Archive for January, 2015

The benefits of integrated access point beacon technology

Cisco Meraki customers can easily future proof their networks for the needs of their business with the new Meraki MR32 and MR72 802.11ac access points (AP) that include built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology. These APs can be integrated seamlessly into any standard WLAN deployment, while giving customers a BLE beacon-enabled network, ready for the future. We see this being especially important in retail where iBeacons and other customer Bluetooth engagement technologies are rapidly growing in adoption.

What are BLE Beacons?

BLE is a recent enhancement to the Bluetooth standard which allows for the wireless protocol to be applied to new use cases which were previously not feasible. This is primarily due to the energy saving techniques implemented in BLE which reduce power consumption when compared to previous Bluetooth standards.

With the ability to efficiently utilize limited power sources, BLE is now used in a number of devices which need to communicate small amounts of data over wireless. It is now possible to have devices with battery life measured in months and years rather than days or weeks, while also making them smaller.

This has led to the development of beacon technology and its application in a number of situations. Beacons are very simple BLE messages which are transmitted or heard by BLE compatible devices. This device could be a computer, a phone, a wireless AP, or a tag, to name just a few possible devices.

This message has three basic components:

  • Universally Unique Identifier (UUID)
  • Major
  • Minor

These components of the beacon can be configured with information the operator wants to communicate to other BLE-compatible devices. Typically this is in a non-human friendly form but it can be interpreted by a listening device. For example, in a retail environment it could be interpreted as:

  • Retail Brand (UUID)
  • Shop Location (Major)
  • Product Category (Minor)

When a BLE-compatible device hears one of these messages, a user-installed app which is beacon aware can interpret the information in the UUID, Major, and Minor identifiers. This could be used to trigger functionality in that app, for example it could display information relevant to a particular product in that shop, a discount to be redeemed at purchase, or a customer service interaction.

Is it worth using BLE Beacons?

BLE beacons are a simple way to provide mobile apps with location awareness that is specific to your organization. The low energy features of BLE beacons allow mobile devices to use this functionality with minimal impact on battery life. The benefit of this is that apps can enable bluetooth on devices with little negative side effects and a positive experience to end users.

The downside for organizations wishing to implement BLE beacon devices is the scale at which they could be deployed creates a significant administrative burden. With a thousand, or ten thousand of these devices, even a year long battery life would lead to a large number being replaced every week.

It also means that when it comes to configuration, it can require extensive pre-staging and visits to site. Should this need to be updated in the future to meet new business needs, the costs of doing this may outweigh the benefits of making the change.

Meraki has solved the physical and configuration challenges of implementing beacon technology by integrating it into the new MR32 and MR72 APs. These APs have fully integrated BLE radio chipsets that works in parallel to the three WLAN radios that are inside.

BLE and beacon compatible Meraki MR32 and MR72 APs

Hear from Adam Weiss, one of the Meraki engineers responsible for the development of the BLE functionality in the APs, on the possible uses cases of this technology and the importance of an integrated solution.

By integrating the BLE technology into the PoE compatible MR32 and MR72 APs, the problems associated with maintaining a widely distributed inventory of battery powered beacons is completely eliminated.

The unique cloud-managed architecture of the Meraki MR32 and MR72 means that they can be remotely deployed and configured for zero-touch deployments. The APs can broadcast BLE Beacons with a configured UUID, Major, and Minor that is only set once for a whole network of APs. If these identifiers need to be updated, it can be done quickly and remotely through the Meraki dashboard for all APs, all sites, or even different countries.

The rapid software development cycle of the Meraki cloud management solution means that as and when new BLE Beacon features are needed, these can be delivered seamlessly at no cost to existing deployments. This ensures your investment in APs can provide the greatest value for the longest period of time.

Meraki for K-12 webinars are live

Thousands of K-12 campuses have joined the Meraki family with cloud-managed wireless, switching, security, and mobile device management products. With self-provisioning devices managed through our web-based platform, making configuration changes on the fly and scaling to facilitate growth is easy.

To share specific use cases of the Meraki solution in education environments, we have a series of K-12 webinars coming up over the next few months. Join us for a guided walk-through of the Meraki dashboard, interactive Q&A, and product/solution overviews, all tailored for K-12.

