Firmware updates while you sleep

A behind the scenes look at the Cisco Meraki firmware upgrade process

A Cisco Meraki network doesn’t run itself, but we take pride in the fact that we can come pretty close in some cases. The firmware update process is a great example of something that used to spur late nights and migraines for administrators, and now is quite the opposite with the Cisco Meraki cloud based solution. We were excited to see this recent tweet from one of our happy customers.

For this customer, a complete deployment of Cisco Meraki APs was upgraded to the latest firmware with new features and fixes, with minimal intervention. Let’s take a look at what is happening behind the scenes to enable these scheduled upgrades for any Cisco Meraki device.

Because all Cisco Meraki devices communicate to the cloud, they always know if they are on the latest firmware. By logging into the dashboard or simply navigating to my.meraki.com while locally connected to a Cisco Meraki device, we can check the firmware status.

mymerakicom_firmware

But what if it isn’t up to date? If there is a new firmware version, administrators will be automatically notified via email, as well as directly in the dashboard. Upon logging into the dashboard, administrators will see a banner alerting them of the newly available firmware.

firmware_banner

From here, administrators can choose to upgrade firmware right away, or defer the update by selecting a different upgrade timeframe. Dashboard displays all of the available firmware upgrade options. Select a preferred upgrade time window as well as whether to use standard or beta builds to get the latest and greatest features ahead of time.

scheduleupgrades

Dashboard also provides the ability to customize the firmware upgrade process for each product type. In the screenshot below, it is clear that the switches are up to date and the firmware was last updated on May 9th.

switchupgrades

So now that it’s been scheduled, what happens during the upgrade? Meraki engineers have thought through every aspect of the upgrade process to ensure it goes smoothly. During the selected upgrade window, the APs will download the firmware and then reboot to apply the latest version.

Here are a few common questions our customers have about the process.

Does the device still operate as the firmware is being downloaded?
It does. Cisco Meraki devices store the old and new firmware version in parallel so the device can keep running during the download.

Can the device be used during the reboot?
No, the device will be unavailable during the minute or so during the actual reboot.

What happens if the power goes out and the device shuts down during the upgrade?
No problem, the device reboots using the previous firmware.

What if the device boots up on the new firmware but the file was corrupted and/or the device can’t communicate to the cloud?
The device will automatically revert to the previous firmware version.

All of these failsafes are built into Cisco Meraki devices to ensure the upgrade process is as resilient as possible. The entire process takes around 10 minutes from download to reboot depending on your internet connection. For more information on firmware upgrades, check out our knowledge base. If you’re curious about what new features may be arriving in your next firmware upgrade, subscribe to the Cisco Meraki blog to get a heads-up on what’s coming and how your network can benefit.