Categories
AI

Intent-based networking startup Gluware secures $43M to automate repetitive tasks

Gluware, a company developing network automation tools for cloud environments, today announced that it raised $43 million in funding led by Bain Capital with participation from Acadia Woods Partners and existing investors. The mix of debt and equity — which values the company “well into the nine figures,” according to a source — will go toward scaling the company’s sales and marketing teams and product R&D, according to CEO Jeff Gray.

It’s estimated that networking practitioners spend up to 55% of their time and resources on repetitive equipment management tasks. According to Cisco, around 95% of network-related tasks are performed manually, causing operational costs of around 2 to 3 times more than the cost of the network. That’s why an increasing number of companies are turning to automation, which promises to free up IT teams while potentially reducing expenses. A 2019 survey found that nearly two-thirds of companies plan to deploy systems that will help them analyze network issues using automation and AI.

“The network … market is complex and fragmented, with legacy tools that cater to highly bespoke static configurations, small-scale single-vendor solutions, or do-it-yourself coding approaches that require significant resources. These approaches break under the scale, scope, and complexity of modern enterprise networks,” Gray told VentureBeat via email.

Founded in 2007 by Gray and Olivier Huynh Van as Glue Networks, Gluware offers a code-free, intent-based networking service for enterprise organizations. This design supports network equipment audits while helping to identify network changes, patch multivendor devices, and perform error checks and automatic remediation. (Intent-based networking, an emerging software category, deals with the planning and deployment networks that can improve availability, providing lifecycle management for infrastructure.)

Gray and Van met in London working for a managed service provider, where they developed an engine capable of automating Cisco-specific wide area networks, local area networks, datacenter, and cloud environments to reduce outages. This became the cornerstone of Gluware’s platform, which eventually expanded to support to multivendor, multi-domain network automation.

“Mounting pressure is forcing businesses to address manually induced outages, security breaches, failed audits, and the inability to provide network services to lines of business on required timelines. Yet, the magnitude and heterogeneity of the network automation problem make it harder to tackle than the markets above. The software layer needed to solve the network automation problem must automate any enterprise network design, any vendor, any device, and any custom configuration,” Gray said. “Gluware’s software acts as a robot network engineer in the cloud and engages in intelligent two-way communication with the most sophisticated network devices, keeping them in compliance and maintaining them in a safe and predictable manner.”

Automating network tasks

Gluware, with Fortune 500 and Global 2000 customers like Mastercard and Terracon, automatically turns running network configurations into policy. This keeps devices up to date with software upgrade orchestration. The company claims its discovery engine can index and inventory multivendor networks of almost any size, completed with a programmatic interface architected to integrate into third-party platforms via an API.

One Gluware customer — Merck — claims to have cut the time spent on global network configuration changes by 98%. Before adopting Gluware, Merck took up to nine months to manually tune its cloud applications.

“Gluware understands network configurations at a per character resolution level, abstracts the myriad configurations into overall data-model-driven policies, and maintains historical knowledge of every configuration change,” said Gray, who added that the company’s next phase of development will focus on AI capabilities such as robotic process automation to deliver “self-operating, self-remediating” networks for customers. “With the advent of Gluware’s data collection AI and machine learning platform and application, Gluware [will have] an unfair advantage in determining if the change was a good change or a bad change, providing recommended changes to IT, and delivering on self-operating use cases.”

The datacenter automation segment is expected to rise from $3.16 billion in 2014 to $7.53 billion in 2019, according to a Markets and Markets report. And the  industry remains red-hot, as evidenced by Juniper Networks’ purchase of intent-based networking startup Apstra last December. Gartner predicts automation of 60% of datacenter networking configuration activities, up from 30% in early 2020.

As for 61-employee Gluware, the company says it’s on track for 400% annual recurring revenue growth this year. To date, Gluware has raised $90 million in total capital.

“The pandemic has made Gluware automation a must-have. Network automation has increased in value since the start of the pandemic, as IT staff need more remote management and zero-touch provisioning capabilities, the ability to make changes with confidence for new traffic patterns to manage work from home initiatives, and the need to extend the life of current network infrastructure during supply chain disruptions,” Gray said. “Customers that implemented Gluware on their production networks have found tens of thousands of hidden security violations, hundreds of unapproved operating system versions, and dangerous network misconfigurations — all of which have caused or have the potential to cause major network outages or security events, resulting in loss of business continuity.”

