Startup company Gearlinx has big plans to disrupt the out-of-band network management market, debuting new cloud software and a hardware device in a package to provide what the company calls “Network Resilience as a Service.”
The company, which launched publicly today, is bootstrap funded. It has its headquarters in Frisco, Texas, and an R&D office in Brisbane, Australia.
Out-of-band management refers to a networking setup which provides enterprises with a secure channel to access their IT infrastructure from a location outside the reach of the corporate WAN or LAN. The idea behind such tools is to reduce network downtime. The industry has traditionally been based around hardware sales, so the fact that Gearlinx's new solution includes a cloud-based management portal is unique.
Gearlinx’s new ZERO cloud-based centralized management service enables remote configuration, deployment, operation and troubleshooting from anywhere. ZERO works with the company’s Duckfone hardware, which attaches to network equipment in data centers and at the edge.
Todd Rychecky, Gearlinx president of global sales and marketing, told Silverlinings the company developed its own software stack – called GearLinux – on Linode's cloud infrastructure and still uses them today. Eventually, though, he said he expects the company will also use Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
On the hardware side, the Duckfone connects to the serial or Ethernet port on the back of an SD-WAN router, switch, UPS or firewall.
“You can do a quick power cycle and bring it back up without getting on an airplane,” Rychecky said.
But that’s just the beginning. The Gearlinx service also provides secure network management and automation, remote mass configuration updates, device provisioning, device shutdown in case of attack and more.
To use the service, network operators deploy the Duckfone hardware at the edge, such as at digital signs, kiosks, ATMs, retail or pop-up stores or any remote location. Gearlinx provides out-of-band management over an LTE network, cable modem or other internet connection. By connecting over cellular, network operators get a network management plane separate from the production network.
Users log in to the cloud-based ZERO portal with Microsoft or Google single sign-on credentials from their iPhone, iPad, laptop or desktop and access the network from nearly anywhere they can access the internet.
In addition to network resilience as a service, Gearlinx also offers something it calls “Operational Resilience as a Service” (the company has trademarked both terms), which uses the cloud to track information like serial numbers, warranty status and subscription status which can be critical to network operations. That’s huge for folks managing networks that might number tens of thousands of devices.
Betting big on OpEx
Gearlinx sells its hardware at a 40% discount compared with competing products. It makes its ZERO service available on a subscription basis. The latter is a notable departure from the norm.
“What we’ve done is move people from a CapEx model to an OpEx model,” Rychecky said.
Gearlinx is betting that operating expenses, in the form of subscription fees, will be easier to justify than capital outlays in today’s economy. Cash for capital spending is tight now for network managers. "They’re pulling back on the purse strings, trying to hold on to their cash,” Rychecky said.
The subscription model is new for the out-of-band access market, Rychecky said. And he would know. Rychecky has a history in the out-of-band management space, having previously worked for competitors including Opengear and Perle Systems. He left a role as VP of Sales, Americas, at the former after a 14-year tenure in June 2022. “The industry hasn’t changed much; it’s been a hardware sale forever. You get a warranty and that’s it.”
Gearlinx has bold plans to capture 40-50% of the out-of-band management market due to its subscription model, Rychecky said. Competitors include Opengear — where Rychecky previously worked — and ZTE, Vertiv and Lantronix.
Gearlinx expects SaaS companies such as Netflix, Snowflake, Dropbox and Workday to be its biggest customers because networking is essential to those companies’ businesses.
“If their network goes down, then they can’t transact with their customers, and they lose business,” Rychecky said.
Rychecky declined to name its initial customers but said they include a large networking company and a tier-1 telco operator.
Diana Goovaerts contributed to this story.