Cisco acquired Meraki at the end of 2012. I have heard a lot about Meraki and I recently tried to dig deep into what they do. This blog is a result of that.
What does Meraki do?
Meraki does cloud managed access devices for the edge market. Their primary focus is small/medium enterprises. Meraki now has Wireless access points, access switches, security devices. In addition to this, Meraki also provides a mobile management application to remotely monitor and manage mobile devices. All Meraki’s devices have a management connectivity to their backend data center and the devices can be managed remotely. Following picture from Meraki shows the high level data plane/management plane model for all their devices. There is a management connectivity from each device to the backend data center and all centralized management is done from there. Even if the management connectivity is lost, data plane does not get affected.
What are Meraki’s differentiators?
Meraki’s primary differentiator is the cloud based management of the devices. This adds a powerful set of capabilities like real time monitoring, remote policy and device management, central access to multiple sites etc. Meraki’s application can scale upto thousands of devices. Considering that Meraki has their own data centers for backend management, this becomes easier for customers to get started. Also, it looks like they have lot of innovations in the mobile access space.
Can Meraki manage other Cisco devices?
As per what I read, Meraki’s cloud based solution currently works only with Meraki devices and it is not extended to other Cisco devices. I assume that this will be eventually extended to other Cisco devices. I see a lot of value in Cloud based management of networking devices as it makes the operational model a lot simpler.
Any security concerns with the Meraki’s solution?
Considering that Meraki’s backend data center has access to all the client information, this can be a security concern for some. The concerns are the same as for any cloud provider and it looks like they have all the security aspects taken care of. For some enterprises in a sensitive sector, security could still be a concern for not going with Meraki. Its not clear to me if there are huge advantages of going with a Meraki solution if there is no plan to use their cloud management service. 1 compromise could be that the cloud management can be hosted in the Enterprises’s data center rather than Meraki’s. Not sure if such a solution exists currently.
Any options to try Meraki solution?
Meraki has lot of trial options in their website. They have a live dashboard demo. You need to create a Meraki account for this. I tried this and I was able to access and try out the dashboard features of all their devices. Meraki systems manager for mobile devices is free for certain count of mobile devices. I created Meraki account and registered my Android mobile phone and my Windows laptop. We need to install client application in the Android mobile and Windows device to be able to use this. Once this is setup, we can access information of all devices from Meraki System manager dashboard. We can also push policy, apps etc to the device. This makes it easier for enterprises to manage a huge number of mobile devices in 1 shot. I was not able to register apple ios device as I am getting an error that my apple id is not eligible for deployment program. I still need to understand why that is the case.
How does Meraki’s pricing/Licensing work?
Customers need to buy the devices and some of the devices come with lifetime warranty. In addition, customers need to buy a license for Cloud based management and details are mentioned here. 1 interesting thing that I noted in the link is that if the license runs out, devices will not pass traffic, this means that the cloud based management license is manadatory.
Picture used in the blog is from the reference.