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Categories
AI

Why experience-first networking is the future of IT

This article is part of an AI Research Insight Series paid for by Juniper Networks.


“Experience is the new uptime,” says Jeff Aaron, VP of enterprise marketing at Juniper Networks. “It’s not enough to look at your dashboard and say, ‘My network is running all green.’ That doesn’t mean your users are having a good experience.”

The old network-centric way of operating networks simply can’t keep pace with the soaring number of applications, users and devices within an organization. So it’s no surprise that AI is now powering experience-first networking for both users and operators – and in the process, reducing costs, improving efficiencies and boosting end-user satisfaction.

This is true whether you’re a retail company maintaining its brand experience with consumers, a school ensuring their students and teachers are happy, or an enterprise making sure employees working in a hybrid work environment, at home or onsite, have predictable, reliable, measurable services that make them more productive.

So, what makes AI-driven operations, or AIOps, essential for IT leaders? And how does it power an experience-first approach?

The challenge

An AI-powered strategy is more important than ever as the demands on IT departments keep growing. Outside of the pandemic, there’s the astronomical growth in devices, apps and operating systems. In the throes of the pandemic, there’s the urgent need to offer users the ability to work anywhere.

“Now everyone’s home has become a branch office,” Aaron says. “How do you deliver reliable and predictable networking and security to all these locations?” And that will remain an issue even after workers return to the office since the pandemic has entrenched ongoing work-from-anywhere situations.

The second big challenge is bringing workers back safely. IT now needs to be working hand-in-hand with facilities to embed pandemic planning as part of disaster recovery. There are practical considerations — do you maintain an open seating environment, or keep people distanced? Are workers invited back in droves, or should you move into a hoteling environment, where people can reserve seats when they show up?

“All that impacts your network, your wireless and things like location services,” he says. “And preparing for, worst case scenario, if another similar situation requires contact tracing, social distancing, alerting employees and more. That’s the new norm. It has to be planned for.”

Where AI comes in

Given these challenges, IT department heads are realizing they need to focus more on end-to-end user experiences. It’s not just about the network anymore, but about the users and what kind of experiences they have on that network.

AIOps makes maintenance and monitoring more automated, provides better insight into user experiences and greater ability to take proactive action.

With automation, insight into your user experiences is continually visible. When you’re able to collect 150 user states from every mobile client, every two seconds, you know exactly what’s going on with every user. And as that data is fed back into the platform, you can constantly optimize. You’re in a prime position to take action as anomalies or patterns are detected, then provide recommendations to operators, so they can proactively get ahead of things before users even know there’s an issue.

AIOps is also an invaluable tool for user support. Ideally, you want to solve a problem before the user has to call or create a ticket, of course. But if they do have to call, an AI solution can help detect and resolve an issue faster to minimize the IT resources required.

Consider the AIOps conversational interface Marvis, Juniper’s virtual network assistant driven by Mist AI. Rather than combing through a thousand event logs across a thousand systems to determine a solution for a user’s problem, an IT team using Marvis can use a simple query like, ‘What was wrong with Jeff’s connection yesterday?,’ and return an actionable answer – ‘It was a wireless issue, and here’s how to fix it.’

The AI assistant can deduce the intent behind questions and provide actionable results based on its knowledge base, with interactive queries to drill down further based on suggested next steps. And the assistant continues to learn based on feedback from users. Built with open APIs, teams can integrate the platform with their current IT systems and automate the network.

“You can argue that AIOps and virtual network assistants are minimizing the need for dashboards, the same way dashboards did for CLI,” says Aaron. “That’s where the industry is moving toward.”

Solutions in the real world

Juniper Networks was the first to recognize that the IT service model has to change, Aaron says. Mist AI brings insights and Self-Driving Network™ automation to optimize end-to-end user experiences and minimize IT costs across LAN, WLAN and WAN.

“The old reactive way of looking at the network needed to shift to one that’s more proactive, automated and focused on the user,” he says. “We designed our solutions from the ground up to do that.”

He points to the case of ServiceNow, a SaaS company that wanted to eliminate all inbound user-generated trouble tickets. In particular, they wanted to be able to detect and resolve a Wi-Fi problem before a user knew it existed, since they were getting over 100 complaints per month.

