Western Digital gets into the networking business

When Western Digital told me it was entering an entirely new product category, I didn’t know what to expect. SSDs wouldn’t be different enough, and WD’s been there before. Perhaps the new venture would be gaming headsets; we’ve been seeing a lot of those lately. Or maybe iPad cases. Nope, it’s networking gear—specifically, My Net "entertainment accelerators." Ahem.

The decision to get into networking hardware was born from Western Digital’s experience developing its MyBook Live and WD TV products. We’re doing more with media than ever before, WD contends, on an increasing number of devices. This trend is especially pronounced in the home, where a network might reasonably contain a handful of PCs or notebooks, some network-attached storage, a tablet or two, and at least a couple of smartphones. The router sits in the middle of those largely wireless devices, and that’s where WD has concentrated its efforts.

While the My Net series is indeed made up of routers, there is some truth to the "entertainment accelerator" tagline. Western Digital has developed a FasTrak traffic prioritization technology capable of interpreting one’s network traffic and adjusting accordingly. An off-the-shelf microprocessor loaded with custom firmware and software is purportedly capable of detecting streaming movies, online games, and voice or video chats at the session level. It prioritizes those sessions accordingly, and users can set preferences of their own.

There are two flavors of FasTrack. The baseline implementation provides QoS functionality, but only for pre-defined services. A total of 21 services can be defined, and WD sets six by default. You can bet fan favorites like NetFlix will be among them. FastTrack Plus, available on only the My Net N900 routers, supports an unlimited number of user-defined services. It also offers real-time traffic analysis, which requires no user customization.

In addition to one form of FasTrack or another, all the routers support printer and storage sharing. Fresh from the box, they can be configured over Wi-Fi using little more than a smartphone. WD says the setup process has been streamlined to make it as easy as possible.

There are four My Net routers in total. The N900 has two bands of 450Mbps 802.11n Wi-Fi, plus seven Gigabit Ethernet ports, dual USB 2.0 ports, and DLNA certification. FasTrack Plus is available on the N900 and the N900 Central. The N900 Central gives up three GigE ports and one USB 2.0 connector but adds a terabyte or two of integrated storage. The two N900 Central configs will retail for $299 and $349, respectively. Expect to pay $179 for the standard N900.

If you’re looking for something less exotic, the My Net N750 offers dual bands, one at 450Mbps and the other at 300Mbps. The N750 has four GigE ports and a couple of USB ports, and it will sell for $109. For $30 less, penny pinchers will be able to nab the N600. This budget model has dual 300Mbps bands but is limited to one USB port and four 100Mbps Ethernet ports. Unlike the others, the N600 can’t handle multiple HD streams over Wi-Fi.

The N900 is the most intriguing of the bunch. I just wish it had at least one SuperSpeed USB port. USB 2.0 tops out at around 37MB/s under ideal conditions, and we’ve clocked GigE transfers at more than three times that speed.

Comments closed
    • fantastic
    • 7 years ago

    OK, I’ll say something positive. It’s a new brand for this market segment and the N900 has SEVEN Gb ethernet ports. I know; just add a Gb switch on a 2 port router and you’re good, but router chips have built in switching that usually gets underutilized.

    • ShadowEyez
    • 7 years ago

    For ppl who complain about lack of QoS on “consumer” routers and want all the bells and whistles… build a standard x86 (x64…) computer, throw linux or bsd on it, set routing up, and tweak to your hearts content.

    I actually had this set up for a while, a linux machine used as a router; it had an internal DSL modem (sangoma), a wireless card set as an access point, hooked up to a switch, and a shared hard drive, which is functionally a NAS drive. Though it did take some time and tweaking to setup, the results work well (if done correctly).

    And it did not cost 3k to do it. Over the long term it’s also a flexible system. Want a bigger drive? Put a new one in. New 802.11ac for faster wireless? Find a card and put it in. Need USB 3? Plenty of pci-e addon cards for that. Also, as these systems usually run a flavor of linux or bsd, you can set up firewalls, QoS, media/DNLA servers, web servers, and other services to your hearts content.

      • willmore
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve been using Linux as a firewall since the early 90’s. It’s been so damn solid I forgot it at times. Routing only needs throw away hardware to start with, so the cost is more meaningfully measured in your power bill–so use low power parts.

      • Firestarter
      • 7 years ago

      Or just buy a consumer router than runs TomatoUSB or a similar open firmware.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Router companies really need to take a look at QoS in p2p software like Azureus and eMule. Instead of prioritizing traffic, they shift how much bandwidth the application consumes up and down based on your relevant ping to a website such as google.com. This ensures a pretty consistent connection unless your service provider is shaping you.

    I personally have found my internet to be less responsive when using p2p programs, even if they aren’t consuming any bandwidth. Such as having Azureus open and it’s simply connected to the dht network. If I close them, my connection becomes pretty snappy again.

    QoS as it’s implemented by most SOHO devices is pretty stupid and the routers usually don’t even have the computational power to keep it going without hanging. I’m not sure about enterprise routers, but I’m sure buying a 3k unit gives you more options.

    This is also part of why I said in another news snippet that I would find a software solution superior to all of this as long as I can run it on ARM or x86. The SOHO business has almost been peddling snake oil all these years. Think about how many times you have had to change out your router/switch or buy a new one for someone you know.

