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Cisco brings Meraki to the enterprise

Making use of once widely questioned acquisition, Cisco is expanding the role of Meraki in its portfolio.

In November 2012, Cisco acquired Meraki for a whopping $1.2 billion. At the time, most people thought that was a huge overpayment for a 330-person startup that made its living selling cloud-managed Wi-Fi to small- and mid-sized businesses. Prior to the Meraki acquisition, Cisco didn't have a down-market Wi-Fi product, so Meraki filled a hole in the company's portfolio. Dropping Meraki into Cisco's channel has made it wildly successful, as it has been one of the consistently strong performers at the company over the past few years.

Despite Meraki's success, it has remained a product that has been targeted to the SMB market. That's about to change, though. Today at Cisco Live Europe, in Milan, Cisco announced it was taking Meraki to the enterprise with the release of a number of cloud-managed products that include the following:

  • Network infrastructure: WAN Optimization, switching, Wi-Fi, bonjour gateway and routing.
  • Unified threat management: Intrusion prevention, next-generation firewall, auto VPN and content filtering.
  • Mobile management: User management, device management and application management.

The Meraki platform can be used to manage new Meraki-compliant network infrastructure, as well as a number of mobile devices, users, applications and content that run on a Cisco network. Meraki cannot manage existing infrastructure like Catalyst switches or ISR routers. For those, customers will need to use the Prime Management platform.

However, this doesn't mean customers need to run two independent platforms. If customers want a "single pane of glass," the Meraki cloud platform integrates with Prime Infrastructure at an API level. Customers can also use Prime to cross launch Meraki to manage specific devices.

The new Meraki platform, combined with the breadth of devices, opens the door for the product to be sold into large enterprises, particularly for managing branch offices and remote locations. Managing infrastructure in those locations is typically a big pain for IT departments, but Meraki enables infrastructure to be managed across the globe from a central location.  

Meraki can also be used by Cisco resellers and service partners to build a managed services business. Historically, managed services required VPN connections, remote agents, and custom software, limiting the appeal and the number of companies that could offer it. Now with Meraki, anyone can become a managed services company.

The new Meraki platform enables Cisco to deliver on its vision of "FastIT." The fundamental premise of FastIT is that IT needs to be more agile to enable the business to be agile. Organizations have spent billions making servers, storage, and applications more agile, but the network has stood still, and the long lead times required to manage networks could cost organizations millions through missed opportunities.

Also at the event, Cisco announced that the Meraki Cloud has been expanded outside the U.S. for a total of eight data centers around the globe. Now, European, Asian, and other customers can be assured that their data stays local to their region. Given the issues around data sovereignty, the expansion of the Meraki footprint is a big step forward for Cisco. Projecting out a few years, it's logical to think the Meraki will eventually become an Intercloud service where telcos or service partners can build local Meraki points of presence for additionally regional coverage.

As a small business Wi-Fi product, Meraki has been a nice addition to the Cisco portfolio. The evolution of Meraki to a full-stack management tool focused on enterprise-class customers will make Meraki a core product for the company and its resellers.

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