Archive for December, 2014

Wishing you very merry Meraki holidays

 

‘Tis the season to celebrate with family, friends, and colleagues. This month the Cisco Meraki team has been hard at work releasing new wireless products and cool new wired features, but we’ve also been taking time to give thanks and be merry this holiday season.

We want to thank all of you—our customers, partners, and readership—for helping us wrap up another extraordinary year of growth and for your fabulous feedback on our products. Thank you!

To toast the year and get into the holiday spirit, we’ve done some decorating…

Merry front desk

We’ve decked the halls with boughs of holly…

 

…and forgone all restraint in the wardrobe department, perhaps due to the large quantities of eggnog and hot chocolate being consumed…

Ugly Sweater

Oh, the sweaters in sight are frightful, but the cheer is so delightful…

 

…but most importantly, we’ve reflected on how much we have to be thankful for, and have spent some time giving back to those in need.

We worked with Family Giving Tree to provide holiday gifts for low-income children, crafted holiday cards for survivors of domestic violence at Glide Wells Fargo Women’s Center, and made 300 delectable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to send to local San Francisco organizations fighting hunger. If you’re still looking for ways to donate or volunteer this holiday season, please consider these worthy organizations or find one here.

Card-making-1

Come on it’s lovely weather for card-making together with you…

PB&J

Outside the rain was falling and peanut butter was calling us, too…

 

Card-making-2

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, it’s grand, just lending a hand…

 

Merry merry

We’re gliding along with a song of a festive card-filled wonderland.

 

 

So, from all of us here on the Cisco Meraki team, we wish you the very merriest of holidays!

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Introducing the Meraki Quarterly

In the new year we’re starting something new for our partners and customers. We recognise it can be a challenge to keep up with all that’s new from a fast–paced company like Cisco Meraki. To help address this, we’re launching The Meraki Quarterly in January.

Each calendar quarter we’ll bring the product managers for our Wireless, Security Appliances, Switches and MDM lines into a room and give them 10 minutes each to share what’s new and recent in a special webinar. Think of it like a snapshot of Meraki, refreshed every quarter.
 

 
The first of these will take place for our partners on Thursday January 15th and invitations will be going out very soon. For our customers we’ll run through the material from each of the product managers the following week.

We hope this will prove to be a popular regular session, and look forward to hearing your feedback after the launch.

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Wireless Launch Recap

New Meraki MR32 and MR72

New Meraki MR32 and MR72

Last Tuesday, we released two dual-band, 2×2 802.11ac wireless access points: the MR32 and the MR72. Equipped with the speed of 802.11ac, these APs also feature integrated Beacon (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to enhance location capabilities and enable more active customer engagement, such as with iBeacons.

The MR32 and MR72 include the rich, cloud-managed feature set common to the entire Meraki wireless portfolio, and feature the dedicated security radio technology found in other Meraki APs. In addition, the MR72 is designed to withstand extreme temperature ranges, from -40°F to 140°F (-40°C to 60°C), and earned an IP67 rating due to its high degree of resistance to dust and water.

Intrigued? If you missed our introductory webinar, you can view this recording on our YouTube channel at any time.

Below are the answers to several of the most commonly asked questions during last week’s launch webinar. Take a look and see if any of your own made the list:

Q: Are the new APs compatible with a/b/g on the 2.4GHz?

A: They are compatible with b/g/n on the 2.4GHz radio (802.11a is a 5GHz-only standard).

Q: So the customer has to type that enormous Bluetooth UUID into the app?

A: The UUID is something broadcast in the BLE Beacon and is identified by an app on the mobile device – the user does not have to enter this. This UUID and two other components called the Major and Minor are used to trigger functionality in an app.

Q: Does the MR32 support UNII-2/E in the USA?

A: Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) support in the US will be available as a firmware upgrade.

Q: What’s the difference between the MR32 and the MR34?

A: The MR32 is 2×2:2, with a 1.2 Gbps radio rate while the MR34 is 3×3:3, with a 1.75 Gbps radio rate. MR32 also has the new BLE radio.

Q: Can you locate Bluetooth clients on a map?

A: Today this is not possible but may be possible in the future.

Q: MR32 is certified in France?

A: The MR32 is certified for use in Europe, including France.

Q: If the Meraki Systems Manager profile is installed on a mobile device (e.g. iPhone or iPad), does it have the ability to interact with the Beacon service, or do you need to run a dedicated app that is designed to support the Beacon?

A: The Beacon would typically be used by a dedicated mobile app. For example, a BurgerJoint Beacon would be detected by a BurgerJoint mobile app.

Q: Are the new APs wave 1?

A: Yes, these are 802.11ac wave 1 APs.

Q: Will there be an upgrade to wave 2?

A: Wave 2 is still a ways out and there is currently no upgrade path set.