    • Welch
    • 7 years ago

    Meh… No 802.11ac, no USB 3.0, no external antenna hook-ups (whole industry seems to go that way now) and the price is too high all around. Sounds like a way for them to pawn off hard drives in routers since they are loosing market badly to SSDs. Looks to be for home users to me, a very pedestrian device. No hope for the enthusiasts.

    Gotta take my hat off to them though, at least they are attempt to change with market demands, just not sure this is the best route to go. What happens when your drive fails inside the router and you need to change it out, or send it back under warranty? You just go without internet all together. Ohhh ya, and there is that whole energy efficient thing too. I may want to run my router 24/7, but not the drive. I guess if the router has a power saving function to uninitialized the drive when not in use and then spin it up when it is requested then OK. But what about heat for those thinking they can constantly use it?

    Just seems like another integrated device, that’s over priced, slapped together that will eventually over heat from being put into a slim, black, acrylic like case with no cooling worth mentioning.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I can see lots of customers coming in with their router wanting their data off a dieing drive already… oh yay.

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    “My Net”? Seriously?

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      Beats hell out of ‘iNet’ (or ‘C-Net’ for that matter)

        • Meadows
        • 7 years ago

        The whole “My Anything” is extremely [i<]year 2000[/i<] and I've been hoping it would die out (together with Windows XP's love for such possessives).

          • Welch
          • 7 years ago

          I’ll take “My” over the brain washed “I” nomenclature.

          “My” at least suggests that we have ownership of the devices, a sort of claim of property that’s universal to all.

          ” I ” kinda plays around with the idea that the device alive and aware of itself…… Holy shit, that makes sense, Steve Jobs thought that he was God, because he created new intelligent beings in all of his “I Devices”!!!

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            Silence. Do it like Vista (and later) and skip prefixes altogether. They’re meaningless.

          • willmore
          • 7 years ago

          Everyone’s forgotten the ‘Us Festival’ in the ’80s?

      • yogibbear
      • 7 years ago

      Well they didn’t call it SkyNet…

        • Thatguy
        • 7 years ago

        Not yet…..

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    Close, but no banana. What I want is a router that gives me manual QoS control on things like per-connection data rates, and can dynamically throttle those rates to prioritize gaming traffic (when present).

    1.5mb DSL really is all that and a bag of high-ping chips when Windows Update kicks in.

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      FIFY: I want an enterprise-grade router without the price-tag.

        • ludi
        • 7 years ago

        Really? Where did I ask for 36 ports, full bandwidth on all ports 24/7, statistics logging, failover redundancy, and unlimited traffic shaping options?

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    Seeing how bad WD is in its HDD oligopoly I’ll be sure not to support any of their other divisions as well.

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      Man people really care about these components that are maybe 5-15% of the cost of a system that give you more storage space than ever, and have wide varieties of alternatives.

      • travbrad
      • 7 years ago

      Just out of curiosity, what brand of hard drives do you buy that aren’t part of the oligopoly? I don’t think oligopolies are a good thing either, but using your standards it’s almost impossible to buy a hard drive.

        • Shambles
        • 7 years ago

        I’m just hoping my 2TB 5400 RPM drives that cost me $60 pre-flood last long enough that SSD storage becomes reasonable for mass storage. Even despite the fact that HDD’s will always have the price advantage I’d gladly spend the extra money to get superior performance from a company that can actually be held accountable by it’s customers instead of supporting WD/Seagate.

          • indeego
          • 7 years ago

          So gladly buy from Samsung or Intel or Crucial or Kingston or Patriot or… Every SSD on the market outperforms WD’s fastest mechanicals, even their fastest enterprise SAS drives.

          Do you see what we’re getting at here? You claim to want to support other companies. Those companies exist. You claim to gladly want to spend money on them, but then you complain about one of the 15+ manufacturers of storage devices.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            Shambles said [quote<]..SSD storage becomes reasonable for mass storage.[/quote<] So how many 2TB SSDs do you own indeego? :p

      • cegras
      • 7 years ago

      How are they bad?

      • Stranger
      • 7 years ago

      if you want to blame anyone for high prices look at seagate they were the profitable company during the floods WD was not.

    • Jingles
    • 7 years ago

    $349 and No 802.11ac or USB 3.0? Really? So close to being awesome, yet so far… I think I’ll pass.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      That’s $349 for the 2TB drive model, $179 for the regular N900 sans storage which is more in line with similar routers MSRP, I expect street price will be decently lower.

    • alloyD
    • 7 years ago

    Anyone care to explain the flying ninja-thing about to “accelerate” the impalement of that device?

      • nanoflower
      • 7 years ago

      LOL. I guess they are suggesting that the TV is connected to this router since they also refer to these products as “entertainment accelerators” so they needed to have some entertainment on the TV.

        • Mourmain
        • 7 years ago

        “WD products make your TV screen be in focus even when the rest of the TV isn’t! It’s that good!”

          • alloyD
          • 7 years ago

          I had to stare at that picture for a bit before I figured out what the problem was with it

      • Metonymy
      • 7 years ago

      Isn’t it just the usual flying ninja that accompanies most WD products?

      • shaq_mobile
      • 7 years ago

      crouching router, hidden warranty

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