Coming up, we are excited to feature:

Cloud Managed Switching for K-12 Networks | Thursday, January 22, 10:00 AM PT

Cloud Managed Wireless for K-12 Networks | Tuesday, January 27, 10:00 AM PT

Preparing K-12 Networks for State Testing | Thursday, February 12, 10:00 AM PT

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.27.53 AM

More presentations are always popping up, so keep an eye on our webinar page to see what’s new.

In the US, all Meraki products and licenses are also eligible for E-Rate funding. E-Rate is a program which allocates funds for schools and libraries to obtain and install Internet/telecommunications and internal Internet access. Find out what recent E-Rate updates mean for schools and libraries, and why the Cisco Meraki portfolio is both a cost effective and education-centric solution ideal for E-Rate funding.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.27.33 AM

You can find unique stories from our happy K-12 customers here. Rise to the top of the class with Cisco Meraki, we hope to hear from you soon!

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The first Meraki Quarterly

This morning the Meraki Product Management and Marketing teams presented the first Meraki Quarterly update to our colleagues and partners. During the hour we walked through updates from the Wireless, Switching, Security and MDM portfolios with the intention of providing a useful snapshot of where Meraki product and feature development stand.

It seems we have a hit on our hands as feedback has been great, so we’re excited about taking our valued customers through the same material in a special webinar we’ll be running next Tuesday at 11am PST.

We’d love for you to join us and provide your always valued feedback on how we’re doing. Please sign up here.

Roll on Tuesday!

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From London to Milan: The Meraki team gears up for BETT & Cisco Live!

It’s just about that time of year again when the Cisco Meraki team converges from across the globe in the glorious city of London and then off to the sophistication of Milan. Meraki team members from all different departments and regions are excited to meet you at some of our favorite events. First stop, London!

BETT
Once again, Meraki invites you to pop by our stand, E92, from January 21-24th to meet one of our product managers and geek out about the latest and greatest in Meraki cloud networking. Our Meraki experts are looking forward to chatting with you in order to personalize a one-on-one live demo of our new products, as well as hearing about what’s new in your schools.

And in case you want to hear it from you own peers, we’ll also be featured in the Bett 2015 Learn Live Secondary Theatre on Friday, January 23rd at 11:15am. Steve Nesbitt, Head of Networks and Support of The Beacon School, and Lee Sands, IT Manager at King Edward VI College, will share their network woes and successes and how moving to a cloud controlled wireless network providing secure,reliable network at their campuses. No pre-registration is needed and, as a special offer, those who attend the session will receive a free Cisco Meraki 802.11n Access Point.


CISCO LIVE! MILAN
With a quick scramble to pack our bags we will be flying to Milan for the unveiling of our very own stand at Cisco Live! from January 26th-30th. The stand was designed to be solely dedicated to show off new features of the Meraki dashboard through one-on-one customised live demos. All week long, hear from our awesome product managers at various product overview sessions, technical breakout seminars, interactive hands-on training sessions, and product deep-dives. Check out our extensive Meraki sessions below:

TECHNICAL BREAKOUT SESSION

These sessions focus on technologies, architecture strategies, applications, and troubleshooting details for Cisco solutions or technologies.

  • 20150114-_DSC9732-2Cloud-Managed Wireless Solution using Cisco Meraki Dashboard

    Wednesday, Jan 28 | 14:30-16:00
    Presented by George Bentinck
    Cisco session code is BRKEWN-2002

  • 20150114-_DSC9722-2

    Cisco Enterprise Mobility Solution (EMM)Wednesday, Jan 28 | 16:30-18:00
    Presented by Katie Lane
    Cisco session code is BRKEWN-2066

  • 20141205-DSC_7932Secure your branch office with the Cisco cloud managed UTM Solution of Meraki MX

    Friday, Jan 30 | 9:00-11:00
    Presented by Daghan Altas
    Cisco session code is BRKSEC-2900

WORLD OF SOLUTIONS THEATRE SESSION

These short 15 minute sessions are designed to give a high-level overview on enterprise network solutions, including Meraki. Sessions take place in the Enterprise Network stand of the Cisco World of Solutions exhibit hall.

  • 20150114-_DSC9722-2New opportunities in wireless networking and MDM

    Tuesday, Jan 27 | 11:30-11:45
    Presented by Katie Lane

  • 20150115-_DSC9754-2Building the resilient, cloud-managed enterprise network

    Wednesday, Jan 28 | 13:15-13:30
    Presented by Emily Sporl

  • 20150112-_DSC9699-3Securing highly distributed networks with cloud-managed UTM and iWAN

    Thursday, Jan 29 | 12:30-12:45
    Presented by Joe Aronow

 

HANDS ON TRAINING SESSION

An interactive lab training. We will be walking participants through the easy and simplicity of the Meraki dashboard. Attendees are required to bring their own laptops for participation.

