Can Western Digital conquer the home network market?

Storage vendor pushes new wireless routers for home users

WD My Net N900 Central
Western Digital, one of the leaders in the external storage market, announced today a new line of wireless home router products, including a unit that combines a hard drive with a wireless router for centralized storage within the home network.

WD already has an entrant in the “connected home” space with its WD TV media player line of devices that connect to a TV to provide Internet media services to home users. Adding WD-branded wireless routers to the mix would help customers integrate the media players with their home networks, WD says.

The company also says its new routers will differ from others in the space due to its FasTrack Plus optimization technology, which can “instantly detect entertainment traffic on the network and fast-forward it to gaming consoles, media players, smart TVs, tablets, smartphones, computers and other Wi-Fi connected devices.” While other routers utilize QoS-like technologies for prioritization, WD says FasTrack utilizes a special processor in the router that can recognize which sessions are streaming video through its signature.

The new line of products include:

* My Net N900 Central ($300 for 1TB version; $350 for 2TB version, available next quarter): This is a dual-band wireless router (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands) that also includes storage capacity – think a wireless router combined with a network-attached storage device. The unit also includes 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as an additional USB port that users can attach a printer or additional storage drive to.

* My Net N900 ($180, available now): This is a dual-band wireless router, and includes 7 Gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as two USB ports for connecting a printer or additional external storage drives.

* My Net N750 ($120, available now): This dual-band router provides up to 750Mbps of data rate (300Mbps on one band, 450Mbps on the other), with four Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports.

* My Net N600 ($80, available now): This is a dual-band router with up to 600Mbps of data rate (300 plus 300), and includes four Fast Ethernet ports and one USB port for adding a printer or storage drive.

* My Net Switch ($70) an 8-port Gigabit Ethernet switch that can provide additional wired support for devices that don’t have embedded wireless in them (good for game consoles, TVs, entertainment systems and even providing wired ports for PCs and laptops).

As more homes continue to add devices to their networks and stream Internet content to those devices, WD says the home network will need the types of speeds and prioritization methods that its My Net line can offer. We’ll see if they can make a dent into this space, where there are already several vendors (Cisco/Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, Belkin, just to name a few) aiming to be the home user’s router vendor of choice.

I’m most excited about trying out the N900 Central product to see how it integrates the storage drive with the wireless router, as well as to see how the FasTrack compares with other routers’ prioritization methods. The 8-port Gigabit Ethernet switch is also a nice nod to those families who have a ton of connected devices in the living room all close together – this is useful only if your home broadband connection (cable modem, DSL modem or FioS connection) is also located nearby.

Keith Shaw also rounds up the best in geek video in his blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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