Cisco Expands Meraki Cloud Wireless Portfolio

Cisco is growing its Meraki cloud-managed wireless networking gear with a new access point and new security capabilities. Cisco acquired Meraki in a $1.2 billion deal in November of 2012.

Meraki’s wireless access points (APs) leverage a cloud-based controller for management, rather than the typical on-premises hardware controller common in many enterprise Wi-Fi deployments. Cisco’s MR34 AP, an 802.11ac device, expands the Meraki portfolio. The 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard offers the promise of up to 1.3 Gbps of wireless access speed.

Sanjit Biswas, Cisco’s VP and GM of cloud networking, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that unlike other Meraki devices, the MR34 includes three Wi-Fi radios. Typical enterprise APs have up two Wi-Fi radios, one for 2.4 GHz and the other for the 5 GHz spectrum. The MR34 uses the third radio for security and RF management capabilities.

The Cisco Meraki security capabilities are enabled in part by the Air Marshal Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS). The RF Manager solution provides spectrum analysis and management capabilities.

Cisco’s other wireless access points sometimes include a capability known as “Clean Air,” first deployed in 2010. Biswas explained that the Meraki portfolio does not use the same Clean Air technology, though the MR34’s third radio delivers the same concept.

Biswas said that existing Meraki customers have benefited from a regular stream of firmware updates. The core of the Meraki firmware is a Linux-based operating system. While the older MR50 and MR70 devices do not have a third radio, Biswas noted that they can still benefit from the Air Marshal WIPS capabilities with periodic spectrum scanning.

While Cisco pushes forward with its Meraki cloud-controlled strategy, Biswas stressed that the existing non-cloud Cisco wireless portfolio also continues to exist.

“It’s all about customer choice,” Biswas said. “We have two parallel stacks, and we just want to make sure that we have the right implementations available for customers to choose.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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