“Once they put Juniper in place with AI and AIOps, they eliminated over 90% of user-generated trouble tickets. They’re now down to one or two per month and that’s huge,” he says. “That shows you the ability of proactive automation and insight and action when properly applied.”

And Dartmouth College is using Juniper Networks for more reliable wireless access wherever their students roam, with a help desk helmed by grad students who aren’t especially tech savvy. By being able to give their student workers a virtual network assistant that can answer natural language questions and return solutions, the Dartmouth College IT department can focus on more strategic things than just answering simple calls.

The Mist AI advantage

Mist delivered the first AI-driven network almost five years ago, born out of the need to combine network automation with insights for great user experiences.

“Internally we often say that Mist AI is the rocket fuel that raises the bar on what’s possible across all aspects of the AI-driven enterprise,” Aaron says, “and we are continuing to expand the entire Juniper portfolio and bring it all under a common Mist AI umbrella.”

To shift the focus from network and application behavior to actual user experiences, they recently introduced Juniper Mist WAN Assurance to bring AI-driven insights for the WAN and branch to Juniper’s SD-WAN solution.

This cloud-based service streams key telemetry data from Juniper SRX devices to the Mist AI engine in the cloud to enable customizable WAN service levels that are used to optimize user experiences. It’s able to correlate events across the LAN, WLAN and WAN for rapid fault isolation and resolution across all domains, and it enables proactive actions as a result of anomaly detection with automated workflows, with an eye toward completely self-driving networks from client to cloud.

This, along with the Juniper Mist Virtual Network Assistant and the Marvis conversational interface, helps IT administrators to more nimbly address network, application and user issues; corrective actions are recommended or taken automatically to resolve the issue in real time, often before the user is even aware of a problem.

“Our goal is to have something like 80% of all trouble tickets answered by our virtual network assistant,” Aaron says. “We’re pretty close to that. It’s just learning and getting better over time.”

“There will be a day where most trouble tickets can be handled by AI,” he adds. “Mist AI is what provides the automation, the insight, the actions across our wired and wireless and SD-WAN domains.”

Dig deeper: Learn more about experience-first networking and see AIOps in action


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Categories
Computing

What Is Wi-Fi 6? A Look at This Wireless Networking Standard

If your current Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough to support your growing number of devices, you might be on the lookout for a better solution. Perhaps you’re experiencing frequent connection errors, slowdowns, and other technical difficulties. Wi-Fi 6 can offer a faster, more reliable connection.

We’ll talk more about this next-generation standard in Wi-Fi technology, tell you what it has to offer, and give you tips on determining what devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6.

The dawn of generational Wi-Fi labels

The Wi-Fi Alliance is the organization in charge of deciding, developing, and designating Wi-Fi standards. As devices become more complex and internet connections evolve, the process of delivering wireless connections also changes. That means that Wi-Fi standards — the technical specifications that manufacturers use to create Wi-Fi — need to be periodically updated so that new technology can flourish and everything can remain compatible. So far, so good.

But the awkward naming of Wi-Fi standards has become a real annoyance for the average person who tries to figure out what those little letters at the end mean. The Wi-Fi Alliance is aware of this, which is why they announced a new way to label Wi-Fi standards by referring to the number of the generation. This will apply to the latest Wi-Fi 6/6E and be retroactive, applying to older standards. For example:

  • 802.11n (2009) = Wi-Fi 4
  • 802.11ac (2014) = Wi-Fi 5
  • 802.11ax (newly released) = Wi-Fi 6/6E

Easier, isn’t it? This will cause a period of confusion where some products are labeled with the old code, and some are just called Wi-Fi 4 or Wi-Fi 5 when it means the same thing. This should be resolved in time as older product labeling is phased out and everyone gets used to the new, friendly names when doing research.

What the Wi-Fi 6/6E standards bring

Now that we’ve covered the naming issue, you’re probably wondering just what Wi-Fi 6/6E brings to the table. Why was another update required? There are a lot of new Wi-Fi technologies on the rise, and Wi-Fi 6 helps standardize them. Here are the important new pieces and what they mean for your wireless network.

Intel

First off is lower latency. Reduced latency means that there are shorter or no delay times as data is sent (very similar to ping rate and other such measurements). Everyone wants low latency connections because it improves load times and helps avoid disconnects and other issues. Wi-Fi 6 lowers latency compared to older Wi-Fi standards, using more advanced technology like OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access). Basically, it’s better at packing data into a signal.