Q: So there are no antennas on the MR32?

A: The MR32 has all internal antennas. The MR72 uses external antennas.

Q: Has the MR72 been tested in Alaska?

A: It has been tested and can withstand harsh conditions to -40°C.

Q: Where can I set EU-specific settings?

A: When creating an Organization, you will be able to choose the EMEAR region.

Q: Can I high-five the Meraki team for their awesome products and solution?

A: *high-five!*

The MR32 is available now and the MR72 (and four new exterior antennas) will be available January 2015. Check out our website for more details!

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All About Antennas

Designing a new AP from the ground up prompts many questions. How should the AP look? What features should it include? How will it stand out in a crowded market? First on the list has to be the experience clients will enjoy whilst using the AP in the real world, so every AP must provide excellent coverage, ensuring solid connections and performance.

Central to the role of every AP are its antennas. At the most basic level, an antenna simply takes the output from the AP radio, then converts and emits it as radio waves which carry the modulated data signal. Received radio waves, from clients or mesh APs, are converted in the other direction. Typically multiple antennas are employed for WiFi, providing a degree of spatial diversity and improving signal reliability.

The style of antenna will determine the radiation pattern and range achievable. Omnidirectional antennas (always used inside our indoor APs, and an option for the outdoor models) propagate radio waves in all directions on one plane as equally as possible, making them suitable for general use. Sector and patch antennas are designed to focus the wireless signal in a specific direction, without wasting energy on covering space with no clients. This makes them particularly suited to outdoor use, for example against the external wall of a building (usually a sector antenna), or for building point–to–point links (usually a patch design).

With the all–new MR32 and MR72 models, our team had an opportunity to revisit both internal and external antennas. Both models feature dual radios with dual antennas for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but that’s just the start.

In common with the rest of the Meraki AP lineup, the new APs incorporate a separate, dedicated radio and antenna which we refer to as the Security Radio. By keeping this radio separate it is possible to provide real–time scanning of all channels across both bands, helping to identify any potential nefarious behavior (WIDS/WIPS functionality) and providing accurate radio interference information.

We’re not done yet. Inside the new models is yet another radio and dedicated antenna, this time adding Beacon support using Bluetooth Low Energy technology. The design team decided to go with a dedicated, separate antenna rather than one built onto the circuit board in order to provide superior coverage. The results speak for themselves, with the BLE antenna providing comparable coverage to the one used for 2.4GHz WiFi on the MR32.

mr32

Further details on the MR32, including WiFi antenna radiation patterns, can be found in our datasheet.

New WiFi antennas have also been added for our first outdoor 802.11ac access point, the MR72. Outdoor environments generally require more customized signal patterns, and so the range includes modular omnidirectional, sector and patch antennas, each capable of operating over an expanded temperature range from -40F to 158F (-40C to 70C). This newly improved temperature support on the MR72 will ensure Meraki APs can be deployed in even more extreme outdoor environments. Dedicated security and BLE radios and antennas, shared with the MR32 design, remain inside the AP body.

antennas

As with previous outdoor models, our customers are not limited to Meraki external antennas. The MR72 uses industry standard N-type connectors, allowing any compatible antenna to be connected for specific coverage types. Whatever antenna is connected, the AP itself is supported as part of the AP license.

mr72

The MR72 also has its own datasheet for more details.

With each new model, the Meraki team is further extending the usefulness of the access point to the customer. The opportunity now exists to provide valuable insight into customer proximity and enabling applications for driving customer engagement. A best–in–class AP is no longer simply about providing connectivity for wireless clients, but this will always remain a Meraki AP’s primary function, so the multiple antennas we employ can be thought of as the essential foundation for everything required of a modern wireless network.

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New access point features coming to all Meraki customers

Not content with just announcing two new 802.11ac access points (APs) in time for the holidays, the team here at Meraki have developed new software features, soon to be available on all APs. These are:

  • Flexible Bitrate selection
  • Site Survey Mode

 

Flexible Bitrate Selection

We’re adding the ability to configure the supported association bitrates. When an AP is advertising its services to clients it will let them know the lowest possible speed (association rate) it will accept a connection at. This is important as a client would like the highest possible association rate, but this is dependant on how well it can hear the signal. As clients move further away from APs they will often get a lower strength signal and so a lower association rate.

Because of the shared nature of wireless transmissions, clients with low association rates can slow the whole network down. This is particularly important in high density environments such as public areas, lecture halls or conferences. By allowing the network administrator to choose the lowest association rate an AP will allow, the administrator can prevent clients slowing the network down. Setting a higher association rate can force clients to move to an AP which has a better signal and thus can support the higher mandated association rate.

