Potentially you don’t need geofencing in retail, but you may need it for transportation to ensure whatever is being moved doesn’t leave a certain area. But the point is to evolve our products to make them better and more feature rich,’ he concludes.