Of course, Wi-Fi 6 will also be faster. By offering full support for technologies like MU-MIMO, connection quality will vastly improve for compatible mobile devices, which should also speed up content delivery. Even if you don’t upgrade your internet speed, such improvements can improve your Wi-Fi data speed anyway, so you get more information faster. How much faster? Digital Trends tested a Wi-Fi 6 laptop and router in late December of 2019 and found a more than 60% increase in speed.

Believe it or not, Wi-Fi 6E promises to be even faster than Wi-Fi 6! While Wi-Fi 6 devices make use of the brand new 6GHz radio band, 6E devices offer “14 additional 80 MHz channels and [seven] additional 160 MHz channels,” according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. More impressively, these channels are designed to not overlap in order to reduce latency and improve congestion issues when using a device around multiple networks.

It also means fewer dead zones, thanks to some expanded beamforming capabilities. Beamforming is the trick your router uses to focus signals on a particular device, especially if it looks like that device is having trouble with a connection. The new standard expands the range of beamforming and improves its capabilities, making dead zones in your house even less likely.

Lastly, Wi-Fi 6 means better battery life. There’s a term called “TWT” or target wake time, a new technology that Wi-Fi 6 embraces. This helps connected devices customize when and how they “wake up” to receive Wi-Fi data signals. It makes it much easier for devices to “sleep” while waiting for the next necessary Wi-Fi transmission (this does not mean your device is turned off, just the parts used for Wi-Fi). In turn, this can save a significant amount of battery life for devices, which should make everyone happy.

Watch for the Wi-Fi 6/6E label

Table of various Wi-Fi logos that denote different generations of network connection.

So, how do you know if a router, phone, or other device works with the new 802.11ax standard? First, look for the phrase “Wi-Fi 6/6E” on the packaging, advertisements, labels, and so on. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance has also suggested using icons to show the Wi-Fi generation. These icons look like Wi-Fi signals with a circled number within the signal. Watch for these icons as well when picking out the right device.

Buying a Wi-Fi 6/6E device

Netgear Nighthawk AX8, a Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Wi-Fi Alliance launched its Wi-Fi 6E certification program on January 7, ahead of CES 2021 and coinciding with the official release of Wi-Fi 6/6E. CES 2021 introduced some impressive-looking Wi-Fi 6/6E routers and mesh routers from various well-known manufacturers, including Netgear, TP-Link, Arris, and Linksys, as well as a USB adapter from D-Link to add Wi-Fi 6 directly to your laptop. If you go shopping for a new router, you should check out our guide to the best Wi-Fi 6 routers. 

Mobile devices that are currently compatible with Wi-Fi 6 include products such as the iPhone 12, the Samsung Galaxy S10, and the OnePlus 8.

Laptops that support Wi-Fi 6 include the Dell XPS 13, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go, and the Asus Chromebook Flip c436.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

Zero trust networking startup Elisity raises $26M

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


Elisity, a cybersecurity startup, today announced that it raised $26 million in a funding round led by Two Bear Capital and AllegisCyber Capital. CEO James Winebrenner says that the capital will be put toward scaling Elisity’s operations as it accelerates R&D and customer acquisition.

According to a recent study published by the University of Maryland, hackers attack every 39 seconds, or about 2,244 times a day. The average time to identify a breach in 2019 was 206 days, at which point the cost could be in excess of $3.92 million. Kaspersky Lab reported a threefold year-over-year increase in smart gadget hacks in the first half of 2018, with one malware variant managing to infect 57,000 wireless security cameras.

Elisity, whose founding team includes Cisco, Qualys, and Viptela veterans, offers a product suite that’s designed to secure data while ensuring access. It combines the paradigm of zero trust access, meaning no user is trusted by default from inside or outside the network, and a software-defined perimeter to authorize users, devices, and apps based on policies before they can communicate with critical resources. Access is monitored by AI algorithms that track, monitor, and analyze flows and user behavior to make recommendations and discover all of an organization’s assets to build an encrypted mesh overlay between a cloud services panel and network probes.

Elisity was started in 2018 by Burjiz Pithawala, Sundher Narayan, and Srinivas Sardar, all of whom previously held leadership roles in product development and architecture at Cisco. The executive team is headed by Winebrenner, who led the go-to-market strategy for Viptela from pre-launch through to the sale to Cisco in 2017.