Site Survey Mode

Planning, designing, and deploying wireless networks often requires important but time consuming wireless site surveys. To help reduce the amount of time and complexity involved in completing a wireless site survey using Meraki APs, we are introducing a new site survey mode. This will help ensure that it is easier to complete high quality surveys and consequentially install a high performance network.

survey_mode

The new site survey mode is accessed from the local management page on the AP and allows for important parameters to be configured, such as the radio channels and transmit power. Once this survey mode is enabled, the AP will no longer need a connection to the Meraki cloud and will not try to mesh with other Meraki APs. Once you have completed your survey, you can easily revert the AP to its normal mode of operation.

When and how it will come to your network

Both features are currently in beta and will become available to customers over the coming weeks. As with all software updates to Meraki products, this is a staggered roll out and will be automatically delivered to you at the time and day you select. Make sure to check your ‘Firmware Upgrades’ settings in your Meraki dashboard to choose when you would like your upgrade to happen.

Albany State University and the MR32

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Located in Southwest Georgia, Albany State University has around 4,000 students and offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs. For the past several months, ASU has also been a test site for one of the newest Cisco Meraki wireless access points, the MR32.

Released earlier this week, the MR32 is a dual-band, triple-radio, 802.11ac unit with a dedicated security radio and integrated Beacon technology. Designed specifically for high density environments, the MR32 offers almost double the speed of the previous 802.11n standard (read more about it here).

With the installation of over 100 MR32 APs and the expansion of 802.11ac around their campus, ASU has seen dramatic increases in wireless throughput and efficiency. The MR32 doubles the channel bandwidth to a full 1.2 Gbps, enabling faster transmissions and increasing aggregate performance in densely populated environments. The built-in 802.11ac radio operates in the 5 GHz band, a less-crowded spectrum enabling wider channels with less interference.

“The faculty is loving the fact that they don’t have to find an ethernet cord when trying to transfer a large file. People are able to do their jobs a lot faster,” the IT team reported, when sitting down with us to share their Meraki experience.

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The dual-band third radio built into these Cisco Meraki APs powers Air Marshal, a tool which detects and neutralizes rogue SSIDs, AP spoofs, and packet floods. This has proven incredibly useful in the ASU residence halls, where Air Marshal provides round-the-clock protection against intrusive devices without interrupting client traffic.

Like all Meraki devices, the MR32 is managed through the cloud management dashboard. This web-based platform provides in-depth monitoring capabilities, detailed network diagnostics, and a multitude of tools for easy network configuration. “We use Active Directory integration so we know who’s on the network, Layer 7 application traffic shaping to block peer-to-peer traffic, custom SSIDs for different groups of users, live troubleshooting tools, and more. We’ve had nothing but good results,” the team said.

“Cisco Meraki now covers our entire campus. The students are happy, the faculty and staff are happy, so we’re happy. Meraki has been heaven-sent.”

To learn more about ASU’s entire wireless deployment, check out the full case study here.

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Introducing New 802.11ac Access Points with Beacons

We are very excited to introduce two new wireless access points, the Cisco Meraki MR32 and MR72. They are dual–band, 2×2 802.11ac APs and include integrated Beacon (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology. Beacons enhance location capabilities and enable more active customer engagement, such as with iBeacons, and with the MR32 and MR72 there’s no need to deploy dedicated iBeacon hardware. The new APs also include the rich, cloud-managed feature set common to the entire Meraki wireless portfolio and feature the dedicated security radio technology found in other Meraki APs.

New Meraki MR32 and MR72

New Meraki MR32 and MR72

The new Meraki MR32 and MR72 APs

WiFi, Security, and Bluetooth Together

The new APs feature three integrated WiFi radios. The APs include one radio each for:

  • 2.4 GHz, for 802.11b/g/n clients
  • 5 GHz, for 802.11ac and 802.11a/n clients
  • dedicated security and automated RF optimization (see this post for more on the benefits of this radio)

They also include new Beacon (Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE) technology via an integrated Bluetooth radio, for applications such as iBeacon and other location services. There’s no need to place the AP into a dedicated Bluetooth mode —all four radios (WiFi and Bluetooth) operate simultaneously.

Integrated Beacons

New Beacon technology, based on BLE, enables applications that more actively engage your on–site visitors and customers. Beacons broadcast periodic advertisements over Bluetooth. Visitors’ devices hear the advertisements and trigger opt–in location services, such as a push notification on a smartphone or indoor navigation assistance. iBeacons, Apple’s opt–in form of BLE, enable such services and are integrated into the MR32 and MR72. Beacon–enabled services add to the rich location capabilities already available on the Meraki APs through CMX (Connected Mobile Experience).

