Expanding the “Elastic Edge” at Cradlepoint


The development of the Mobile Cloud is driving a huge amount of effort towards improving communications at the network “edge.” One of the highly active innovators in this area is Cradlepoint.

Creating The “Elastic Edge”

We recently spoke with Todd Krautkremer, the company’s Senior VP of Strategy & Corporate Development. Cradlepoint is a well-established provider of routers to enterprises, particularly for cellular and WiFi uses. Krautkremer pointed out that the company has 17,000 customers across 50 countries, including 75% of the top retailers in the world and 100% of the top 25 U.S. cities.

Cradlepoint has focused on the edge because of the surging activity including deployments of billions of M2M/IoT devices; increasing mobility of enterprise personnel; and growth of mobile cloud applications and usage. The company asserts that traditional WANs (wide area networks) are simply not suited to these rapidly changing conditions.

The demands for communications today creates the need for edge systems that are, in the company’s words, “scalable, secure, reliable, automated, and agile.” These systems must expand, or shrink, as required – hence their being “elastic.”

NetCloud Platform

The company’s primary offering for elastic edge communications is its NetCloud platform.

NetCloud embraces the following key capabilities and features:

a. SD-WAN (software defined wide area networking);
b. Pervasive connectivity – largely through 4G wireless, but also WiFi (and looking forward to 5G);
c. SD-Perimeter that enables cloaking of traffic from the Internet;
d. VNFs (virtualized network functions) for security and computing at the edge; and
e. NetCloud Manager, which provides network management functions from “a single pane of glass.”

The SD-Perimeter uses private addressing. This creates, what the company refers to as the “Black Cloud,” since hackers can’t see the addresses on the customer’s network.

Growth Outlook

Their growth targets, Krautkremer enumerated as:

1. M2M/IoT apps such as signage, kiosks and other;
2. Mobile in-vehicle apps, including buses, law enforcement vehicles; and
3. Company branch locations.

He lists leading customers such as major QSR (quick service restaurant) chains, FedEx, UPS, Starbucks, the city of Dallas, the San Jose police department and others.

The company is pushing hard to be the first to provide 5G enterprise edge solutions. Krautkremer told us they are in trials with Ericsson, Verizon and AT&T.

Krautkremer propounded three key propositions for the future of networking and Cradlepoint:

1. The next generation of networking will connect people, places, and things;
2. New networks will need to be increasingly software-defined and highly intelligent;
3. More pervasive connectivity will be required and wireless WANs will become a dominant part of networks – which he compares to the way that wireless LANs have become dominant in campus networking.

Use cases are arising everywhere. He mentioned that GE, for example, needs to connect intelligent infrastructure with aircraft engines, which give off billions of bits of important information. At retail, as wages go up for QSRs, they need additional automation, which requires pervasive wireless infrastructure.

Third parties can also deploy apps in Cradlepoint’s NetCloud platform. He cited an app that allowed first responders’ iPhones to talk to a Cradlepoint router inside of an ambulance to unlock the doors when keys were accidentally left inside the vehicle.

Will Cradlepoint consider extending their robust router technology to the RAN itself? Krautkremer stated that this is a different model, which they have not considered to date.

Marketing Key Points

Cradlepoint’s emphasis is on simplicity. The company highlights that an average worker, who does not need to have IT administrative skills, can spin up a global network using NetCloud Manager, with no training.

As for pricing, Cradlepoint has historically offered a hardware choice to the customer and then priced additionally for the choice of NetCloud package. He informed us that starting in January 2018, the company will offer hardware and NetCloud software as a package on a subscription basis. This would have a higher annual charge for year one and flat charges thereafter.

Cradlepoint’s marketing has traditionally relied on typical wireless marketing outlets, such as MSPs (managed service providers) and other third parties. A new channel has been established more recently using wireless carriers who distribute managed services through their own channels.

Krautkremer emphasized the need for partners in the broad WAN Edge space. One example is the 2016 agreement with Softbank, the major Japanese telecom, and Internet company that also controls Sprint. Softbank is re-selling a version of Cardlepoint NetCloud, under the name OneLayer.

Our Take

Anyone who tracks telecommunications on a historical basis will realize that the underlying goal, or broadest vision of the industry, since its pioneering days, has always been called Universal Service – and which today might be better referred to as Universal Connectivity and Availability.

Cradlepoint is an innovator which is responding to this need and the opportunities that are being created as technologies, both in networking and devices, move forward. This puts it in the vanguard of companies that are anticipating the future requirements for advanced networking and service availability.

We firmly believe that the next five to ten years will see astonishing developments in the advancement of the availability of all types of communications services and applications to people and all types of devices, wherever they are located, and whenever required.

Visit their website: www.cradlepoint.com