  • _DSC0721Cisco Meraki Hands-On Training

    Facilitated by Simon Tompson
    Tuesday Jan 27 | 14:15-18:15
    Cisco session code is LTREWN-1001

Wednesday, Jan 28 | 14:30-14:30
Cisco session code is LTREWN-1001

PRODUCT OVERVIEW SESSION

  • 20150114-_DSC9743-2Global Cloud-Managed IT Fit for the Enterprise

    Wednesday, Jan 28 | 13:15-14:15
    Presented by Rob Casselman
    Cisco session code is PSOEWN-2344

We can’t wait to be hitting the road next week to talk to Meraki customers old and new. This energy was making it a bit harder than usual to get a clean take for our accompanying blog video. With the out takes proving more entertaining than the originally planned content, we hope you enjoy this summary video and we expect to see you soon.

Ciao!

(P.S. George, you’re going down for making me put this video up.)

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Toy shops & markets & schools, oh my!

You may be ready to hit the New Year running, but what about your network?

With the easy-to-use Cisco Meraki solution deployed, we’ve found that our customers are able to launch the new year with less stress and more time to work on other projects -including participating in live webinars with the Meraki team!

The coming weeks are packed with Meraki users who are excited to share their use cases, as well as their tips and tricks for managing networks of all shapes and sizes. We know that each type of organization has their own unique challenges, so we’ve put together a special webinar schedule that pulls from a variety of industries and provides you with a wholistic view of how the Meraki solution can benefit your organization.

These deep dive webinars will focus on the networking challenges in each industry, with topics including supporting high-density usage, managing thousands of devices, securing networks for different user groups, and much more.

Take a look at the schedule below and sign up for a webinar. We’ll even send you a free Meraki access point just for attending – if you haven’t received one already!

Jan 29

2pm GMT

Multi-Site Cloud Networking at Smyths Toys

70+ store deployment of cloud-managed switching and wireless in the UK & Ireland. Guest co-presenter: Seamus Hogan, Networks & Infrastructure Manager at Smyths Toys.

Feb 10

10am GMT

Connecting Camden Market with Cisco Meraki

Complete cloud-managed network supporting 100,000+ visitors each weekend. Guest co-presenter: Jac Timms, IT Manager at Camden Market.

Feb 11

2pm GMT

Cloud Networking at Duke of York Royal Military School

Meraki wireless deployment reliably supports high-density usage in education. Guest co-presenter: Jeremy Herbert, IT Manager at The Duke of York’s Royal Military School.

Feb 18

10am GMT

Cloud Managed WiFi at The National Gallery

802.11ac wireless APs provide connectivity to staff & 6 million annual visitors. Guest co-presenter: Stuart Ewins, IS Systems Manager at The National Gallery.

 

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Simple Standalone Site Surveys

 

In last month’s blog we covered some of the upcoming access point features, one of which was a dedicated site survey mode on Meraki access points (APs).  We covered an introduction to wireless site survey early last year with “From Site Survey to Flawless Wireless Connectivity”, but in this post we will further examine site surveying and how to use this new feature in more detail. 

Designing a Wireless Network 

The end goal of any site survey is to ensure the most optimal configuration of the wireless network for the given requirements. These requirements can differ from physical location to physical location and can even vary within different areas of a location. Often the requirements have to be balanced against each other to reach the most optimal outcome. The requirements can include:

  • Specific support for high density or real-time applications like voice
  • Location services and positioning
  • Outdoor coverage
  • Minimization of interference with other networks or RF signals
  • Budget

Designers of wireless networks have a number of tools in their armory to meet these requirements. Some of the areas a designer can control are:

  • The location of the APs
  • The number of APs
  • The transmit power of the APs
  • The channel the APs use

Site Survey – a Designer’s Best Friend 

Due to the nature of radio waves, it can often be hard to visualise how aspects of your design will work when viewed as a collection of numbers and PDF specifications. The physical environment also has a major impact on how you design the deployment and how the APs will work. Enter the site survey and fantastic site survey tools such as Ekahau’s Site Survey and Fluke Networks AirMagnet.