Zero trust

According to Gartner, zero trust network access augments traditional VPN technologies for application access, removing the excessive trust once required to allow employees and partners to collaborate. The approach abstracts and centralizes the access mechanisms, so that the security engineers and staff can be responsible for them.

The global zero trust security market is expected to reach $54.6 billion by 2026, rising at a compound annual growth rate of 18.8%. Gartner posits that this reflects the technology’s potential: More resilient environments with improved flexibility and better monitoring appeal to organizations looking for more flexible — and responsive — ways to connect and collaborate with their digital business ecosystems, remote workers, and partners.

With Elisity, devices can connect to a software-defined, app-centric virtual network that runs atop existing transport networks only if they’re configured with a policy. The mesh decouples app access from underlying network access, assuming the network is untrustworthy. Similar to a traditional virtual private network (VPN), services brought within the Elisity environment aren’t visible on the internet and are thus mostly shielded from attackers. Organizations can connect and secure access in campus, branch, and remote offices to apps in the cloud, multicloud, and datacenter environments.

“Elisity’s AI-powered … platform fuses identity and behavioral intelligence to continuously assess risk and instantly optimize access, connectivity, and protection policies that follow … devices, applications and people wherever they go,” Winebrenner told VentureBeat via email. “By integrating asset management, connectivity, and security, Elisity helps enterprise-class organizations across industries including financial services, health care, and manufacturing break through today’s siloed enterprise networking-and-security group challenges.”

Elisity

Winebrenner says the mesh isn’t just a VPN replacement, but rather a platform that helps companies transition to zero trust across their digital footprint. Elisity provides real-time information on who’s accessing resources and from where, allowing admins to segment environments based on traffic flow and machine identity. It also lets them manage a unified access policy and support the requirements of remote access in a secure way, migrating workloads across clouds or within a VPN in a cloud.

Winebrenner claims that 31-employee Elisity allows enterprises in industries such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and health care to realize cost savings, time savings, and risk mitigation because they no longer have to rely on disparate software to protect access. He says the platform reduces the total number of tools required to manage access — without taking such access for granted.

“Distributed enterprises need agile security for their remote workforce. But converged cloud security approaches don’t take into consideration the unmanaged or managed devices employees are using, often without any visibility from IT or security. The industry most go beyond edge security, it must go beyond … identity and access management,” Winebrenner added. “The better approach is the integration of all these things into security that gets closest to the asset or user and understands the context of behavioral changes.”

Milpitas, California-based Elisity’s latest funding round brings the company’s total raised to over $33 million to date.

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Categories
Tech News

Could quantum neural networking lead to human immortality?

There’s no proof you’re going to die. Don’t take that the wrong way; there’s a lot of evidence. But proof is for math, and death is only certain in retrospect.

That’s why any research that pushes the boundaries of what we can observe, test, and replicate when it comes to the wacky world of quantum mechanics is exciting. Spooky action at a distance could be our ticket to immortality.

An international team of researchers recently published work demonstrating quantum entanglement at an unprecedented macro-scale.

Per a report from Science Alert’s David Nield:

The dimensions involved are still very small from our perspective – these experiments involved two tiny aluminum drums one-fifth the width of a human hair – but in the realm of quantum physics they’re absolutely huge.

Entanglement is a property of quantum mechanics wherein one particle can be made to respond to the stimulation of another particle, where they’re separated by distance.

In other words: if you entangle two particles and tickle one of them, they both laugh.

[Read: Here’s what quantum computing is and why it matters]

What’s interesting here is that the researchers managed to entangle tiny aluminum drums. They observed the entanglement across the drums by measuring vibrations.

In essence, a drummer on one stage played their drum and the sound simultaneously teleported to a drum on the other side of the stage. This is what physicists hope to accomplish with quantum communication networks: unhackable, instant communication via teleportation.

Categories
Computing

Google Nest Wifi Review: Mesh Networking Without The Hassle

“Google’s Nest WiFi is a great mesh networking system with a secret. It’s also a smart speaker.”

  • Simple installation and setup
  • Google Assistant integration
  • Ability to expand coverage
  • Contemporary design fits any decor
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Single ethernet port

For the average person, getting internet service at home means calling up a local service provider or surfing the web to uncover some of the best deals around. Once there’s something worth subscribing to, a technician comes out for the installation. You’re usually up and running in a matter of minutes. Most people don’t ever worry about replacing a router unless it gives out or if they need to have more coverage.

