This week at Interop in Las Vegas, Cisco announced their new controller, the Cisco Flex 7500 Series, which they call a cloud controller. Clearly, Cisco agrees that cloud architectures and approaches are here to stay, and customer demand for cloud networking is simply too great to ignore. We must admit it’s flattering to see Cisco and the rest of the market move in this direction.
Cisco’s new Flex 7500 Series is the right first step in the long road to implementing a cloud-based solution. The principal benefit it provides is in reducing the number of hardware controllers required in Cisco’s branch networking architecture. Prior to the Flex 7500, deploying into a branch architecture required installing and managing a hardware controller at each branch location.
The Flex 7500 is designed for distributed branches, such as retail stores, and requires that it be installed at the headquarter location, while APs are deployed in the branches. So in essence, the Flex 7500 is an out-of-band wireless controller, but it is still a hardware controller, and the customer must purchase it, deploy it on premise, configure it, maintain it, etc. For most people, calling it a “cloud controller” is a stretch. It lists for $47,995, and high availability configurations likely require two Flex 7500 controllers.
Curiously, some basic features are missing in the Flex 7500, such as wireless mesh support, policy firewall, and voice/video prioritization. A true cloud solution not only provides those features, but also provides a full cloud experience, including:
- Multi-site management through an intuitive browser-based interface
- Built-in redundancy
- Plug and play APs that deploy in minutes
- Automatic upgrades and patches
- Integrated features such as traffic shaping, NAC, Teleworker VPN, location services, etc.
- Lower cost – no need for a $48,000 hardware controller
You can read more about Cisco’s announcement on TechTarget.
Ultimately, the new Cisco Flex 7500 is an unequivocal validation for cloud networking in general. If you haven’t had the full experience of Meraki’s Cloud Controller, you can get a live demo right from our website. We also encourage you to compare and see how much you can save with Meraki compared to Cisco: http://meraki.com/tools/cost_calculator/.