Cisco Expands Meraki Technology for Cloud Managed Networking

Cisco aims to manage all IT from the cloud, but it's not using OpenStack to do it.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 29, 2015
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Cisco wants to enable enterprises to manage their networks, both wired and wireless, from the cloud. That's the goal of the Cloud Managed Networking effort announced by Cisco at its Cisco Live Milan event on January 28.

At the heart of the Cloud Managed Networking initiative is technology that Cisco gained through its $1.2 billion acquisition of cloud Wi-Fi vendor Meraki back in 2012. Since the acquisition, Cisco has steadily evolved the Meraki portfolio beyond just core wireless controller functionality, with new devices and security capabilities.

"There is a whole bunch of infrastructure that has continued to be managed on-prem," Rob Soderbery, SVP of Enterprise Products and Solutions at Cisco, explained during a briefing with press and analysts. "Cloud Managed IT is a strategy that will allow us to apply a cloud-based model for on-prem infrastructure."

Soderbery said that the Meraki platform can extend beyond just managing Wi-Fi access points. The new effort will enable Meraki to manage wired switching and router infrastructure. The service is further enabled with some advanced capabilities including iWAN (Intelligent WAN) which can provide software defined routing services. Additionally there will advanced analytics capabilities.

Security is also a key focus for Cisco's Cloud Managed Networking effort. Soderbery said that there will be full Unified Threat Management (UTM), Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) and content filtering capabilities.

"This includes Cisco and Sourcefire security IP as well as all of our threat assessment technologies," Soderbery said.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is another key element of the Cloud Managed initiative, enabling organizations to deal with the challenge of BYOD. Todd Nightingale, VP and GM at Cisco Meraki, said that with MDM, the platform now provides broad visibility into an IT infrastructure.

The Cisco Meraki platform is all built on what Nightingale referred to as a "truly native cloud."

"The Meraki infrastructure has been built as a cloud infrastructure, right from day one, from the ground up," Nightingale said.

Though the Meraki infrastructure is cloud, it's not yet leveraging Cisco's broader OpenStack cloud expertise. Cisco is one of the leading participants in the multi-stakeholder OpenStack cloud platform effort. Cisco has enabled its UCS servers to be part of an integrated OpenStack deployment, thought that's not what Meraki is running.

"We're actually looking at some of the new UCS platforms for the first time as part of the Meraki cloud," Nightingale said. "The Meraki cloud runs as a highly-distributed model and up until now, we've always grown in the public cloud space, so we're not taking too many steps toward the OpenStack model."

Soderberry added that Cisco has been pioneering the use of OpenStack and it's a key part of Cisco's InterCloud federated cloud initiative.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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