These applications and others like them, allow you to visualize your WLAN deployment before, during, and after its deployment. Invisible radio waves become easy to understand with colorful heatmaps. Site surveys can be divided into three types that are typically carried out in order; predictive, pre, and post site surveys.
 

ryan_site_survey

 

Predictive surveys use floor plans, estimates of building materials, and advanced algorithms to predict how the wireless network will look. This is based on the number of APs, their location, and their configuration. 

Pre-site surveys allow the wireless designer to accurately record the reality of the physical environment where the WLAN will be deployed. This can then be used to prove, or disprove the validity of the design that is often created by a predictive site survey. The pre-site survey is typically carried out by placing an access point of the model you wish to use, with the configuration you think is appropriate, in different locations in the building. At each location the wireless is surveyed by taking readings using the site survey software. This then uses the information to update its model of the design.


tripod

Finally a post-site survey repeats the measurements taken by the pre-site survey but this time with all the APs for the final deployment in place. This survey is used to prove the design is correct or help identify adjustments that need to be made. 

Although it is not essential to carry out all types of site surveys, it is generally recommended that at a minimum, a pre-site survey is carried out for any location with more than a handful of APs. 

Listen to Ryan, a support engineer in the Meraki San Francisco office talk about the importance of surveying for your WLAN. 

 

ap.meraki.com

To perform a site survey with an AP, desired settings are typically configured before, then moving it between the locations that are being surveyed. The AP is often attached to a tripod or other type of stand to simulate the physical position it would have when deployed e.g. wall mounted or ceiling mounted. To make the movement of the AP easier, it is not normally attached to AC power and is instead powered by a portable battery pack. 

Before the introduction of the dedicated site survey mode on the Meraki APs, it was necessary to include an additional equipment beyond just power. The reason for this was that the self healing auto mesh functionality built into every Meraki AP would try and repair the AP’s connection to the LAN. It does this by scanning for other mesh APs to communicate with when it can’t see a gateway. When this happened, it meant that site survey tools were not able get a reading. 

The new site survey mode allows network admins to turn an AP into a dedicated device for site surveys. When enabled the AP will broadcast an open SSID named “site_survey-” followed by its MAC address. The AP can then have the channels and transmit power set for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radios. 

To access the site survey mode, wirelessly connect to the desired AP and enter ap.meraki.com into your web browser. Alternatively you can access the same page by entering the LAN IP address of the AP into your web browser.

local_status_page

This local management page on the AP is used for basic setup, troubleshooting, or for when a specific manual configuration is required. Choose the ‘Configure’ tab and enter the credentials requested by the login box. Once logged in, you can access the settings for the site survey mode.

local_site_survey_mode

Summary 

Completing a site survey is often an essential step on the path to an efficient, high performance WLAN. Ensuring your deployment is right from the start can save many hours of troubleshooting and associated costs later on. The new Meraki site survey mode will help make this process simpler and easier for anyone going through this activity.

 

Year in Review: 2014

We are excited for the adventures 2015 will bring, and wanted to take a moment to reflect on 2014 and the major advances that happened here at Meraki.

Cisco_061-450x299

We kicked off 2014 with enhancements to our mobile app. Network admins can now monitor and manage wireless, switching, and security deployments straight from the dashboard app in a mobile-friendly format.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 5.34.01 PM A glimpse into the all-inclusive Meraki mobile app

In February, MX customers cheered as automatic MPLS to VPN failover became available in every Meraki Security Appliance. Combined with easy-to-configure VPN and the option of implementing a warm VPN spare, the Meraki MX reinforced its status as a reliable, secure solution for distributed networks.

Not slowing down for even a moment, we rolled out new features for our Systems Manager iOS app in March, allowing administrators to manage documents and newly pushed apps all in one place. Apple’s Device Enrollment Program also added exciting new capabilities for mobile device owners, including silent app push and no-touch device enrollment. To complement these changes, we introduced the Systems Manager Support Community, where users can share tips and find answers to their questions. Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.46.58 AM The nifty landing page for our Systems Manager Support Community

We were also happy to give away free networking gear in another edition of Meraki Startup Kits to support the growing operations of innovative new companies. From electric-powered longboards to 3D heart imaging, we were fascinated by the projects of our many applicants.