That’s where the Google Nest WiFi comes to life with its whole-home coverage and consistency. Fundamentally, the Nest WiFi aims to accomplish the same task as most other Mesh Wi-Fi routers, but Google’s interpretation is distinct for notable features that continue the company’s focus on delivering multi-functional devices for the smart home. Not only will it be the brains behind monitoring your home’s Wi-Fi network, but it’s a system that will help to build up your smart home with Google Assistant. Why just stick with smart speakers when this incorporates Google Assistant into its access points?

It’s priced at $269 for the starter pack, which includes the router and access point. Are you looking to expand your existing system? You can buy additional access points for $149 through Google directly

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to set it up

Routers can be overwhelming to set up, especially for those who don’t have a background in networking. Google makes the process painless and simple with the included quick start guide. I’ve had my fair share of frustration with overly complex router setups, but this one was without question the simplest to get up and running.

Using the Google Home app on my Android smartphone, I was guided to connect the Nest WiFi router to my existing Xfinity xFi Gateway modem using the included Ethernet port.

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Once I finished setting up the appropriate SSID and password for my network, connecting the Nest WiFi point required me to capture the QR code on the unit using the Google Home app. From there, it automatically communicated with the router to establish the mesh network.

While I do appreciate Google’s approach with the setup process, anyone who has configured other mesh networking systems won’t find it unique or unusual. For example, Netgear’s Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi system has a similar setup process. Mesh networking systems are all about ease-of-use, and Google’s competitors at Netgear and Linksys haven’t been caught off-guard.

The real key to Google’s approach is Google’s own brand. The Nest WiFi maintains the company’s software look and feel. If you use a Pixel phone, or own another Google Home device, the Nest WiFi will seem familiar from the start.

Finally, a smarter implementation

There’s little love given to routers in general. Once they’re set up, they’re typically left hidden behind a cabinet or entertainment system and forgotten unless a problem arises. Here, the integration of Google Assistant with the Wi-Fi point shows the company embracing the multi-functional aspect of its devices.

Not only is the Wi-Fi point helpful in expanding coverage in the home, but it can be used to do all the same things as any of Google’s smart speakers. It essentially doubles as a Nest Mini speaker, allowing it to play music, access Google Assistant, and even control other connected smart home gadgets through voice actions.

Speaking of music, it’s a slight step up from the Nest Mini’s audio performance with the pronounced bass it pumps out, making it a smidgen more substantial and pleasing to the ear. Similar to the Nest Mini, proximity sensors can detect when you’re close, and will light up the LEDs on top of the unit. Even better, I like how the LED ring around the body lights up whenever you command the Google Assistant.

Mind you, it’s $149 a pop, versus a meager $50 for the Nest Mini. The Nest WiFi access point is router first, smart speaker second. Still, it’s nice to see it function as more than just an access point for a mesh network.

The pricing is on par with its rivals, seeing that add-on satellites for Netgear’s Orbi and Amazon’s Eero mesh systems have a similar MSRP. Letting the hardware double as a smart speaker gives Google’s offering more value.

Blanketing dead zones

I live in a small apartment that’s around 1,100 square feet, so my existing xFi Gateway manages to cover most places, though outlying areas can be spotty. The worst spots are in my bedroom and bathroom, where I tend to see weaker Wi-Fi connectivity, usually at around one or two bars. The signal needs to pass through a couple of walls and other obstructions.

The Nest WiFi mesh system blankets those areas with sufficient coverage, without degrading speed in the process, by simultaneously leveraging the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for optimal performance. I’m still able to get speeds of about 900 Mbps down and 40 Mbps up, which are similar to what I get when I’m in the same room as my Xfinity xFi Gateway. For those outlying areas that didn’t quite get blanketed previously, it’s great to see that my connection speed is now retained.

John Velasco / Digital Trends

The benefit here is the added reach of my Wi-Fi network. Even though it doesn’t drastically change my current setup, I can enjoy better Wi-Fi in the extreme corners of my home, which makes for a more reliable connection overall.

By itself, the router delivers upwards of 2,200 square feet of coverage, while each Wifi point adds another 1,600 square feet. The benefit here, naturally, is that you can scale the setup accordingly to deliver proper coverage throughout the home. Of course, this isn’t something you can achieve with most routers, unless they’re designed with mesh networking in mind.