 

New outdoor goodies

The MR72 looks very similar to the MR32, but its sleek looks hide rigorous environmental credentials. It’s designed to withstand extreme temperature ranges, from -40°F to 140°F (-40°C to 60°C) and earned an IP67 rating due to its high degree of resistance to dust and water. Along with the new MR72, we’re introducing four new exterior antennas:

  • omni–directional, dual–band (pair)—provides broad coverage for general purpose applications
  • Sector antenna, 2.4 GHz—provides narrow–width coverage or point–to–point mesh connectivity between wireless APs
  • Sector antenna, 5 GHz—provides narrow–width coverage or point–to–point mesh connectivity between wireless APs
  • Dual-band patch antenna (2.4 and 5 GHz)—provides directional coverage for general purpose applications
sector-antenna_front-left

New Meraki sector antenna

New Meraki sector antenna

We’ll have more information about the new antennas in a blog post next week.

Learn More

The MR32 is available now and the MR72 (and new antennas) will be available in January 2015. You can learn more about these new APs and the integrated Beacon technology during a special webinar next week. You can also check the wireless product page to compare specs of the Meraki APs to see which might be the right fit for your environment. We can’t wait for you to try one out.

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Trace client devices in topology view

For those of you who have been checking out our awesome, new network topology feature, we’re excited to announce additional functionality: tracing client devices in the Cisco Meraki dashboard’s topology view. This lets you see exactly what Meraki equipment a device is connected through—all the way out to the perimeter of your network. When troubleshooting client connectivity in complex deployments, the topology feature can save time by quickly showing whether networked devices between the client and the Internet are alerting or down.

Tracing clients in the Meraki topology map is easy: from within the dashboard, you can drill down into a client’s details page and click on the “topology” link:

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.33.59 PM

This will bring up the network topology view, with Meraki devices highlighted by green icons. Below, you can see that the Windows client device in our example is connected to an access point that physically links back through four switches before hitting our MX security appliance, Godzilla:

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If device labeling is checked, it’s easy to confirm that the AP highlighted in the topology view is the same as that identified in the client’s details page.

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Another way to trace a client device is to simply search for its MAC address from the dashboard’s topology page. In the example above, the client’s MAC address is being filtered in the topology search box—resulting in a single online device matching the criteria. You can also search by partial MAC addresses:

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.35.59 PM

 

In the image above, searching on a partial MAC address revealed three online devices matching that search criteria.

So, in seconds, it’s possible to view the networked Meraki devices a client connects through—and easily verify the health and status of those devices. Depending on the complexity and size of a network deployment, this can save significant troubleshooting time.

For more information about our network topology feature, please check out our blog post.

 

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Connecting Studios Across the Nation with CorePower Yoga

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CorePower Yoga is the largest national yoga organization, with 120 studios across the United States and many more on the way. With classes for students of all levels, certification programs, a retail element, and between 125 and 500 employees per studio, the CorePower team has a lot on their plate – complex network management, however, is no longer an issue.

The IT Manager for CorePower, Jeff Collinsworth, leads a 5-man team tasked with maintaining the entire network (pictured below). After learning about Meraki from a third-party vendor and trialing equipment at a few studios, the CorePower team found that the biggest selling points were the deep visibility provided by the cloud management platform and the fast deployment enabled by plug-and-play hardware.

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With plans to add 11 studios before the end of 2014, 30 in 2015, and 50 in 2016, the scalability inherent to Meraki has proven very valuable to CorePower in terms of cost and labor savings. “We are growing really big, really fast. I’m always thinking about scalable products with this kind of growth,” said Jeff. “With Meraki, we spend less than a third of the time as before when setting up a new studio.”

Each studio is equipped with one Meraki MX60 security appliance and at least one MR16 wireless access point. An MX100 security appliance at the Denver headquarters ties the entire network together, and Systems Manager is used by IT to monitor and manage company-owned devices all around the country.

The Meraki wireless APs display separate SSIDs for guests and employees at each studio, with the same setup at every location for a consistent user experience. The reliable wireless connection allows employees to quickly process class and merchandise purchases through a mobile point of sale (POS) system, and students to sign in for classes and submit electronic waivers at kiosk stations.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 3.51.58 PM

The MX Security Appliances enable content filtering and traffic shaping rules to limit social use of the network, prioritizing work-related traffic. There are per-client bandwidth limits in place at the studios for the guest wireless network and for employees at the corporate office. Site-to-site VPN ensures that specific traffic is traversing the intended networks.

All company-owned mobile devices are enrolled in the CorePower Systems Manager network. IT can deploy software, track the location of devices in real time, and use restrictions to prevent the addition of non-business essentials to devices.

With a lean IT crew, the remote monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities provided by the Meraki web-based dashboard have proven to be critical features. “Before Meraki, we would have to wait until a studio called in to report an issue,” said Jeff. “Now, we fix problems straight from the dashboard before studios even know about it.”

“There are a lot of cost savings by having the efficiencies that we’ve gotten with Meraki.”

To hear the full story, click here to check out the webinar we recently hosted with CorePower IT Manager Jeff Collinsworth.

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