Come Spring, April’s Heartbleed vulnerability gave network admins quite a scare, but the Meraki MX contained this security threat with integrated intrusion prevention in under a day. Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.52.21 AM Easy, integrated intrusion prevention in Meraki security appliances

Soon afterward, we announced new mission critical MS Switch features to address evolving customer needs around redundancy and campus connectivity. New functionalities included OSPF dynamic routing, VRRP support, IPv6 visibility and tracking, and more.

Close on the tail end of our new switching features came another round of new MX Security Appliance features. We were thrilled to announce high availability for data centers, warm spare failover, geo-based IP firewall rules, and more for robust failover, enhanced security, and improved flexibility.

As our range of partners continued to expand throughout this time, we shared a helpful new partner onboarding guide to make the experience of selling Meraki as simple and enjoyable as possible. In the fall, we launched a new tool for cloud-based Enterprise Mobility Management, Systems Manager Enterprise. SM Enterprise provides comprehensive enterprise security, network policy integration, seamless user enrollment, Cisco ISE integration, and more. Built on the same platform that is used to power our wireless APs, switches, and security appliances, this new tools offers mobility management as well as an end-to end networking solution.

Announcements to changes in the structure of government-issued E-Rate funding for schools and libraries in the United States drew attention to Meraki, as all Meraki products and licenses are eligible for E-Rate funding. The MX, in particular, helps solve school security issues by providing secure, scalable, and easy-to-manage network protection. Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.27.51 AM User-friendly security reports always available in the dashboard

All Meraki customers benefited in October with the announcement of Topology, a dashboard-based feature that intelligently maps network links to provide a hierarchical, physical layout of how your gear interconnects. Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.33.04 AM Topology is live in the dashboard for all Meraki customers

We wrapped up the year with the surprise announcement of two new 802.11ac wireless AP models, the indoor MR32 and the outdoor MR72. These dual-band, 2×2 APs include integrated Beacon (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to enhance location capabilities and enable more active customer engagement, such as with iBeacons.

New Meraki MR32 and MR72

New Meraki MR32 and MR72

The indoor MR32 and outdoor MR72 with integrated Beacons

January is already off to a running start, with the launch of the first Meraki quarterly webinars for partners and customers. Register and attend to keep up with all that’s new in the world of cloud networking.

Whew! By no means exhaustive, this post provides just a glimpse into all the advancements in Meraki cloud-managed networking over the past year. Our licensing scheme allows current customers to acquire these new features at no additional cost, making your Meraki investment future-proof. Subscribe to our blog and keep an eye on our website to be the first to know about all future updates.

Cheers to a happy 2015!

photo One of our team bonding activities that we hope happens again in 2015: human foosball

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Now in the Meraki MX: VPN tagging

Customers who run multiple Cisco Meraki MX Security Appliances in their networks already enjoy effortless site-to-site VPN between them. But often, remote sites using non-Meraki VPN peers need to be assimilated into these VPN networks. We were thrilled to announce a new feature that gives IT administrators more flexibility in configuring Phase 1 and Phase 2 parameters of these third-party connections. Now, we’ve extended that flexibility to allow Meraki customers control over which Meraki MX or Z1 networks connect to specific third-party peers.

For example, suppose a large, distributed medical organization manages hundreds of hospitals that are securely connected via meshed Meraki site-to-site VPN, all sharing resources. Let’s say that this medical organization must securely connect with an external firm—which does not use Meraki MX Security Appliances—to back up electronic medical records from specific hospitals. With MX VPN tagging, only the specific hospital networks needing backups would be made available to the external firm.

 

How it works

 

If customers have tagged their Meraki networks, they can make third-party VPN peer connections available based on these tags. Before (and by default), these third-party peer connections were available organization-wide. To restrict VPN availability, simply select the Meraki network tags that should have access to remote, third-party VPN sites; any Meraki network not suitably tagged will not have VPN access to these sites.

VPN tagging

Configuring non-Meraki peer VPN settings and allowing this connection based on tag.

 

To tag a Meraki network, simply navigate to Organization > Overview in the Meraki dashboard and select one or more networks to tag. Then click the “Tag” button at the top left corner of the network listing table, and add, remove, or create a new tag.
Tagging a Meraki network.png

 

This feature greatly enhances flexibility and control in managing non-Meraki VPN peers in a hybrid VPN network. We’d be excited to hear what you think, so please don’t hesitate to drop us a line or make a wish!

 

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