For comparison, the 2nd generation Eero Pro gateway covers 1,750 square feet, with each beacon capable of blanketing 1,500 square feet. Even more impressive, however, is the 3,500 square feet coverage with Netgear’s Orbi Router and the additional 2,000 square feet coverage with each satellite.

Overall, Google’s Nest WiFi is not the most technically capable option. However, the average American home is just under 2,500 square feet. That means a Nest WiFi router with one access point should be adequate.

Room for more expansion

Google’s approach to this is networking simple and easy, something I feel is achieved here with the Nest WiFi. However, those who crave advanced controls and features will be disappointed by the slim offerings here.

Sure, there’s access to features such as setting up a guest network, parental controls/restrictions, and even prioritizing traffic, but you won’t find other advanced features that serious networking geeks love about routers — like MAC address filtering, specifying static IP addresses, and dynamic DNS. There are mesh systems that do offer these features, but the cost attached to them is higher.

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Another thing that may disappoint people is that the Nest WiFi router only features a single Ethernet port. Meaning, you’ll need to purchase an Ethernet hub if you need to hardwire several devices to the network. The majority of mesh Wi-Fi routers tend to offer a single ethernet port, but then you have a few, like the Linksys Max-Stream AC2200 router, which are more generous with its four Ethernet ports.

While I do appreciate the Google Assistant integration with the Wi-Fi point, it really would’ve been beneficial to have an Ethernet port as well — but sadly there’s none.

Try out these new Google Assistant features

Broadcast messages to specific rooms

The broadcast feature is beloved for so many reasons, especially when it comes to announcing dinner’s ready throughout the home. Now, though, you’ll be able to broadcast messages to specific rooms. Just say for example, “Hey Google, broadcast to the bedroom, ‘breakfast is ready!’”

Enhanced Voice Match support

Did you know Google Assistant can deliver personalized information to multiple people in the home? Google Assistant is now capable of supporting up to six people’s voices with Voice Match on a smart speaker or display, so that you only get relevant details that pertain to you.

Adjusting “Hey Google” sensitivity

In busier or noisier areas, it’s possible that Google Assistant can be initiated by accident. If you want to adjust the sensitivity whenever the wake phrase “Hey Google” is spoken, you can now do it through the Google Home app.

Interpreter mode

Google Assistant’s interpreter mode can be handy when you have guests over who speak another language. Rather than having to translate each spoken sentence, interpreter mode will simply translate conversations in real-time — so conversations can be spoken naturally. You can enable it by saying, “Hey Google, be my German translator” or “Hey Google, help me speak Spanish.”

Washing your hands

It’s more critical than ever before to ensure you wash your hands properly, especially with the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak continuing to spread. The Nest Mini offers a brand new feature to help out kids. You simply say, “Hey Google, help me wash my hands,” and from there, it’ll play a tune for 20 seconds to encourage adequate time for washing hands.

Warranty information

Since it’s stationary, there shouldn’t be much of a concern about it going bad. In the event it does, there’s a one-year limited warranty that covers defects.

Our Take

The Google Nest WiFi is priced at $269 for the starter pack. It’s more costly than some of the alternatives. However, incorporating Google Assistant adds value, but it’s also one of the easiest mesh systems to configure and cover your entire home.

Are there better alternatives?

If you’re looking for something cheaper with the same expansive reach, then you’ll want to consider the alternatives — like the Netgear Orbi that costs $200 for the same configuration. While Netgear’s mesh system offers more range, it doesn’t have the smart assistant feature you get with the Nest Wifi point.

Another option is Amazon’s new Eero 6 router, which at $159 for a 2-pack system, is a bargain. These two options offer the same straightforward setup as Google’s Nest Wifi.

If you want more advanced setup options, consider the Linksys Velop MX5300 or Netgear XRM570 Nighthawk Pro Gaming WiFi Router. They’re substantially more expensive at $400 each for the routers themselves, but you get advanced networking controls and several Ethernet ports to hardwire devices.

How long will it last?

Given that the router and Wi-Fi point are going to be stationary, it should last quite a while undisturbed — much like any networking gear.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Not only will you be able to expand your Wi-Fi’s coverage, but the Nest Wifi system can be used to control your home’s various connected devices. 

Editors’ Choice




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