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Introducing Switch Templates

Building and maintaining multisite networks just got even easier!

A year ago we published a blog post covering configuration replication for multisite networks. We covered Security Appliance and Wireless templates, and the closest equivalent we had at the time for switches: cloning.

Switch cloning has served our customers well for a long time with one important caveat. Unlike a template, cloning is a one-time action – perfect for an initial rollout, but not so great for the inevitable moves, adds and changes which follow.

It’s time to align switches with the other products, so today we’re delighted to announce the rollout of switch templates to all Meraki customers.

With a template, the benefits endure.  Once a network containing switches is bound to a template, any changes made to that template will be reflected on the bound networks. Suddenly a single config change can immediately impact thousands of switches simultaneously. As they say in the Unix world, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.

Here’s how things get set up. First, from the ‘Organization > Configuration templates’ screen, select ‘Create a new template’. The option list for template types now includes switches as well as wireless and security appliances. It’s also possible to inherit settings from an existing network to use as the template blueprint.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 4.02.05 PM

Once the template is created and named, the next decision is which existing networks will be become targets for the template, becoming effectively ‘child’ networks (another name for a network which is bound to a ‘parent’ template).

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 4.15.57 PM

Once this is complete the template will then be available in the networks list. Simply select the template to begin configuring for all child networks.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 4.18.53 PM        Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 4.49.28 PM

When configuring a template, menu options are similar to those for configuring a single switch. Firstly, a template will contain common settings which apply across all switch variants, and then model specific settings grouped into ‘switch profiles’. In this context, a profile represents a group of switches with the same port mix.  For example, both MS220-8 switch models, which have 8 x 1GbE ports and 2 x SFP interfaces, would have the same profile associated with them. Typically a template would be built for, say, a site, or perhaps a wiring closet, which would then contain multiple switch profiles. Individual switches can be bound or unbound from the profile.

This simple diagram illustrates the relationship between switch templates and profiles:

Switch_Templates

One great example demonstrating the power of templates is the configuration of switch profile ports. In the screen capture below we’ve selected ports 1-5 because we’ve determined they’re to be used for a common purpose: let’s say VoIP phones. We’ll tag the ports as ‘voip’, make these access ports, and place them in VLAN 10. This configuration will now apply to ports 1-5 on every MS220-8 bound to the selected profile.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 5.00.25 PM

There are two caveats to keep in mind when going down the templates path. Firstly, physical stacking and profiles do not mix. It’s not possible to stack profiles or child switches of profiles. Secondly, we’re employing a feature we’re calling ‘Local override stickiness’. Config changes made to an individual switch take precedence over what’s in the profile, even if the profile settings subsequently impact the same areas of configuration.

We have one more powerful feature to cover, and that’s the ability to set up automatic binding of switch models to a template. With this option, whenever a switch network is bound to a template, its switches can be synced automatically with pre-existing switches of the same model. This provides a powerful way to reduce the number of switches requiring direct configuration. In a stroke we’ve made life significantly easier for large organizations managing thousands of switches.

Switch templates are available starting today and we know this is going to be a big hit with our customers. We just made life easier for each and every one of them!  In fact, we’re picturing their IT teams doing a happy dance right now!

Adding new features is a journey, not a destination, and at Meraki we believe that we do a better job when we listen to our customers, so please let us know what you think of this powerful new feature. There’s no better way than through the ‘make a wish’ box on every dashboard screen, and of course you can reach out to us on Twitter or in our community. We look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions.